Madang Province

Infobox Papua New Guinea Province
name = Madang
othername =
districts = Bogia District
Madang District
Middle Ramu District
Rai Coast District
Sumkar District
Usino Bundi District

capital = Madang
area = 29,000 km²
arearank = 7th
pop = 365,106
popdate = 2000
poprank = 5th
popdens = 12.6
governor = Arnold Amet
governordate = 2007

Madang is a province on the northern coast of mainland Papua New Guinea. The province has many of the country's highest peaks, active volcanoes and its biggest mix of languages. The capital is the town of Madang.


Man's contact with the New Guinea mainland has extended through the past 50,000 years, and although as yet unproven one would presume this figure to be true for this region also. Scientists have found evidence of human settlement 12,000 to 15,000 years ago near Simbai. In the past 6,000 years sailors ultimately originating from around Taiwan have traversed this area, leaving their mark in the Austronesian languages which are unevenly distributed along the coastline amongst the Papuan language villages.The Yabob and Bilbil people used big sailing canoes to trade their pots from Karkar Island to western Morobe. They were part of the Vitiaz Strait trade network. Bundi was the centre of trade between Astrolabe Bay and the Highlands. Trade involved shells, salt, clay pots and wooden bowls from the lowlands and stone axes, feathers and women from the Asaro, Simbu and Jimi valleys.

The Madang coast received its first real western exploration at the hands of the Russian explorer Nicholai Miklukho-Maklai in 1871. He introduced pineapples, mangoes, beans, pumpkins and other new foods. In 1884 the German New Guinea Kompagnie started development of the region, building tobacco, cotton and coffee plantations at Bogia and around Astrolabe Bay. In 1886, Johannes Flierl started a Lutheran Mission at Simbang. The Divine Word Missionaries established missions at Bogia in 1901 and Alexishafen in 1904.

In 1914 the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force captured Rabaul and took control of German New Guinea. A military administration continued for 7 years. This was ratified by the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. Once again, very little development took place and the next momentous occasion was the occupation of the region around Hansa Bay by the Japanese during the Second World War (1 May 1942 for Madang town). Madang was destroyed in heavy fighting with much loss of life on both sides. The township was recaptured by Allied soldiers on 24th April 1944. Post-war developments have been few and mainly restricted to the coast and Madang town. Madang town is the base of Divine Word University which was established in 1996.


Madang Province is a large region approximately 300 kilometres long and 160 kilometres wide with four large and many small offshore islands. The province totals 29,000 square kilometres and has a population of 365,106 (2000 census).

To the south lies the Bismarck Range with heights ranging over 4,000 metres. Mount Wilhelm, PNG's tallest mountain at 4509m, being found in those ranges. Also in the south, the Ramu Valley separates the Bismarck Range from the Finisterre Range to the south east of the province. The mountains are timber rich with large stands of trees and rainforest, whilst the coastal plain of the vallery is open and studded with palm trees.

The Bismarck Sea laps the northern coast of the region is fed by the larger Ramu, Sogeram, Gogol and Malas Rivers.

Offshore islands in the sea are, in some cases, volcanic, with Karkar, Bagabag and Manam being notable. In 2004/2005 the population of Manam Island was evacuated due to an eruption of the volcano. Bagabag and Karkar have had no major volcanic activities in recent years. This active volcanic region is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire and has created crater lakes, smoking volcanic cones and black sand beaches.

The Madang province receives ample rainfall (3.2 metres in Madang itself) with the months of November to June being the wettest.

People and Culture

Due to changes caused by outside contact over the years, cultural loss has been great but isolation of many groups has caused that rate of change to be diversely uneven. Because of the environmental diversity, this province also has a very diverse culture as well. Tall lithe coastal people from Karkar Island, short nuggety highlands men from Simbai and river people from the Ramu.

Many Madang area costumes include bamboo frames decorated with the very common cockatoo and parrot feathers as birds of paradise are relatively uncommon. The Ramu people are prolific carvers and the lower Ramu has cultural links with the villages of the artistically diverse Sepik River region. It is interesting to note that the resurgence of cultural festivals (i.e. Maborasa Festival) has seen many people donning the fantastic traditional dress, feathers and paints of their ancestors.

Foods eaten include those grown in fertile coastal gardens, shellfish and fish, fruit, green vegetables, bananas, taro, sweet potato and yams which relish dry soils. Sago is a staple of the Ramu river people especially in its lower reaches. The mountain people have very good gardens with excellent produce.


Linguistically, Madang province is typified by a large number of very small language groups, many with fewer than 1,000 people. Austronesian sailors settled on this coast some 5 to 6,000 years ago and the languages of these intrepid but largely unknown sailors are found along the coast of the province. Lukep, Gedaged, Manam and Bilbil languages are examples of this. Inland, the Katiati, Hinihon and Saki and languages are examples of Papuan (non-Austronesian) languages found in the region. The Ramu river languages include Gamei, Giri, Tangu, Romkun and Igana and the Rai Coast languages include Somau Garia and Usino. The volcanic island of Karkar is unusual in that it is shared by the Papuan language Waskia and the Austronesian language Takia.


The province is the country's third leading producer of cocoa and copra and second producer of cattle. Ramu Sugar and Jant/Gogol woodchip mill are amongst PNG's biggest employers. Most areas are still far from transport and undeveloped.

External links

* [ Madang Province Tourism website]

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