Papuan Traditional Clothing: Types, Uniqueness, and Philosophy

Papuan Traditional Clothing – What comes to your mind when you hear the word Papua? Maybe you will imagine the beauty of Raja Ampat, Mount Carstensz and Jayawijaya Mountains, and honai houses. The discussion on Papua has a very broad scope. On this occasion, we will focus on discussing traditional Papuan clothing. What are the Papuan traditional clothes? Hi loyal Sinaumed’s, let’s not take long and discuss it together directly.

Overview of Papua Island

This exotic island is located at the eastern tip of Indonesia. There are many things that still need to be explored more deeply about Papua. Apart from the copper and gold mines on the island, there are many other interesting things for us to know. This island has a long and tiring history of struggle to the point that the military had to intervene. We know this struggle in history books as the Liberation of West Irian.

This province has an area of ​​312,224.37 km2 out of a total island area of ​​421,981 km2 and is directly adjacent to the state of Papua New Guinea. Previously, this area was known as Irian Jaya to mention the entire territory of Papua Island. However, since 2003, this island has been divided into two provinces, namely West Papua in the west and Papua (only) in the east. So if we say Papua, then what is meant is the Province of Papua which is in the eastern part of Papua Island. Papua Province has its capital in Jayapura City.

Culture in Papua Island

We got various information about the number of tribes on the island of Papua, but most said that there were around 466 tribes living there. They are of the same family as the indigenous people of the Australian Continent, namely the Aborigines. Among the tribes in Papua are the Asmat, Biak, Nafri, Sentani, Batu/Island Wood, Tobati/Enggros, Demta, Kaureh, Kimaghama, Maklew, and others.

Of these various tribes, there are more than 270 languages ​​on the island of Papua. Meanwhile in Papua New Guinea, there are also various tribes and it is said that there are 800 languages ​​there. Culture in Papua includes dances, houses, ceremonies and traditional clothing.

Types of Papuan Traditional Clothing

There are many kinds of traditional clothes in Papua. One of them is the Koteka which we often hear because of the many reports on television programs and news. Apart from the Koteka, there are several other types of Papuan traditional clothing. Before we study the different types, it’s a good idea to know the characteristics of Papuan traditional clothing.

As we know, Papuan traditional clothing has not been influenced by outside culture so it is still very original and genuine. Papuan traditional clothing indicates that its inhabitants live side by side with the natural surroundings. The uniqueness of Papuan traditional clothing makes their traditional clothing known in Indonesia and internationally.

Below are the types of Papuan traditional clothing.

1. Koteka

The koteka is part of the traditional Papuan clothing which functions to cover the genitals of indigenous Papuan men, while other body parts are left open so that they are almost naked. Koteka literally means clothes. Koteka is also known as horim or bobbe.

Koteka is made from water gourd skin that has had its seeds and fruit removed. The water pumpkin chosen must be old because old pumpkin when dried has a hard and durable texture. The old pumpkin is planted in sand or soil and then burned to make it easier to remove the seeds and fruit. After successfully removing the seeds and fruit, the pumpkin is dried by airing it over the fireplace.

The shape is long like a sleeve and the tip is tapered like a cone or more like a carrot stick. At the end of the koteka are given partridge feathers or bird feathers.

Koteka is applied to the male vital parts. So that it is not easily separated, there are ropes on the left and right so that the koteka can be wrapped around the user’s waist. For men who are still virgins, the koteka is worn in an upright position. Meanwhile for men who wear the koteka in an upward position and tilted to the right, it symbolizes virility and has a high social status or nobility.

The general opinion in circulation says that the size, both long and large, of the koteka symbolizes the status of the wearer. But in reality this is not the case. The size of the koteka is chosen based on what activity is being carried out.

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Short koteka is worn when they work and daily activities such as farming, hunting and raising livestock. Meanwhile, for traditional events, they use a long koteka.

The koteka worn by one tribe can be different from the koteka worn by other tribes. For example, the koteka used by the Yali tribe, they prefer the long shape of a pumpkin. Meanwhile, there are other tribes, namely the Triom tribe, who usually wear a koteka in the shape of two pumpkins.

In 1950, the indigenous Papuans received a visit to socialize the use of shorts. This campaign aims to replace the role of the koteka so that it can cover the male vital parts more thoroughly.

The campaign required a long struggle and was not easy. Residents in the Baliem Valley, for example, the Dhani Tribe, sometimes wear shorts, but at other times they maintain the koteka.

Gradually, the use of the koteka was limited, especially in public places where many people could see it, for example at schools, terminals, offices, and so on. Some time ago, news went viral that the use of the koteka was banned in courtrooms. The existence of koteka in this era is more often traded for souvenirs.

The use of koteka is still common in mountainous areas, such as Wamena. If there are tourists who take pictures with residents using the koteka, usually they need to pay several tens of thousands according to the agreement.

The restriction on this koteka began in 1964 when the antikoteka campaign began. Then in 1971, clothes and trousers were distributed to the residents there. Unfortunately, the distribution was not accompanied by the provision of laundry soap, so the clothes and trousers that were already worn became dirty and were never washed. As a result, many Papuans are affected by skin diseases.

2. Shirt Kurung

The baju kuning is a traditional Papuan dress worn by women as a boss. The material for the brackets is velvet. The baju kuning is influenced by cultures outside of Papua and is widely worn by women in Manokwari. You will find many Papuan women in West Papua who also wear this dress for traditional events.

This woman wearing a bracketed shirt combines her appearance with a tassel skirt. It is not uncommon for women to use additional accessories when wearing this bracketed shirt. Fringed fur trim around waist, arms and neckline.

The combination of baju kuning, tassel skirt, and feather tassel decoration is usually added with several other accessories to make it look more harmonious. There are bracelets and necklaces made of hard seeds and head coverings made of bird feathers.

