Wednesday, February 24, 2010

There is very little or no literature on the culture and oral history of the Ende. Recent anthropological work done by Kevin Murphy as PhD thesis for the Australian National University is not available in Papua New Guinea. This is an attempt to record something about the Ende people based on conversations I had during the Christmas/New Year holiday, 2009/2010.
The Ende people inhabit the lowland savannah of the East Trans-Fly region between the Bituri Creek and the Pahoturi River in the Western Province of Papua New Guinea.
The name Ende refers to a dialect that is a member of the Pahoturi river family of languages which consists of Agob, Idi and Tame dialects also. The Ende language is spoken by about 300 people living in Malam and Limol villages.
The Ende share much of the same rich cultural practices and oral history as their neighbours; the AGOB, TAME AND IDI language speakers. This due to ties stem from relationships that link the people based on shared sacred sites (mabun ma), the bullroar ceremonies (waglla tre), exchange of sisters in marriage (erang) and landownership.

Each of the Ende tribal groupings have their own oral history (mabun eka) that explains how they migrated and how land tenure was acquired. These land and migration stories are identity cards or passwords that give legitimacy to claims of inheritance and kinship with-in Ende society. Each piece of oral history must be substantiated by a third party and a cultural artifact (mabun kop) that has been passed down generations.
Each artifact (mabun kop) contains special magical powers and one must know the spells to execute those powers.
Thus for example, if clan A claims a piece of land, their claim must be supported by presenting their oral history (mabun eka) and substantiated by the artifact (mabun kop) and verified by an independent third party. Unless this is done the claim is illegitimate.
In Ende cosmology the Supreme Creator, Adi, created all things and most importantly, allocated land to everyone. Land boundaries were drawn up by cultural heroes (mabun) similar to the Kiwai hero Sido. Ende cultural heroes are not exclusive rather are believed to be the same as the Torres Strait cultural heroes (mabun). It is believed that the cultural heroes travelled from the Torres Strait allocating land and continued through Ende territory doing the same before heading to the East (naigai).
An ancient Ende prophecy states that when Knowledge increases in the World the cultural hero (mabun) will return from the East (naigai) bringing an end to the World.


According to the Ende, there is only one collection of uniquely Ende dances known generically as ingong abal. Under this category are various dance types that dramatize folklore (pepebeb bandra) and war dances (perengag).
The other two dance types are Kimag and Sagol. Kimag was imported from the neigbouring Tonggarr (Morehead) people and is also refered to as the ‘round dance’. Sagol is believed to originate from the Torres Straits in Australia however is known by most people as the Daru Kiwai Dance.
The attire for these dances is similar.
The headdress made of cassowary feathers, is called banggu. Another headdress called subarr is a knife curved out of wood, it is worn during war dances.
The grass-skirts are made of sago leaves (sana pite) or bark (inmoll).
The other ornaments such as necklaces and armbands are made of various materials including seeds, fibers, rattan and feathers.
There are two body paints; 1) charcoal (queeb), 2) white clay (pale).
There are three main percussion instruments used; 1) Kundu drum 2) rattle 3) patepate (garamut).