Manam - Orientation

Identification. Manam Island, formerly called Vulkan-Insel or Hansa-Vulkaninsel by the Germans, and its outlier, the small island of Boesa (Aris-Insel) 6.5 kilometers to the northwest, are part of the Schouten Island archipelago, a chain of small volcanic islands that stretches along the northeast coast of Papua New Guinea. Near the mouths of the Ramu and Sepik rivers, Manam is part of the north coast and Sepik River culture areas.

Location. Situated just south of the equator at 4°5′ S and 145°3′ E and within the Pacific Ring of Fire, Manam is a small cone-shaped island about 13 kilometers across and 40 kilometers in circumference. A still-active volcano with craters that reach a height of 1,350 meters, it continuously spews forth ash and occasionally erupts molten lava. In 1957 the entire population was evacuated to the mainland for a year, at the end of that time returning to the remains of ash-covered villages on the island. Manam is 16 kilometers from the mainland district station of Bogia, near Hansa Bay in Madang Province. There are no rivers or permanent streams on the Island. Northwest monsoon winds bring a rainy season that lasts from November to April, traditionally a time for canoe building and the staging of feasts and ceremonies. From May to October, southeast trade winds bring a dry season that was always a time of scarcity before the advent of trade stores.

Demography. In 1982 the population of Manam was estimated to be 6,400, with another 420 people on Boesa Island. Despite the fact that many younger Manam have chosen to live permanently on the mainland because of the limitation on available land on the island, the Manam are concerned about a rapidly increasing population. The village population is predominantly indigenous Manam Islanders, with only a small number of in-marrying spouses from mainland Papua New Guinea.

Linguistic Affiliation. Manam, with Wogeo, is classified in the Siassi Family of Austronesian languages. The Manam refer to their language as "Manam pile" (Manam speech or language). Although the same language is spoken throughout the island, it is undergoing a sound shift and two forms are currently spoken on different halves of the island. Most: Manam also speak Tok Pisin (Melanesian Pidgin) and some—mostly younger educated people—also speak English.

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