Theme pages

The themepages offer insight into different aspects of life of the indegenous peoples of West Papua.

Eyewitness Report Headhunting

In 1939 the Dutch priest Jan Verscheuren witnessed a headhunting incident in kekaju village by the war-like tribe of the JEI people. He made notes which were then incorporated by Dr. Jan H.M.C. Boelaars in his book 'Nieuw Guinea uw mensen zijn wonderbaar' (New Guinea your people are amazing). Verscheuren described the killing and the rituals in great detail.

Chewing Pinang a popular past time in Papua

Chewing  Betel nut is a popular past time in Papua for both young and old. In Jayapura one can seeTanden worden rood door pinang kauwen plenty of people with bright red teeth as well as the resulting  red coloured streaks of spit along the ground. In Bahasa Indonesia it is known as “Makan Pinang”. The chewing of the Areca Palm nut is a 2500-year-old tradition in Malaysia and in the rest of South East Asia.

Working iron in New Guinea

smit met blaasbalg aan het werkBefore World War II, former Dutch New Guinea, now the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua, was regarded in the media as still being part of the  so-called Stone Age. Irrespective of it being a useful concept, there were at least two reasons to take a more tempered view. Firstly, because iron implements were introduced shortly after   contact with the first European ship in the area.

Deforestation threatens Papua Culture

Papua, the Indonesian part of the island of New Guinea, belongs to the lungs of this world as it contains 31,5 million acres of tropical rain forest. If the trees were to be cut, it would mean a threat to the livelihood and culture of many Papuan tribes. Deforestation means the destruction of their medicinal and food resources, expelling their ancestors and committing a heinous crime against nature. Deforestation will lead to suffering, disaster and chaos for the Papuans The forests form a part of their heritage.

Tree Bark Cloth from Asei

Kulit Kayu is a piece of cloth made from a sheet of bark which is processed into canvas and then painted. In the local language, the fibrous bark cloths are known as  ‘maro’ or ‘tapa’. Tapa cloths are made on Asei, one of the islands of Lake Sentani, which is situated approximately 30 km west of the capital Jayapura.

Amungme: Mountain Papuans deprived of their land

de Grasberg-mijnThe Amungme population  consists of  a population of about 13000 people in the Indonesian province of  Papua.  Under the Dutch they used to live in 17 valleys on the southern flanks of the Central Mountain Plateau of Former Dutch New Guinea. They were hunter gatherers who also had rotating gardens and they were totally self-sufficient. These days many Amungme live elsewhere as they have been chased of their land but they are still very attached to the land of their forefathers and they consider the surrounding mountains to be sacred.

New-Guinea during World War II

Militairen lopen onder boog Nederland zal herrijzenDutch New Guinea becomes involved in World War II in 1942.  On 7 December 1941, Japan attacks several targets simultaneously. The best known is the attack on Pearl Harbour (Hawai), in which the American fleet was severely damaged. The Japanese invasion of Australian and Dutch New Guinea lasts from November 1941 until April 1942. The take-over happens in record time  because there are very few battalions of the Royal Dutch Army in the East Indies (KNIL) in New Guinea at the time.

Renaissance of Kamoro Culture

Kamoro demonstreren houtsnijkunstAn elongated stretch of land along the south-west coast of New Guinea (Papua) is the home ground of the Kamoro. Adapting to the shifting tides, this semi-nomadic tribes live in various places along the coast from FakFak to Merauke. But as is the case every where, the modern world has infiltrated their lives. The American mining company Freeport which operates in this area, has led to the Kamoro becoming a minority within their own territory. Logging companies have also moved in and large pieces of land were confiscated for Indonesian migrants without informing the locals or obtaining their approval.

Head Hunting on the South Coast

In 1957 the first contact was made along the Casuary Coast by a medical patrol. The hundred kilometre coast and the stroke of land situated inland from the coast were in those days regarded as one of the wildest areas of Papua New Guinea. Doctor Willem Visser, was one of the members of the expedition into this area. An expedition which was certainly not without danger. “ With this sort of work one never knows, whether or not arrows will fly, or if sago is going to be offered as a sign of friendship when a population of head hunters and men eaters first come into contact with white men in their enormous ship”