Gogodala - History and Cultural Relations

According to oral traditions, the ancestors of the Gogodala arrived in a large canoe from the direction of the Fly River, settling at the Aramia River after many years of wandering and being happy to find a region rich in sago, fish, and game. Physically, socially, and culturally they share many features with the peoples of the Trans-Fly region and southwest New Guinea. Almost all that is known of traditional Gogodala life is based on reports of government officers who visited them for brief periods in 1910-1916 and the work of the anthropologist Paul Wirz, who conducted fieldwork among them in 1930. Missionaries of the Unevangelised Fields Mission (now the Asia Pacific Christian Mission) established a station in Gogodala territory in 1934 and two years later local converts and native evangelists, in concert with the missionaries, were responsible for mass destruction of all traditional art and ceremonial paraphernalia. During World War II the people were left on their own, but intensified missionary efforts in the 1950s and 1960s resulted in drastic social change, including the total abandonment of traditional longhouses themselves. A cultural revival in 1972 culminated in the erection and dedication of a new longhouse as the Gogodala Cultural Centre, established as a museum, an educational center, and an assertion of cultural identity at Balimo, the site of the first mission station.

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