Introduction / History
The Kewapi live in the Southern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea. Their land stretches from the swamps near Lalibu in the north, to the grasslands in the southern Kagua Valley. Two large rivers, the Laro and the Mendi-Erave, form natural boundaries for the Kewapi's land. There are a number of roads in the area, but no viable airstrips. The Kewapi peoples' mother tongue, East Kewa, is linguistically related to West Kewa and South Kewa. However, it is distinct enough to prevent them from reading materials written in these languages.
The Kewapi people make baskets, arrows, and stone axes. They trade frequently with one another, and with neighboring groups for tree oil and cassowary birds. Coffee provides most income for Kewapi families. They also grow bananas, peanuts, sweet potatoes, and other types of vegetables, both for their own consumption and for sale at local markets. Income is also derived from the sale of pigs. Most people wear western-style clothing, which they buy at markets and second-hand clothing outlets. While the majority consider themselves Christians, syncretism is strongly woven into the religious beliefs of the Kewapi. Following the traditions of their ancestors, some practice sorcery and many live in fear of powerful ghosts.
Some clans, who are historical enemies, are fighting over deaths attributed to sorcery. There is also animosity over contested land and politics. Kewapi children are educated in schools where English is the language of instruction. The literacy rate among adults is low. The New Testament has been available in the East Kewa language since 2005.
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