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ETHNONYMS: Fuyuge, Fuyughé, Goilala, Mambule


Identification. Mafulu is the name, based on the pronunciation used by the neighboring Kunimaipa speakers, for the people of Mambule, their nearest community of Fuyuge speakers. The Sacred Heart missionaries generalized Mafulu to include all of the Fuyuge-speaking inhabitants of the Auga, Vanapa, and Dilava river valleys. It is now also applied to People living in the Chirima Valley. Mafulu who have moved to Port Moresby since World War II are often identified, together with the Tauade from the neighboring valleys, as Goilala.

Location. The Mafulu inhabit the Goilala Subdistrict in the Central Province of Papua New Guinea, at about 8°30 S and 147° E. Communities are located in the sparsely populated Auga, Vanapa, Dilava, and Chirima river valleys, inland from Yule Island, north of Port Moresby, and south of Mount Albert Edward in the Wharton Range of the central cordillera. Although they are separated from the coast by steep gorges, the high (1,000-meter) mountainous foothills in which they live have more gentle ridges, broad forested Valleys, and occasional expanses of kunai grass. Temperatures in the Goilala Subdistrict range between 7° C and 24° C. The average rainfall for the Subdistrict is 262 centimeters per year. The dry season runs from June through October and early November. The rainy season begins in late November or December and lasts until May, with the heaviest rains in January, February, and March.

Demography. There are no reliable early population estimates. According to the 1966 census, there are approximately 14,000 Mafulu in the Goilala Subdistrict.

Linguistic Affiliation. Fuyuge, the language spoken by the Mafulu, is the largest member of the Goilalan Family of the Trans-New Guinea Phylum of Papuan (Non-Austronesian) languages. Fuyuge has appeared in the linguistic literature as Fuyughé and Fujuge, Asiba, Chirima, Gomali, Kambisa, Karukaru, Korona, Mafulu, Mambule, Neneba, Ononge (Onunge), Sikube, Sirima, Tauada, and Vovoi. Fuyuge is quite divergent from the other two members of the language family, sharing only 27 percent of its vocabulary with Tauade and 28 percent with Kunimaipa. The dialects of Fuyuge differ considerably from valley to valley. Some vernacular-language religious materials were produced by the Sacred Heart Mission.

History and Cultural Relations

Before European contact, the Mafulu maintained trade and exchange relations with the neighboring Tauade and Kunimaipa and with the more distant Mekeo. Early contact Between the Mafulu and the Sacred Heart Mission and the Government in the late 1880s was characterized by open conflict. In 1905, the Sacred Heart Mission was established at Popolé. Ethnographic research has been limited to R. W. Williamson's research in 1910, which remains the basis for most Ethnographic data on the Mafulu and is the time of reference for this summary. Additional material was written (and some published) by members of the Sacred Heart Mission and reflects pre-World War II Mafulu society. Mafulu communities were not directly affected by combat during World War II. Following the war, many young men left the area to work as laborers on plantations along the coast and at Kokoda. More recently, others have moved to the Port Moresby area for employment. The region itself has remained relatively isolated because the mountainous terrain has hindered the development of roads. The region is serviced by a small, local airstrip.


Communities are composed of several villages (from two to eight). Villages are usually identified with particular clans and maintain closer ties to villages of the same clan within the community. The number of houses in each village varies considerably from six or eight to thirty. Traditionally villages, situated along the crests of ridges, were surrounded by stockades for defense. Houses were built in two parallel rows with an open mall between the rows. The emone or "men's house" sat between the two rows of houses at one end. Special dancing villages, which brought together people from other Villages in the community, were built for large feasts held about every ten to twelve years.


Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The Mafulu are swidden horticulturalists, whose main crops are sweet potatoes, taro, yams, and bananas. Sugarcane, beans, pumpkins, cucumbers, and pandanus are also cultivated. They breed pigs, and they hunt wild pigs, cassowaries, wallabies, and bandicoots with the assistance of domesticated dogs. The Household is the basic unit of production and consumption. Most food is either roasted or steamed in sections of bamboo, while pig and other meat may be cooked in earth ovens.

