Don Niles ipngs at
Wed Sep 4 11:50:13 EST 2002

Hi everyone,

I seem to have missed the original correspondence re sanguma, so please
excuse any duplication.

An important article is:

Laycock, Donald C.
	1996	"Sanguma." In Papers in Papuan Linguistics, 2, pp. 271-81.
Pacific Linguistics, A 85. Canberra: Australian National University.

Laycock reviews much of the literature on this subject, both regards
definition and origins of the word in TP. He cannot find any similar word
from southern Africa (p. 277) and concludes the TP word is most likely from
Monumbo (who nowadays are most often called Mambuan by other groups).
Laycock has a very useful bibliography which, however, should also include:

Pöch, Rudolf
	1908	"Reisen an der Nordküste von Kaiser Wilhelmsland." Globus
93/9: 139-43.

In this source, there is a reference to the Monumbo 'zanguma' on p. 141.
This comes from Pöch's research there with Fr Vormann in 1904. Laycock's
first reference to the term is a letter from Vormann in 1906-7. (BTW, Pöch
is also important to us as he made the first sound recording of TP in 1904
which he was in Potsdamhafen in the Monumbo area: of a Sulka police man!).

Re your comment via Luke Kabariu (whom I met at the Garma Festival right
before he went on to see you) about Papua New Guineans in Africa. This
interests me a great deal. Certainly a group of 150 boys and men from
German New Guinea went to Dar-es-Salaam (arriving on 29 January 1906) to
help suppress the Maji-Maji Rebellion. Some returned for health reasons on
12 March, others on 25 May. Otto Dempwolff, of Austronesian linguistics
fame, was working in Africa then and was thrilled to spend as much time as
possible with the Papua New Guineans. He even recorded some of them singing
on cylinders. Perhaps Lupak was part of this contingent (sadly he is not
among those recorded)? Or were there other trips to Africa by PNGns during
this period? I have no information that this group ever went to other
German colonies in Africa.


Don Niles
Head & Senior Ethnomusicologist
Music Department
Institute of Papua New Guinea Studies
P.O. Box 1432
Boroko 111

tel.:	[675] 325-4644
fax:	[675] 325-0531
email:	ipngs at

>      Thanks  Thomas. Excellent work as usual. I must apologise for the
>dearth of new  entries recently (work, book reviews etc).   As it
>happens, a Lihirian visited me last week with one new item of information
>on the  topic of sanguma. A man from Matatukuen village, Masahet Island,
>NIP, called  Lupak was a policeman in German times, dying in the 1950s or
>60s. He always  maintained that he had been to Africa, "another country
>with black people in  it", which educated Masahet islanders late in his
>lifetime apparently  thought rather far-fetched and disbelieved him. But
>my informant, Luke Kabariu,  says he now recognises that he must have been
>telling the truth; there is no  argument, I should say, that Lupak was in
>the police force of German New Guinea.  Although I do have genealogies for
>the whole of Masahet, they are rather shallow  and only a modern
>Lupak appears in them, not the old police  fellow.   This is a reminder
>that the Southern African sangoma  killer  witch  theory is at least
>feasible. Presumably the Germans would have  had their colonial police in
>Namibia and Tanganyika. Does anyone know for  sure if sangoma is known in
>Namibia as it is in South  Africa?   I don't have the Murphy reference,
>but we do need more detail on sanguma  in the Monumbo language of Bogia,
>and indeed some proof that it hasn't entered  that language from TP, to
>attribute the term to this  place.   John  Burton
> -----Original Message-----
>From:  Thomas H. Slone [mailto:THSlone at]
>Sent: Tuesday, 3 September  2002 5:44 AM
>To: Multiple recipients of list
>Subject: Saksak  & Sanguma
>   1. John Burton asked for additional entries for    saksak.  Quotes are
>from Wantok's Stori    Tumbuna
>   2. John asked for other variants on the definition of    sanguma. 
>Murphy (1985: 100) defines sanguma rather specifically: "The    term
>originally comes from Madang where it was used to describe a species of
>malign sorcery and also the person gifted with the power of performing
>it.  It was performed by bringing about an apparent mesmerism of the
>victim by the sorcerer who then led him to his assistants and then the
>thorns    were pushed into parts of the body where it was desired pain or
>illness would    manifest itself and eventually cause the death  of the
>victim.  A    short thorn was pushed into the tongue causing it to swell
>so that the victim    could not talk and tell the name of the sorcerers. 
>The thorns were    dipped in a special secret brew which apparently
>rendered them    poisonous.  The victim invariably died.  The term has
>spread to    other parts of the Territory to describe similar sorcery
>where the victim    first undergoes mesmerism or is frozen with fright."

More information about the Mihalic mailing list