Papua New Guinea Tribal Traditions, Rites and Sing Sings

Papua New Guinea is one of the last places on earth where you can truly go off the grid and discover places and people which have remained seemingly untouched by time. Within the heartlands of Papua New Guinea live 100’s of different tribes, all with their own unique customs, traditions, ways of living and even languages.

The tribal people who are indigenous to Papua New Guinea (PNG) live in much the same way as their ancestors and those before them, living off the land and with a strong sense of spiritual belief which transcends all facets of community life.


PNG Tribes
Tribal ceremonies are a part of daily life in Papua New Guinea


Ceremonies are almost a daily event from giving thanks for harvests, asking for a successful hunt, blessings for weddings, funerals, births and good health. Almost every daily interaction has an associated ritual.

These rituals vary from tribe to tribe with each tribal group having unique customs. However, despite the difference in the details, there is one common thread – the “Sing Sing”. Sing Sings are used to mark almost every milestone and while the dress and foot work may differ the essence of the Sing Sing pervades all tribes within the PNG area – and many of the Sing Sings are spectacular events.


Sing Sings and Tribes in PNG
Sing sings represent different events and often tell a story – this is a sing sing performed by the village women


A sing sing features (as the name suggests), singing and dancing. The dancing often mimics or portrays the event with which it is associated. For example a pre-hunt Sing Sing will feature male only dancers who leap and plunge with spears of blow dart pipes.

The largest inter-tribe celebration of the year in Papua New Guinea is also held on Mount Hagen and includes sing sings and dance performances which are practiced throughout the year in preparation for the event. Some of the more unique sing sings include the dancer of death who is dressed as a skeleton and leaps with an energy and ferocity which is quite incredible.


Death dance PNG
Dancing with death on Mount Hagen PNG


The Kaulga tribe’s sing sings often tell of the legend of the “Mudmen” which comes from the Goroka region where, long ago, the Pogla men were driven out of their land by a rival tribe. They sheltered around the Asaro river, regrouped and made a plan, covering themselves in the mud from the river and fashioning horned and fearsome stone masks. The enemy tribe was frightened off by the evil “spirits” approaching the village and the “Asaro Mudmen” reclaimed their land. The dance is actually quite eery, as the men, covered in grey mud and wearing their carved, stone masks, walk around very slowly in total silence, with the exception of the clicking noises from their long claws.


Stone Masks PNG
The Asaro “Mudmen” wear (extremely heavy) masks carved from stone


Not all rituals involve sing sings though and most of the tribes in the region have their own witch doctor who is considered sacred and a man of great wisdom. Witch doctors have their own set of rituals which may or may not include sing sings. The witch doctor communicates with the spirits in order to cure illnesses.

One witch doctor ceremony is the “Moka” ceremony, in which a fire is lit using leaves which crackled like fireworks. The witch doctor and elders (men) of the village sit, chant and walk around the fire and then around a particular tree which is considered to have magical powers and properties.


Witch Doctor Papua
A traditional Witch Doctor in his hut in Papua New Guinea


Mount Hagen is certainly one of the most intriguing tribal areas of Papua New Guinea for those who are keen to gain an insight into the lives of the tribes. Most of the tribes in the region are welcoming to visitors and treat them as guests. They will take great pride in welcoming visitors and showing off some of their dances, traditional ceremony dresses and even their rustic houses.

The rolling hills around Mount Hagen are lush and fertile, and everywhere you travel, the land is being farmed for sweet potatoes, corn, cabbage, tea, coffee and various other crops while, further up, the rainforest covering the rugged limestone peaks becomes more wild.


Mount Hagen PNG
The scenery and landscapes of Mount Hagen are stunning


Would you like to discover the tribes of Mount Hagen during your Papua New Guinea cruise? Charter El Aleph and combine Mount Hagen with exploring the pristine reefs and world-class marine life of the Bismarck Sea; dive, snorkel, sea kayak and relax and unwind in luxury.

More about El Aleph

El Aleph was built to be enjoyed by her owner who has a keen eye for detail, an appreciation of the finer things in life and who wanted a vessel which offered unprecedented luxury, space and comfort. As a result, El Aleph was built to the highest specifications possible, with no expense being spared. When we describe the living space on board as luxury, it’s not something we say lightly.


Mount Hagen Tribes PNG
Discover the colourful tribes of Mount Hagen with El Aleph


El Aleph has been beautifully handcrafted in 100-year old teak and ironwood, every feature has been thoughtfully incorporated to ensure a lavish design and layout unsurpassed by any other Phinisi schooner ever built. From the polished wood finish to the state-of-the-art electronics and navigation suite no aspect has been left to chance in ensuring your comfort, safety and enjoyment during your exclusive Papua New Guinea cruise.

For more detailed information about El Aleph, view our full vessel specifications.

To enquire about our rates and availability or to book your Papua New Guinea voyage of discovery on board El Aleph please contact us on:

Please note that to ensure your privacy and an exclusive experience we only offer full charters and do not take bookings for individual cabins.

Sarah Wormald

Leave a reply