Enga Province

Enga is one of the provinces in Papua New Guinea (PNG). It is located in the north most region of the highlands of PNG, having been divided from the Western Highlands to become a separate province when the provinces were created at the time of independence in 1975. The people of Enga are called Engans—they are a majority ethnic group—speaking one language in all its five districts: approximately 500,000 people. A small minority of Engans' land on the eastern side of the region remained in the Western Highlands, their territory being accessible by road from Mount Hagen but not directly from elsewhere in Enga territory.

Enga Province
Flag of Enga Province
Enga Province in Papua New Guinea
Enga Province in Papua New Guinea
Coordinates: 5°25′S 143°30′E / 5.417°S 143.500°E / -5.417; 143.500
CountryPapua New Guinea
 • GovernorPeter Ipatas (1997-Present)
 • Total11,704 km2 (4,519 sq mi)
 (2011 census)[1]
 • Total432,045
 • Density37/km2 (96/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+10 (AEST)
HDI (2018)0.480[2]
low · 20th of 22

Physical geographyEdit

Ambum River

Enga is the highest and is the second most rugged province (after Chimbu Province) in Papua New Guinea. It covers an area of 2,800 km². Much of the province is at altitudes of over 2000 metres. Lower altitude areas are typically valleys which form the watershed for the two major river systems that drain the province, the Lagaip (which is a tributary of the Fly) and the Lai (which is a tributary of the Sepik).

Human geographyEdit

The Papua New Guinea census of 2000 lists the population of Enga at 295,031 people, although the accuracy of the census is questionable. The provincial capital of Enga is Wabag. The two other main centres of population are Wapenamanda and Laiagam. Porgera, at the western edge of the province, is home to a gold mine operated by Barrick Gold and Zijin Mining Group.

Enga is unique among the provinces in Papua New Guinea in that it has only one major linguistic and ethnic group: Enga speakers. Although dialects of the Enga language vary greatly from Laiagam in the west to Wapenamanda in the east, Engans' shared ethnic identity overshadows the existence of other ethnic groups in the province, such as Ipili speakers (around Porgera) and Nete speakers.

Districts and LLGsEdit

Each province in Papua New Guinea has one or more districts, and each district has one or more Local Level Government (LLG) areas. For census purposes, the LLG areas are subdivided into wards and those into census units.[3]

District District Capital LLG Name
Kandep District Kandep Kandep Rural
Wage Rural
Kompiam District Kompiam Ambum Rural
Kompiam Rural
Wapi-Yengis Rural
Lagaip-Porgera District Lagaip-Porgera Lagaip Rural
Maip Muritaka Rural
Paiela-Hewa Rural
Pilikambi Rural
Porgera Rural
Wapenamanda District Wapenamanda Wapenamanda Rural
Tsak Rural
Wabag District Wabag Maramuni Rural
Wabag Rural
Wabag Urban

Provincial leadersEdit

The province was governed by a decentralised provincial administration, headed by a Premier, from 1978 to 1995. Following reforms taking effect that year, the national government reassumed some powers, and the role of Premier was replaced by a position of Governor, to be held by the winner of the province-wide seat in the National Parliament of Papua New Guinea.[4][5]

Premiers (1978–1995)Edit

Premier Term
Don Kapi 1978–1980
Danley Tindiwi 1980–1984
Provincial government suspended Graham Taylor - Provincial Administrator 1984–1986
Ned Laina 1986–1990
Danley Tindiwi 1990–1993
provincial government suspended 1993–1995

Regional Member/Governors (1995–present)Edit

Governor Term
Paul Paken Torato 1977–1987 RM
Jeffery Balakau 89–96 RM/Governor
Peter Ipatas 1996–present Governor

Members of the National ParliamentEdit

The province and each district is represented by a Member of the National Parliament. There is one provincial electorate and each district is an open electorate.

