New Guinea

New Guinea (Tok Pisin: Niugini; Dutch: Nieuw-Guinea; Indonesian: Papua or, historically, Irian) is a large Island in the South West Pacific region.

It is the world’s second-largest island, after Greenland, covering a land area of 786,000 km2.

The island has been known by various names.

The name Papua was used to refer to parts of the island before contact with the West.[1] Its etymology is unclear;[1] one theory is that it is from Tidore, the language used by the Sultanate of Tidore, which controlled parts of the island’s coastal region.[2] The name came from papo (to unite) and ua (negation), which means not united or, territory that geographically is far away (and thus not united).[2]

Ploeg reports that the word papua is often said to derive from the Malay word papua or pua-pua, meaning ‘frizzly-haired’, referring to the highly curly hair of the inhabitants of these areas.[3] Another possibility, (put forward by Sollewijn Gelpke in 1993) is that it comes from the Biak phrase sup i papwa which means ‘the land below [the sunset]’ and refers to the islands west of the Bird’s Head, as far as Halmahera. Whatever the origin of the name Papua, it came to be associated with this area, and more especially with Halmahera, which was known to the Portuguese by this name during the era of their colonization in this part of the world.

When the Portuguese and Spanish explorers arrived in the island via the Spice Islands, they also referred to the island as Papua.[2] However, the name New Guinea would later be used by Westerners starting with the Spanish explorer Íñigo Ortíz de Retes in 1545, referring to the similarities of the indigenous people’s appearance with the natives of the Guinea region of Africa.[2] The Dutch, who arrived later under Lemaire and Schouten, called it Schouten island, but later this name is used only to refer to islands to the north of the coast of Papua proper, the Schouten Islands or Biak Island. When the Dutch colonized it as part of Netherlands East Indies, they called it Nieuw Guinea.[2]

The name Irian was used in the Indonesian language to refer the island and Indonesian province, as “Irian Jaya province”. The name was promoted in 1945 by Marcus Kaisiepo,[1] brother of the future governor Frans Kaisiepo. It is taken from the Biak language of Biak Island, and means to rise, or rising spirit. This name of Irian is the name used in the Biak language and other languages such as Serui, Merauke and Waropen languages.[2] The name was used until 2001, when the name Papua was again used for the island and the province. The name Irian, which was originally favored by natives, is now considered to be a name imposed by the authority of Jakarta.