Indonesian Papua Tribes

Two Tribes Go To War

PapuaOne of the tribes dancing during the Papua Festival in Wamena.

In the old days and maybe even now at some remote places in Papua war can happen at the slightest provocation. A simple act of plucking a fruit from another tribe can trigger a fight. Kidnapping or worst, raping another tribe’s woman will result in a war between the rival tribes. Even if you fall in love with her it will not guarantee a happy ending as village elders will be certainly against this. And stealing the village most precious procession of piglets will be the start of a full-scale war.

PapuaThe village head standing high up a pole like structure looking out for invading tribe.

PapuaThe face of a Yani tribe village head with headgear of feather and pig bone ornaments. 

PapuaThe tribe in full war gears stands facing the approaching ‘enemy’ of a rival tribe.

The village head standing high up a pole like structure looking out for invading tribe.But don’t worry as the villagers are now more interested in our tourist dollars. Special tour and even staying at one of the well maintain village can be arranged but be mentally prepared for the very basic of amenities. For the right price they can even prepare a whole day performance including war games, dancing and singing with the finale of a pig feast to be share among visitors and the tribe.

tribal war gameThe main highlight of the Papua festival held annually in the small town of Wamena is the gathering of all these tribes. Held over a 3 days period it showcase many different tribes coming together from all over Papua to Wamena to participate in war games, dancing, singing and other tribal rituals. This usually take place in a huge open field outside of Wamena attracting hundreds of tourists from all over the world including a huge numbers of photographers too. There are also specially arranged photography tours from different countries attending this festival. Accommodation is limited in Wamena and it’s advisable to book well in advance during this period. Foreigner pays a lot more for entrance ticket to see the festival but if you look like an Indonesian you may end up paying a lot less.

PapuaThe entire tribe lining up to welcome us during our visit to their village.

Papua PapuaApart from the festival event it’s well worth your time to visit the nearby villages to experience their lifestyle and their culture. You will see some women with few fingers that were cut off at the joint indicating how many of her relatives had passed away. As the villages now operate like a visitor center you will be able to see and feel how they live their lives and even participate in their rituals. One of the villages has a more than 100 years old mummy that’s kept inside their hut. All these are best pre arranged with the village representative or local agent, as communication could be a problem.

papua dani tribe womenThe painted faces of the Yani tribe ready for tribal dance PapuaGetting to Wamena, Papua involve various connecting flights, as there is no direct flight from Kuala Lumpur. You can choose to fly KL to Jakarta then to Jayapurna (the capital of Papua) and change to a domestic flight to Wamena. Or fly KL to Markasa, Sulawesi, and then connect to Jayapurna follow by a domestic flight to Wamena. Wamena is a small town and the basic airport has only a wooden building consisting of arrival and departure area.

Papua The piglet feast is the finale where they use bow and arrows to kill it by shooting it through the heart as 2 other person hold on to the piglet.

PapuaThe piglet is then put inside a hole in the ground filled with hot stones and cover with leaves and grass till it’s cooked.

Papua Papua

The Yani tribe all dressed up and ready for the parade during the Papua Festival in Wamena.

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