Cultures: The Awiakay and Meakambut of Papua New Guinea, by Darja Hoenigman

A new event on our channel, in the ILARA Cultures series: watch the documentary on Vimeo, anytime between now and April 14 – and prepare your questions for Darja Hoenigman, anthropologist and filmmaker. She will answer them LIVE on our YouTube channel, on 14 April 10am (UTC+2).

Register on EventBrite, you will receive the access codes, and information about the event.

The Awiakay are a largely endogamous community of nearly 400 people living in Kanjimei village in the lowland rainforest of the Sepik southern flood plain in Papua New Guinea. They subsist mainly on sago, hunting, fishing and gathering, while gardening is of minor importance. People tend to spend long periods of time in their bush camps, which are scattered all over their land. Their language, Awiakay, is a Papuan language belonging to a small Arafundi family. All children learn Awiakay, but everyone is also fluent in Tok Pisin, which is the lingua franca in the region.

Awiakay southern neighbours, the Meakambut, are a group of no more than 62 individuals. Unlike their neighbours, they do not have a permanent settlement, but move between camps and rock shelters in their limestone mountainous territory where they hunt wild pigs and other animals and process sago for their daily staple. The Meakambut language, belonging to the Arafundi family, remains vital despite the growing pressures for lifestyle change and an increasing amount of Tok Pisin spoken in the neighbouring communities.

The movie

Interview: The Awiakay and Meakambut of Papua New Guinea, by Darja Hoenigman
Trailer: The talk goes many ways: Documenting Awiakay and Meakambut language

The author

Darja Hoenigman is a linguistic anthropologist and a lecturer in Tok Pisin at the Australian National University (ANU). Her doctoral thesis ‘The talk goes many ways’: Registers of language and modes of performance in Kanjimei, East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea (ANU 2015) is a study of different ways the Awiakay people use their language in different social situations.

Darja’s ongoing linguistic-anthropological research with the Awiakay and Meakambut communities of East Sepik Province in Papua New Guinea, focuses on the nexus between continuity and change as perceived – and responded to – by the members of these two small face-to-face societies. Darja’s methodology combines conventional ethnographic and linguistic field methods with those of ethnographic filmmaking.

Darja’s research among the Awiakay and Meakambut has been supported by Endangered Languages Documentation Program (ELDP grants IGS0162 and IPF0221). Between 2018-2020 Darja joined the research team on the ANR-funded ETKnoS project (ANR 16-CE27-0005-01).

Cite this blog post
ILARA (2022, April 4). Cultures: The Awiakay and Meakambut of Papua New Guinea, by Darja Hoenigman. ILARA, the Institute for Linguistic Heritage and Diversity. Retrieved June 14, 2024, from

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