Marind people

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Marind people
Marind-Anim people
Marind-Anim men dressed for ceremony, south coast Dutch New Guinea.jpg
Marind-Anim men dressed for ceremony, south coast Dutch New Guinea. c 1920's.
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Southern coast of Papua Province, Indonesia. Also known as West Papua
Marind Family of the Trans–New Guinea Phylum of Papuan languages
Christianity (predominantly), Indigenous beliefs
Related ethnic groups
Indigenous Papuan peoples of West Papua and Papua New Guinea, other Melanesians

Marind or Marind-Anim are people living in South New Guinea.


A map showing New Guinea language groups. The Marind-speaking area is highlighted in red.

The Marind live south of the lower parts of river Digul, east of Yos Sudarso Island, mainly west of Maro River (a small area goes beyond Maro at its lower part, including Merauke).[2] Today the area inhabited by Marind-anim is contained by Papua province of Indonesia.


In the past, the Marind were famed because of headhunting.[3] This was rooted in their belief system and linked to the name-giving of the newborn.[4] The skull was believed to contain a mana-like force.[5][6] Headhunting was not motivated primarily by cannibalism, but the already killed person's flesh was consumed.[7]

The people lived spread in several extended families. Such an extended family derives its origin up to a mythological ancestor. Ancestor veneration has a characteristic form here: these mythological ancestors are demon-like figures, they feature in myths, and act as culture heroes, arranging the ancient world to its recent state, introducing plants, animals, cultural goods.[8] They have often the form of plants or animals; there is a kind of totemism, but it is not accompanied by a regular food taboo of the respective animal or plant.[7] Totems can appear both in artefacts[9] and myths.[10]

The word for such an ancestral spirit being is dema in the Marind languages. The material similarity of this word to “demon” is incidental. Each extended family keeps and transfers the tradition, it is especially the chore of the big men of the respective family. The influence of these big men does not go beyond their extended family.[8]

The Marind-anim are also notable for their sexual culture, which features ritualistic male homosexuality. In the century or so before European contact, young Marind-anim men were led through initiatory rituals in which they would perform fellatio on older men in order to receive their semen, which it was believed the boys did not have until they received it from their older counterparts. Ritual intercourse with women would take place on the day of a girls wedding, when after the ceremony she would have sex with her new partners male kin before having sex with her husband. This ritualistic intercourse would take place during other times as well, such as after the women has given birth.[11]

Their culture was researched by several ethnologists, for example the Swiss Paul Wirz, the German Hans Nevermann,[12] and the Dutch cultural anthropologist Jan van Baal, who was the Governor of Netherlands New Guinea from 1953 until 1958.[13]

The Marind languages form a small family of the Trans–New Guinea language phylum.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Marind in Indonesia". Joshua Project. Retrieved 2014-09-18. 
  2. ^ Nevermann 1957: 225
  3. ^ Nevermann 1957: 9
  4. ^ Nevermann 1957: 111
  5. ^ Nevermann 1957: blurb
  6. ^ Nevermann 1957: 112
  7. ^ a b Nevermann 1957: 13
  8. ^ a b Nevermann 1957: 12
  9. ^ Unknown photographer 1920s (see postcard image online)
  10. ^ Nevermann 1957: 86, 202/note 108 (= Die Taube und die Enten)
  11. ^ Keesing, Roger M. & Strathern, Andrew J. (1998), Cultural Anthropology: A Contemporary Perspective, 3rd. edition, p. 120
  12. ^ Nevermann 1957: 7
  13. ^ Van Baal 1966. A comprehensive standard work on Marind-anim culture.
  14. ^ Baal 2007: Marind-anim, Orientation (see online)

Further reading[edit]

  • Van Baal, Jan (1966). Dema. Description and Analysis of Marind-Anim Culture (South New Guinea). The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff. 
  • Van Baal, Jan (2007). "Marind-anim". World Culture Encyclopedia. Advameg Inc. 
  • Corbey, Raymond (2010). Headhunters from the swamps: The Marind Anim of New Guinea as seen by the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, 1905-1925. Leiden: KITLV Press and Zwartenkot Art Books. 
  • Nevermann, Hans (1957). Söhne des tötenden Vaters. Dämonen- und Kopfjägergeschichten aus Neu-Guinea. Das Gesicht der Völker (in German). Eisenach • Kassel: Erich Röth-Verlag.  The title means Sons of the killing father. Stories about demons and headhunting, recorded in New Guinea.
  • Unknown photographer (1920s). "Marind-Anim men dressed for ceremony, south coast Dutch New Guinea". Old photographs (postcard). Oceania Ethnographica.  A fabulous image of warriors with their drums; the man on the left holds an extremely rare type of carved wooden fish totem.

External links[edit]


  • Corbey, R. 2010. "Headhunters from the swamps: The Marind Anim of New Guinea as seen by the missionaries of the Sacred Heart, 1905-1925.". Leiden: KITLV Press and Zwartenkot Art Books.