I’m back after a little break to my regularly scheduled programming – another country picked at random. This month, I’ll be learning more about Papua New Guinea!
So, as always, what do I know off the top of my head about PNG before I start?
I know that despite sharing the island of New Guinea with Indonesia, it’s not part of Asia, but Oceania – geographically, culturally, and historically. I think it’s part of Melanesia. I’ve also mainly heard about PNG in outsiders’ ethnographic or exoticized terms, but little from Papuans themselves.
PNG is famous for having the most linguistic diversity in the world; there’s about 800 indigenous languages spoken there, many from unrelated language families. In comparison, there’s about 60-70 indigenous languages spoken in all of Canada – half a continent vs half an island.
I know they were a British colony, so English is spoken widely there, and like Canada, they’re a Commonwealth Realm with the King as head of state. I’m not sure how their government works on the ground, either in terms of function or effectiveness, and I know it isn’t the richest country.
From what I’ve learned from the other Oceanian countries I’ve looked at – especially Nauru – there’s no way Australia doesn’t have major involvement in PNG’s government and economy. And likewise, I’m sure PNG is also navigating China’s growing presence in the south Pacific.
I do know of some people who have been to PNG, but they were extended American relatives who went as missionaries. (Yes, missionaries. In today’s day and age! Or, well, the 90s.) I’m not sure how difficult it will be to find Papuan-made media, but there doesn’t seem to be much of a Papuan community in Canada – there isn’t a single PNG restaurant in Toronto, which normally has a restaurant from every country on earth.