Electorate Member
Enga Provincial Peter Ipatas
Kompiam-Ambum Open John Pundari
Lagaip-Porgera Open Tomait Kapili
Wabag Open Lino Tom
Wapenamanda Open Rimbink Pato
Kandep Open Alfred Manasseh


The Enga are divided into three subgroups, the Mae, the Raiapu, and the Kyaka.[6]

Enga men's gathering

Like many other highland Papua New Guineans living west of the Daulo Pass (between Chimbu Province and Eastern Highlands Province), the traditional Engan settlement style is that of scattered homesteads dispersed throughout the landscape. Historically sweet potato was the staple food, sometimes supplemented by pork. The modern diet places an increasing emphasis on store bought rice and tinned fish and meat. Pigs remain a culturally valued item with elaborate systems of pig exchange also known as "tee" that mark social life in the province. The Raiapu practice extensive agriculture in their highland region. Sweet potatoes are the major crop, forming two-thirds of the Raiapu diet. They also raise pigs.[7]

Traditional Engan culture practiced strict segregation of sexes. During initiation young men between the ages of 16 and 19 were purified in seclusion at a ceremony called the "sangai," in which their eyes were ritually washed with water, to remove any taint resulting from contact with females, and where they prepared traditional finery, the most notable item being a wig made out of their own hair. This distinctive round wig topped with sicklebird feathers is, more than any other item, an icon or symbol of Engan culture today.

Today the most popular religious groups are the Catholic Church, the Gutnius Lutheran Church, the Baptist Union and the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Charismatic and Pentecostal movements are growing in popularity.

The lifestyle and customs of the Enga people were extensively studied and reported upon by the Australian anthropologist Mervyn Meggitt.

Kompiam is another District located on the Northern edge of Enga Province as Maramuni, a sub-District of Wabag District situated a head of Kompiam sharing border with East Sepik Province. Both Kompiam and Maramuni do share the Physical geography, human geography and culture with the entire Enga Province.

The Raiapu Enga believe in a variety of supernatural beings, although anthropologist Richard Feachem states that the Raiapu "derive no joy or comfort from their religious beliefs" due to the pervasively indifferent or malevolent nature of those spirits. The yalyakali, or "sky people," are fair-skinned and beautiful deities whose idyllic lives in the clouds mirror the agricultural and clan structure of the Raiapu below but lack the sadness of ordinary life. They are considered remote and unapproachable by humans. Feachem states that "the remaining spirit beings (ghosts and demons) are an aggressive and bellicose group who are mercilessly engaged in an endless cycle of revenge and mischief." The yuumi nenge, or "destructive ground force," are ghosts which cause deaths from exposure in the forest. A timongo is a spirit which leaves a human body upon death and wanders the forests as "a source of continual fear and alarm for the living," particularly the still-living members of their own immediate families, against whom they bear "bitter grievances." Also living in the wild forests, as well as caves and pools, are evil, carnivorous demons known as pututuli, which can change their shape but are often seen as being extremely tall with two-fingered claws. The Raiapu believe that human babies are occasionally switched by female demons with pututuli babies. Topoli are human sorcerers who possess secret knowledge of spells or other esoteric knowledge, and can defend against and communicate with hostile spirits. They "may be described as a healer of broken limbs, or a catcher of lost ghosts," writes Feachem.[8]

Traditional architectureEdit

For centuries Engans have constructed dwellings made from locally available bush materials. Roof construction is often of a crude thatch type, waterproofing being obtained by repeated lighting of a heavily smoking fire inside and the accretion of the soot onto the roofing material.

Floors are often dirt, covered with a semi-disposable woven layer of bush material. Sugarcane husks are also spread across the dirt to provide a disposable covering.

In wind prone areas of Enga, wind-proofing of the walls is effected by sealing with a daub mixture of pig manure, tree sap and ash.


Kaukau (aka kumara, aka sweet potato) gardens, Ambum Valley

Like many ethnic groups in the Papua New Guinea Highlands, Engans often possess a strong and sturdy frame, being neither remarkably short nor tall. Most men cultivate a beard after their early adult years have passed, which will be allowed to grow until it is a fine length. Women too will occasionally cultivate facial hair, it not being regarded as particularly attractive or unattractive.

Facial tattooing of women is common, for various reasons, and the markings can be as simple as a small circle, all the way to complicated striations which cover the entire face.

As elsewhere in Papua New Guinea, the wantok system is a key cultural item.

Polygamy is practiced by some Engan men.