Industrial Arts. Items produced include bark cloth (tapa), used for bark-cloth capes, widows' vests, dancing aprons, and loin cloths. Netting is used for string bags, hunting nets, and hammocks. Smoking pipes are made from bamboo. Stone adzes, used in the past to cut down trees and clear gardens, have given way to steel bush knives and axes. Spears, stone clubs, bows, and bamboo-tipped arrows are used in warfare and hunting. The Mafulu also make various musical instruments.

Trade: Trade consists primarily of pigs, feathers, dogs'-teeth necklaces, and stone tools. The Mafulu trade stone tools and pigs to the Tauade and others in neighboring Valleys, who lack the appropriate stone or skills, in exchange for feathers, dogs'-teeth necklaces, and other valuables. They also trade valuables to peoples on the coast for clay pots and magic.

Division of Labor. Women are responsible for planting sweet potatoes and taro, clearing the gardens of weeds, collecting food from the gardens and cooking it, and gathering firewood. They also care for the pigs. Men's work consists Primarily of planting yams, bananas, and sugarcane, cutting down large trees, building, and hunting. They also help women with their work.

Land Tenure. Members of a clan hold the rights to land which are exercised by resident clan members. Village land is owned by a particular clan, though individuals have private usufructuary rights to the land and ownership of the houses they build there for the period their houses stand. The Neighboring bush is also owned jointly by the clan. Individual gardeners control access to cleared land until it returns to uncultivated bush, at which point jurisdiction reverts to the clan. Hunting land is property of the clan land, with access Controlled by, though not restricted to, clan members. No Individual has the right of disposal over clan land.


Kin Group and Descent. Kinship ideology is patrilineal. In practice, however, an individual may move to the village of collateral relatives and assume membership in the clan of that village without losing affiliation with the clan of his or her previous residence. Clan membership is based on common descent and coresidence. Clans are unnamed nontotemic groups that are identified by the names of their chiefs. The chief is the embodiment of the "prototype" (omate ) given by a mythological ancestor.

Kinship Terminology. There is insufficient data on kin terms to determine the terminological system. It is probably similar to that of the linguistically related Tauade (Goilala).

Marriage and Family

Marriage. Polygamous marriages are common, particularly among men with prestige. Clans and villages are exogamous. There does not appear to be any pattern of Intermarriage among communities. Normally, a marriage proposal is made by a boy through one of the girl's close female relatives. However, marriages by elopement and childhood betrothal are also practiced. A gift of a pig and other bride-wealth legitimize a marriage. Postmarital residence is patrilocal. Divorce is not uncommon. A wife usually initiates divorce by leaving her husband's house and moving into the home of her parents, her brothers, or a new husband. Although there may be claims for a return of bride-wealth following divorce, they are usually ineffective.

Domestic Unit. The household is composed of a husband, his wife (or wives), and their children. Other members of the extended family may also join the household. The cowives and their female and young male children sleep together in a single house, while the husband and his adolescent sons Usually sleep in the village men's house.

Inheritance. Inheritance is patrilineal. Personal, movable property is divided among sons or other male kin at the death of an owner. Women only inherit personal, movable property and have no effective claims to land.

Socialization. Children participate in many day-to-day activities with adults, such as gardening and aspects of hunting. Games often involve taking the roles of adults. Children attend primary schools administered and staffed by the district department of education.

Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. The largest effective social group is the community, composed of several villages. Villages of the community (particularly those of the same clan) cooperate in feasting, ceremonies, protection, and occasionally hunting and fishing. The number of villages of the same clan within a community varies as they divide and recombine over the course of several years. Villages of the same clan within a community have a common chief (amidi ) who normally succeeds to his position by primogeniture. The chiefs ceremonial emone, the men's house in the village where he lives, is the site of feasts. Clans are not named, nor do they share a common totemic emblem. Instead, people identify their Social affiliation by using the name of their amidi.

Political Organization. The community is the largest Political unit. Each clan within the community has a chief who has a house in each village of his clan. His basic residence, however, is in the same village as his ceremonial men's house. The amidi's only authority is as the hereditary leader of his clan within a community. There are also clan leaders for warfare, division of pigs, and other political activities. Decision making within communities is done cooperatively by the amidi of the clans in the community and other leaders.

