Lake Kutubu is located in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea – one of the remotest parts of the country. Access is only possible by unpaved road from the province capital, or by charter flights that bring workers of the company Oil Search Limited that operates in the area.
Populated mainly by people from the Foe and Fasu ethnic groups this place is literally cut off from civilisation. Islands in the middle of the lake are not marked on maps. One of them, the Wasemi Island, has only a few houses and a basketball playground. Local children cross the lake to the nearest school on the mainland on wooden canoes.
In the middle of Kutubu villages there are “haus man” – men’s houses, where all men sleep. On both sides of the “haus man” there are smaller houses, inhabited by women and children.
Lake Kutubu Lake has many sacred places that are taboo for locals and visitors. Some of the small islands are used as a “ples matmat” (cemetery). Only men can be laid to rest on those islands and only men are allowed to take the dead bodies there. The corpses are left in the open air in unsealed wooden coffins. Once the bodies decomposed, the bones drop into the water.
Residents of the lakeside area get their food through gardening, fishing and hunting wild pigs. One of the most popular dishes of the region, “sak sak”, is made from the extracted core of sago palms.
Lake Kutubu, Southern Highlands Province, Papua New Guinea
People near their house at the shore of Kutubu Lake
Morning fog in Kutubu area
People travelling to their villages on canoes passing the main entry port to the lake in Tugiri village
Children on a canoe at the Key Point of Kutubu Lake. For most of local people, canoes are the only mode of transport that connects them to markets, schools and health centres
A local woman working near the sago palm tree, from which locals make a traditional meal, called 'saksak'
Women extracting the core from the sago palm using wooden tools that are called 'mambu' in the local language. Key Point, Kutubu Lake
Resi (53) squeezes mixed with water extracted sago palm core to prepare starch that will be used later for preparing 'saksak', a traditional meal made from sego palm
Wooden canoes on a river that feeds into Kutubu Lake
Nick, 14, sells Pandandas fruit on the road. Hegeso village, Southern Highlands Province
Haus Man - a traditional men's house in the centre of Daga 1 village in Moro District of Southern Highlands Province. By local custom, all men sleep in this house and their wives and children stay in smaller houses nearby the Haus Man
John, 27, inside the Haus Man in Daga 1 village
Young local men inside the Haus Man in Daga 1 village, which serves as a shared dormitory for all male population in the village, both married and single
Afecabo (on the right) with her daughter in a women's house. Daga 1 village, Southern Highlands Province
Children playing at the entrance to the Catholic parish in Tugiri village
Dominic Francis, 30, playing guitar in the local Catholic parish. Tugiri village, Kutubu Lake
Wasemi Island on Kutubu Lake
Children hide in the tall grass on Wasemi Island
People inside a traditional house on Wasemi Island. The island is populated by only a few families; not many outside visitors come to the island throughout the year
Pecha, 6, puts her dress on inside her house on Wasemi Island
Wasemi village is the only village on Wasemi Island with the population of a few dozens of people
Stera (around 40, centre) with her nieces Cheainda, 7 (right) and Pecha, 6 (left) in front of their house on Wasemi Island
Alu Lori, 45, migrated to Wasemi Island from the Central Province after he married his wife, who is from the lake area. Now they live with their children on this thinly populated island
Children playing basketball at the public playground on Wasemi Island
A newborn baby in a "bilum", a traditional bag that is used by PNG women for carrying everything, from fruits and vegetables to their small children. Wasemi Island, Lake Kutubu
"Ples matmat" - a local name for the cemetery on Bebere Island located within Kutubu Lake. This small inhabited island is used by locals as a graveyard, but only men can be buried here
Human skulls and bones at "ples matmat", the local name for the cemetery island in Kutubu Lake
Meri Alex holding her paddle before taking a canoe trip to her village on the other side of Kutubu Lake
Locals on a canoe at the entrance to Kutubu Lake
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