Three Unique Traditions From Papua

There are many unique traditions in the world. In our own homeland, Papua is the land with many fantastic thingds. It is not only rich in natural resources, but also in traditions. Some of the unique Papuan traditions only exists in Papua.

Here are the 3 unique traditions from Papua that has its own stories and values.

Ikapilin – Finger Cutting Tradition.

Finger cutting is known as a tradition from organized crimes such as the Japanese Yakuza, the Italian Mafia or the Chinese Triad which has exist since 100 years ago. It’s performed when someone wants to leave the organization or commit a grave mistake.

Interestingly, the finger cutting tradition also exists in Papua. However, the reason is different from these organized crimes. This tradition is called Ikapilin.

Generally, when people grief for the death of their family member, they will mourn. However, what Dani tribe in Papua did to express their grief is unique and perhaps, for outsiders, cringe inducing.

3 Unique Traditions in Papua
Ikapilin. Cutting fingers. Via detik.travel.com

Dani tribe will cut one of their fingers when they lost their loved ones. They also believe that this ritual will reject bad luck or horrible things like death to come near them.

Mostly, the woman are the ones who practices this tradition. It can be the mother or daughter. However it can also be implemented by the men if the deceased doesn’t have a mother or a sister.

This tradition is performed with a ritual ceremony. The first thing they will do is to tie the finger that will be cut in order to stop the blood flow and prevent major blood lost.

Surprisingly, they don’t give any pain-killer nor medicine when they perform the cut. The Dani people believe that the feeling of loss and pain will be gone when the pain and wound of the cut finger is healed.

Nowadays, this tradition is no longer practiced. The government forbids this tradition due to humanity reasons. However we can still see Dani women who had done the ritual.

Iyakyaker – Dowry Ceremony.

In Biak Numfor tribe, Papua, there is a tradition of giving dowry from the groom to the bride before the marriage ceremony, it is called Iyakyaker.

The dowry itself is called Ararem, which means a price or payment that must be given from the groom’s family to the bride’s family, family here means the entire clan. The amount of Ararem is determined by the entire clan of bride’s family.

Traditionally, ararem consists of crops, cattle, money (SamfarMilk Money), antique plates made from porcelain (Ben Bepon), and other things as requested by the bride’s family.

3 Unique Traditions in Papua
Iyakyaker via Kebudayaan.Kemendikbud.go.id

There are two groups of the family that participates in the procession. The first group consists of uncles, aunts, and immediate family that have a role in giving the dowry to the bride’s mother and the bride to be. The second group consists of relatives that bring the main ararem “Baken”.

One unique thing from Iyakyaker or the dowry procession is that the groom’s family brings the national flag of Indonesia. The history of taking the national flag in these kinds of ceremonies exist since Papua becomes a part of the Republic of Indonesia.

Mansorandak – Plate Stepping

Mansorandak in local language means Plate Stepping. Traditionally, this ceremony is performed to greet family members who have been away for a long time.

Through this ceremony, the people express their joy and gratitude over the return of their relative. The ceremony is always accompanied by Papuan traditional music and dancing.

Besides designated to greet, this tradition is also held to eliminate the evil spirits that might follow them when they are overseas.

3 Unique Traditions in Papua
President Jokowi stepping a big plate after arrived at Sentani airport, Jayapura via Nabire.net

This ceremony has three steps. First, greeting the return of the relative from outside of the house. Secondly, she/he will be guided to enter the house to bathe in water mixed with various flowers placed on the plate to eliminate evil spirits.

Then, he/she should circle the plates. The number of plats is associated with the number of family member in the clan.

The last step is to step on the “crocodile” made of clay. It symbolizes the challenges, sorrows, and trials that have accompanied the life journey of their relatives who just came home.

Over time, Mansorandak ceremony is also performed to greet visiting guests to give protection and safety during the visit. This tradition is not only unique, but it also has strong values in keeping the kinship.

Another unique tradition in Papua is Bakar Batu (Burning Stones). The tradition is not only about processing food and cooking activities, but it has a deeper meaning to unify Papua in peace.


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