The Huli Residence

by Ron Meshanko

Huli men and women, who live in houses made of wood, kunai grass and woven bamboo or reed walls, live in separate housing for men's fear of menstrual pollution.
Huli men and women live in separate housing due to the men’s fear of menstrual contamination.

Tunda clan territory is an example of a typical residential area. 1 The Tunda territory is approximately 2 3/4 miles long, 1/4 mile wide in the most densely populated section, and 1/2 mile wide in the least populated swampy area of clan territory. Seven land-holders live in the most densely populated area that is only 1,500 yards long and 900 yards wide. Twelve men’s houses and thirteen women’s houses dot the area which is covered with approximately 287 individually owned gardens, thirty percent of which lay fallow. Clan unit common ground includes a Haroli bachelor cult ground located in the thick of a forest at the center of the territory, uncultivated forest lands, and cult forests in which ritual stone artifacts are buried. The Methodist Mission owns a large piece of property that formerly contained a leper colony and a coffee grove.

The Huli live in houses made of wood, kunai grass and woven bamboo or pit-pit (reed) walls. A standard traditional house measures about ten feet wide, fifteen to twenty feet long and about six and one-half feet high at the peak of the roof. The building is usually divided into two loosely defined sections. In the front section, which serves as the living and dining area, a fire is usually kept burning in a shallow pit. The back section contains a wood and reed platform that serves as a bed, the only piece of “furniture” in the house. The inhabitants sit on the bed or on the dirt floor, which is sometimes covered with flea and cock-roach infested sweet potato peelings. There are no windows or chimneys in the house. The smoke from the burning fire filters through the grass roof, covering the ceiling with black pitch. A small door three feet high and a foot and a half wide is the only entrance. This is closed up with boards from the inside at night. An increasing number of Huli homes now have iron roofing, doors with hinges and latches, windows, and crude wall benches.

Next to the house stands an open, thatched-roof building which serves as a rest-house and/or cook house. The Huli spend most of their daylight hours around the fire at the center of this house conversing, preparing and eating food, and smoking.

A typical men’s house quarters 2.7 men per household with a range of one to nine occupants; while two to five women share a women’s house with an average of 3.3 occupants, 2 The men’s house is shared by a man’s friends, relatives and older sons. His wife lives with the young children, older daughters, and kinswomen in the women’s house which usually cannot be seen when standing near the house.

(Picture courtesy of Trans Niu Gini Tours)

  1. Ibid, pp. 23-26.[]
  2. Ibid, p. 63.[]