Papua New Guinea

Sepik River Region

The Sepik region is an immense grassland reserve, surrounded by one of the world's greatest rivers which runs 1,126kms from its origins in the mountains to the sea.

The people along the river depend heavily on it for transportation, water and food. Their cultural links with the Sepik river are symbolised in many of their ancient and spiritual rituals, such as the manhood initiation. This requires painful carving of flesh on the backs of young men with razor blades. Patterns are that of a crocodile lying on the banks of the river.

The history of the Sepik region reflects the influence over the years of the missionaries, traders, labour recruiters and administrators. Here river and crocodiles, man and nature have learned to live in mutual respect.  

The Sepik river has no actual river delta and stains the sea brown for up to 50 kilometres. It is said islanders off the coast can draw fresh water straight from the sea.

The Sepik is navigable for almost its entire length and winds down through the land resembling a huge, brown, coiling serpent. The force of the river tears great chunks of mud and vegetation out of the river banks and at times these drift downstream as floating islands.

The Sepiks supply what many experts consider the best and most creative carvings which differ from village to village. Sepik art and architecture are largely synonymous with Papua New Guinea art and are held in high esteem by collectors and museums throughout the world. The Ethnographic Museum in Basel, Switzerland and the Museum of Primitive Art and the Rockefeller wing of the Metropolitan Museum both in New York are famous for their Sepik collections and these displays help people to visit the Sepik region. The Sepik River basin, and especially the Middle Sepik area, are often called PNG's "cultural treasure house" and are prime attractions for overseas tourists. The distinctive "Haus Tambaran" designs and traditional art are the main draw cards within the region.


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