Papua and West Papua have many tribes who inhabit the land. One of those tribes is the famous and unique Asmat tribe.
The Asmat People and Their Tradition
The Asmat tribe is one of the biggest tribes who inhabit West Papua. Their existence is already known to the world since 1904. Physically they are dark skinned with black curly hair. Asmat people live very close to nature. Their population is divided into two zones; deep in the wilds of Jayawijaya and on the coast of Arafuru.
The livelihood of Asmat people who live deep in the wilds consist of hunting and farming with simple traditional methods. They also rear chickens and pigs as livestock. The Asmat people who live on the coast work as fishermen. They only take fishes and shrimps for their daily meals.
It is a tradition for the Asmat people to decorate their body with colors of red, black and white for traditional events. They take the red color from laterite (soil and rock type rich in iron and aluminium), black taken from the coals, and white taken from smashed clam shells. These traditional make-up made from nature are very long-lasting.
Asmat Traditional Food and Natural Products
Asmat people has a very unique traditional meal which is Sago Grub. Although it is considered in most parts of the world as extreme food, it is actually a very healthy food. It tastes a little salty and have a soft chewy texture. It also contains higher protein than eggs which is free of bad cholesterol.
They also have natural products collected from the jungle, such as aloes, pecans, resin, and rattan. There are many natural products that they take from nature, especially woods, which they use to build their homes, ships and sculpting.
Asmat Crafts and Technology
The Asmat tribe is famous for their skills in arts and crafts. They are one of the tribes that is famous as amazing artists for sculptures and wood carving. There are many shapes that Asmat people make in wood carving, such as statues, shields, and tree bark painting.
Their statues are some of the most valuable traditional heritage. In every carvings of their art, they put values and honor to respect the spirit of their ancestors. It is also their way to connect their lives with the lives of their ancestors. The talented Asmat sculptors are called the Wow Ipits and the type of wood they use is the mangrove wood that generally grows in the South Coast of Papua.
Another woodcraft of the Asmat people is the shields. Traditionally, in the earlier days of the Asmat ancestors, a shield is carved to avenge the death of a relative. The shield would be named after that relative. They believe that the spirit of the ancestors would make the owner powerful, fierce and invincible when they’re holding it. Sometimes the shields are even taller than the people.
In addition, the Asmat people also make the tools made from stones for their daily activities. Such as stone axes, knives made from bone, and nails that are flattened.
Asmat Unique Tradition
The people of Asmat tribe highly honor their chief. The adulation continues even after when the chief has passed away.
To honor their late chief, they will keep his body to be mummified. This ritual will be accompanied with traditional songs and one of his family will have her/his finger cut.
There are many unique traditions in Papua, three of them are the finger cutting (Ikapilin), Dowry Ceremony (Iyakyaker) and Plate Stepping (Mansorandak).