3. Tassel Skirt

The tassel skirt is a subordinate that covers the lower body of Papuan women. Usually the tassel is used in pairs with the clothes brackets. The tassel skirt is made of sago leaves that have been dried and then neatly knitted to form a skirt.

Tassel skirts are usually worn by residents in the central mountainous region or near the coast. Some groups that still use this tassel skirt are Yapen, Sentani, Enjros, Nafri, Biak Numfor, and Tobati.

Even though skirts are generally worn by women, some men in Papua also wear these fringed skirts when traditional events are held. Even though there weren’t that many, Sinaumed’s shouldn’t be surprised when he saw this during his visit to Papua.

How to use a tassel skirt for women and men is different. If a man wears a fringed skirt, then he doesn’t wear a baju kuning like a woman. If a man wears a koteka, women usually wear a tassel skirt without brackets. Their upper bodies are disguised by tattoos with flora and fauna motifs in which the ink is made from natural materials.

4. Sali clothes

To recognize a girl is single or married, can be recognized by the clothes worn. Sali clothes are clothes that only girls can wear. This Sali shirt can be used to carry out daily activities. Married women are not allowed to wear this traditional dress.

Sinaumed’s would not have thought that these clothes were made from selected tree bark or dried sago leaves. One of the criteria is that the bark of the tree must be brown so that the clothes produced look perfect, attractive and pleasing to the eye. Because at first glance, this traditional dress looks like stitched cloth when worn by Papuan girls.

Sali is used by wrapping it around the body and arranged so that the inside is longer than the outside.

5. Yokal Traditional Clothing

Who would have thought that there were only clothes for girls who were still girls? In Papuan culture, married women are also provided with special clothing. Its function is clear, this garment is to cover a woman’s upper body and may only be worn by those who are married.

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Yokal clothes are made of tree bark which is a striking earthy brown or reddish color. These clothes are made by woven and wrapped around the woman’s body.

6. Grass Cloth Dress

This traditional clothing is clothing that has received a modern touch. Grasscloth clothes can be worn by both men and women.

This clothing is made using the basic ingredients of dried sago leaves. Sago leaves that are used as an ingredient must be taken when the sea water is high tide. The sago leaves that have been taken are then dried and then soaked before being woven.

The leaves are then woven using a one meter long piece of wood. The wood serves to tie the ends of the rope. The rope is made of grass, which has previously been dried, which is twisted together.

7. Natural Tattoos

It is not uncommon for us to encounter pictures or tattoos on the bodies of Papuans. The tattoo serves to cover the upper body of the Papuan population. This is because sometimes Papuans don’t wear tops.

According to historical records, tattoos in Papua are estimated to have existed since 3000 years ago. It was the Austronesian people from Asia who brought this tattoo tradition to Papua. That said, the tattoo was made of charcoal made from wood that is pyrolyzed together with tree sap.

When the mixture of sap and charcoal is sufficient to be mixed with other ingredients, sago thorns or bones are dipped into it to be stabbed into the cheeks, chest, eyelids, calves, back of the body, and hips.

Tattoos are also used by grooms to make them look more handsome and mighty. Therefore, tattoos on men have motifs of crocodiles, snakes, cassowaries, or sawfish. While the bride wears tattoos to add beauty. Tattoo motifs for the bride are usually birds of paradise, eels, or fish. In addition, tattoos are also used to show a symbol of beauty, power, or one’s social status.

8. Tassel decoration on the head

The tassels on the head like a crown are often worn by the people of Papua. The function of this tassel decoration is as an additional decoration for traditional Papuan clothing.

This tassel decoration is made of white or yellow cassowary feathers. The choice of cassowary feathers as a tassel decoration material is because of its unique and attractive shape. Sometimes this decoration is also combined with rabbit fur. But sometimes cassowary feathers are replaced with reeds as the basic ingredient.

9. Noken

Noken is a traditional Papuan clothing accessory in the form of a typical Papuan woven bag. Previously, this bag was worn by tying it on the head. But lately, noken is worn by slung over the shoulder. Noken is made by plaiting bark or rattan roots.

Noken has many important functions in the lives of people in Papua. Yatoo is a large noken that can be used to carry firewood, vegetables, tubers, beans, potatoes, and other goods, including groceries at the market. If the Yatoo is empty, the bag can be used to carry a child. Another type of noken is called Gapagoo. Due to its small size, Gapagoo can only transport small items such as cigarettes or betel nut.

Until now, noken is still widely used by the Asmat tribe. Noken is a matter of pride for Papuans who migrate outside the island or Indonesians who migrate abroad. In the market Noken has a high price. These woven bags are priced from hundreds of thousands to millions of rupiah.

10. Teeth of Pigs or Dogs

As the name suggests, these accessories are made of dog teeth and pig teeth. This pig’s tooth is placed between the nostrils of a Papuan man. This pig’s tooth is used as an identity that the user is a war soldier. If a soldier is angry or wants to fight, then the pig’s teeth will face down.

While dog teeth are used for jewelry in the form of necklaces. This necklace made of dog teeth is called Koyonoo. That said, dog teeth are one of the highest treasures in tradition in Papua. Dogs that are white and without blemishes (cracked or eroded) have a higher exchange value.

In some tribes, Koyonoo can be used to pay customary fines, dowry, and several other means of exchange.

So much of Papuan culture is still a mystery to us. The various cultures that belong to the Indonesian nation should be addressed wisely. Thus, we can make these differences to unite the nation, not divide the nation.

Finally, Sinaumed’s, we have finished our discussion regarding Papuan traditional clothing. sinaumedia never tires of being #Friends Without Borders by presenting our selected books.

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