Staff house with staff at a rural secondary school in Ambum Valley, north of Wabag

There are numerous elementary and high schools in the province, both government-established and a number by Lutheran and Roman Catholic churches. For higher education Engans used to travel to senior high schools for grades 11 and 12 in other provinces recently, the Government has built three secondary schools for year 11 and 12. Further education is progressed at universities in Lae, Goroka Madang, Rabaul or Port Moresby or at the University Center in Wabag. Engans attend colleges in other parts of the country as well including the new Enga Teachers College and the Institute of Business Studies

Anditale High School in Ambum Valley, north of Wabag

Tribal conflictEdit

Tribal conflicts are common using crude clubs and steel bush knives, occasionally employing the use of shields made from corrugated sheeting.[citation needed] The usual method of engagement is for both warring parties to line up opposite each other, spend several hours verbally abusing each other, with small rushes towards and away from the enemy being made - increasing in boldness. Eventually, a critical point is reached and the battle begins in earnest.

The usage of high-powered automatic rifles, home made shotguns and sidearms are becoming more and more common in Enga, both for tribal warfare and for raskol activities, though the latter is not a common practice in the province. When projectile weaponry is utilised in a traditional tribal fight, the death toll gets significantly higher.

Tribal conflicts are usually solved quickly, through compensation, but sometimes it can last up to several months, and this is due in part to the local mercenaries, locally known as Rambo or Hire Man. These are men from other parts of the province, sometimes even from neighboring provinces (most often Hela Province) that are paid by one side to help them fight against the other side.


Although little archaeological excavation has been done in Enga, it is clear that the area has been settled for over 12,000 years.[citation needed] Europeans—typically Australian gold prospectors—originally entered what is now Enga province from the east in the late 1920s, although the best-known exploration of Enga took place during the early 1930s when Mick Leahy and a party of men travelled from what later became Mount Hagen to the site of the future Wabag and then south through the Ambum Valley to what later became East Sepik.[9]

By World War II Enga had been very roughly mapped by the government, but a permanent government presence was not established in most of the district until the late 1950s. Lutheran missionaries from the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod in the United States, as well as Roman Catholic missionaries, were permitted to establish stations beginning in 1949. Both established primary schools and the Lutherans a high school. Although the Gutnius Lutheran Church that developed from the Lutheran efforts has strong links to the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, it has become associated with the more mainstream Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea, sharing clerical training at a college in Lae, Morobe Province.

Enga was part of Western Highlands District until just before Papua New Guinea independence in 1975, when most of the Enga-speaking part of the District (with the notable exclusion of the Baiyer River region which is inaccessible by road other than from Mount Hagen) was separated into a discrete District. Eminent international poet and writer E. A. Markham worked and lived in Wabag as a VSO volunteer in 1983-84 and wrote A Papua New Guinea Sojourn about the province and his time in it.

As in some other provinces the provincial government has a history of corruption and lack of capacity, and is unique in Papua New Guinea for having had its power suspended three times by the national government due to concerns over its accountability.[citation needed] Ultimately in June 1995 in an effort to re-assert a measure of control by the central government over the often wayward provinces in an environment of limited numbers of personnel qualified for public office in many of the provinces, the office of provincial premier was abolished and the Regional (at-large) members of Parliament became provincial governors, while retaining their national seats in Parliament.

Nationally eminent Engans have included the late Malipu Balakau, Sir Tei Abal, Sam Abal, Don Polye, Sir Pato Kakaraya and many others.


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-06-28. Retrieved 2013-06-25.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ "Sub-national HDI - Area Database - Global Data Lab". hdi.globaldatalab.org. Retrieved 2020-04-18.
  3. ^ National Statistical Office of Papua New Guinea
  4. ^ May, R. J. "8. Decentralisation: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back". State and society in Papua New Guinea: the first twenty-five years. Australian National University. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
  5. ^ "Provinces". rulers.org. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
  6. ^ Paula Brown (30 June 1978). Highland Peoples of New Guinea. CUP Archive. pp. 107–. ISBN 978-0-521-29249-8.
  7. ^ Tommy Carlstein (18 September 2019). Time Resources, Society and Ecology: On the Capacity for Human Interaction in Space and Time. Taylor & Francis. pp. 372–. ISBN 978-1-00-069819-0.
  8. ^ Feachem, Richard (June 1973). "The Religious Belief and Ritual of the Raiapu Enga". Oceania. 43 (4): 259–285. JSTOR 40330087.
  9. ^ Leahy, Michael. (1936). The Central Highlands of New Guinea. Royal Geographical Society: London. (pp. 229–262 in the Geographical Journal).

External linksEdit