Papua New Guinea occupies the eastern half of the island of New Guinea, which is located in the south west of the Pacific Ocean and is the world’s second largest island. Earthquakes, tidal waves and volcanic activity are common because of its location. Even though European sailors explored Papua New Guinea from the 16th century onwards, very little was known about its inhabitants until the 19th century. In 1884 the northern half of the country (New Guinea) came into German hands, while the southern half (Papua) came to the British. In 1945 to 46 the two were combined in the Papua New Guinea Provisional Administration Act. Papua New Guinea was then occupied by Australia during World War One and gained independence in 1975; although it still receives extensive aid from Australia. The rainforest environment has prompted a successful logging industry, which is now mostly controlled by Malaysian-owned companies who have been criticized for their negative effect on the surrounding environment and the communities within that environment. Papua New Guinea has a significant amount of mineral deposits and reserves of oil, making it a promising energy exporter for the future. The country saw a 9-year separatist conflict in Bougainville, however a peace deal was signed in 2001.
As one of the world’s most culturally diverse countries, Papua New Guinea is known for having over 800 different native languages and hundreds of ethnic groups including people from other parts of the world such as China, Europe, Philippines, Australia, Polynesia and Micronesia. The people here are descendents from Papuans and Austronesians; some Papuan tribes still live here and have minimum contact with people outside of their tribe. However, about 80% of these people live in extremely rural areas, are often isolated in the rugged highlands and rely on subsistence agriculture as a way of life. Culturally they have kept traditional Melanesian traditions alive, such as the elaborate festivals that are carried out in times of death, feasts, marriages, compensation ceremonies, and initiation rights. Papua New Guinea is also the host of large shows called 'Sing Sing', where people dress up in elaborate costumes and perform traditional dances and songs. Another aspect of Papua New Guinean culture is the general variations found in village construction, dialects and way of dress. In the villages, women carry out the daily household tasks while men are responsible for hunting, trade and warfare.