The Documentation of Iha


Iha is an endangered language of West Bomberai of Fakfak regency, West Papua Province, Indonesia. It is spoken in inland areas of Kokas and the North coast of Onin Peninsular. Iha is related to the word Ihandin that means “sprout of language”. Aside from describing a language, people in Fakfak use the term Iha to refer to the IHA as an ethnic group (suku) or even one specific clan (marga).

There are approximately 20 vernacular languages found around Fakfak. These languages are scattered from Fakfak up to Kaimana regency. Iha is dominantly used as a lingua franca of the traditional Fakfak and Kaimana people. Besides Iha, the people in Fakfak communicate in Papuan Malay, particularly with the migrants. In a pre-study (2008) it was found that Iha is still spoken in approximately 48 villages and settlements. According to Donohue (1993), the total number of speakers is as small as 5,500.

Grimes (2000) classified Iha as a Trans New Guinea, main section, central and western, west Bomberai proper. Voorhoeve (1975) identified a dialect of Iha spoken along the coastal areas as Kapaur and assumed it was closely related to Baham.


The settlement area of Fakfak is located at 2° 55' 32.51" Southern latitude and 132° 18' 19.60" Eastern longitude, with a height variation between 200-2.500 meters above sea level., According to Fakfak Dalam Angka 2004 (BPS) the border lines of Fakfak includes the Bintuni bay regency to the North, the Arafura sea and Kaimana regency to the South, the Seram sea and Berau bay to the West and the Kaimana regency to the East.

People and Culture

Fakfak is a melting pot of a multilingual and multicultural community. The native Melanesian inhabitants of Iha region live together with non Papuan people from various origins in Indonesia. Acculturation took place over a long period of time.

There are two major religions prevalent, Islam (60%) and Christianity (40%). A strong Muslim presence in Fakfak is known since the era of the Sultanates Tidore and Ternate (1200-1400).

The Iha Program

CELD UNIPA started to document the Iha language and culture in March 2009. The leading researcher is UNIPA graduate Sutriani Narfafan. A multifunctional corpus of spoken Iha is currently being recorded, annotated and transcribed.