Social Control. The amidi only exerts control within a Village in his role as the senior member of a clan. In most instances of homicide, seduction etc., members of the aggrieved clan or village take retribution themselves on the offenders if they are from outside the community. Gossip and the threats of shame and retribution induced by self-mutilation or suicide also control open disagreement and violence in the community.

Conflict. Even after European contact, raids between communities continued. The most frequent causes of disputes were the seduction of wives and theft of pigs. The warfare and sorcery that often followed was waged between Communities. Retribution could be taken on any member of the opposing clan or community. Early missionary sources state that cannibalism was not practiced, but this report is disputed by ethnographic and later missionary accounts.

Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. According to Mafulu legend, Tsidibe, the hero of Mafulu mythology, crossed the mountains from the north and introduced the prototype or omate of humans, crops, animals, and social activities to the region. Tsidibe's passage is marked by stones and odd-shaped rocks. The Current amidi is the embodiment of the omate, without which women, animals, and the crops of the clan could not reproduce. The Mafulu fear spirits of the dead, particularly those of the amidi, which are often held responsible for illness and accident. After 1905 the Sacred Heart Mission Christianized most of the Mafulu, established a training center for local catechists at Popolé, and produced vernacular-language Religious materials.

Religious Practitioners. Magicians or sorcerers had powers to cause and cure illness and death. They were also able to divine the progress of an illness. The power to cause illness was only to be exercised as retribution against people from other villages. Following the introduction of Christianity and the establishment of a religious training school, the region has produced Roman Catholic catechists.

Ceremonies. The principle ceremony is the gabé, a large intertribal feast, which draws many guests from numerous distant communities. Gabé are spaced about ten to twelve years apart to enable the hosts to develop large gardens and litters of pigs needed for the feast. In addition to the social dimension, this feast involves the washing and final disposal of the bones of a dead amidi. During the feast, the bones that had been hung in the emone are brought out, splashed with blood from the pigs killed for the feast, and then redistributed to the amidi's close relatives. Rites of passage for boys and girls can be performed concurrently with the gabé, though separate pigs are required for each ceremony. Traditionally, there were particular ceremonies for the birth of the chief's first child. Other ceremonies performed for all children included admitting both boys and girls to the emone (though only boys could sleep there). The assumption of a perineal band, which was preceded by a lengthy seclusion, was performed prior to adolescence. Ceremonies were also held when boys' and girls' noses and ears were pierced, when boys were given drums and songs, and when people were married. Death and mourning ceremonies for chiefs differed from those of others.

Arts. Plastic arts consist primarily of painting tapa dancing aprons, burning or cutting abstract designs on smoking pipes, and constructing feather headdresses for dances. Musical instruments consist of kundu-style drums that are used to accompany dancing at feasts, Jew's harps, and flutes.

Medicine. Some traditional herbal medicines (unidentified) were ingested for stomach ailments and applied topically to wounds.

Death and Afterlife. People are believed to have a ghostly spirit that inhabits the body during life and leaves at death. Ghostly spirits become malevolent and are held responsible for illness and misfortune. After death and mourning rituals are complete, ghosts retreat to live in the mountains where they may take the forms of various plants and animals.

See also Mekeo, Tauade


Dupeyrat, A. (1954). Savage Papua: A Missionary among Cannibals. Translated by E. and D. de Mauny. New York: E. P. Dutton.

Dupeyrat, A. (1956). Festive Papua. Translated by E. de Mauny. London: Staples Press.

Dutton, T. (1973). A Checklist of Languages and Present-Day Villages of Central and South-East Mainland Papua. Pacific Linguistics, Series B, no. 24, Canberra: Australian National University.

Haddon, A. C. (1946). "Smoking and Tobacco Pipes in New Guinea." Royal Society of London Philosophical Transactions, Series B, no. 232, pp. 1-278. London.

Hallpike, C. (1977). Bloodshed and Vengeance in the Papuan Mountains: The Generation of Conflict in Tauade Society. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Williamson, R. W. (1912). The Mafulu: Mountain People of British New Guinea. London: Macmillan.


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