Get to Know about the Unique Traditions of Arfak Tribe in West Papua

West Papua

Being well-known as the largest tropical forest in Indonesia, West Papua also becomes the home for over 250 tribes, including Arfak Tribe. Arfak Tribe resides in Manokwari, West Papua

Despite the modern era, Arfak people still hold tight on traditions and maintain natural life. As they live in nature, they tend to have an adaptive response to the condition of the environment around them. What kind of tradition do they practice? Read this article to get to know more about the life and unique traditions of the Arfak Tribe in West Papua.

Maintaining Marriage Tradition 

West Papua

The marriage tradition of the Arfak tribe is unique. As the Arfak people respect the traditional customs, they believe that the value of marriage lies in marriage principles, that is, marriage arrangement, marriage proposal, and dowry. They believe that marriage is not only the bond that ties a man and woman to become a family, but it builds up a kinship.

If Arfak people plan to get married, the man should bring expensive dowries, like beads, antique firearms, woven clothes, pigs, or smartphones. If the men could not afford to buy the dowries, they could borrow some money. They will pay off the debt by working in the field.

Performing Tumbuk Tanah Dance


West Papua

As the tribe with high respect for nature, Arfak Tribe shows it through the dance. Tumbuk Tanah Dance, which is popular in Manokwari, has deep meaning and values. Being performed for the victory of war, marriage, and welcoming guests in special events, the movement of dance has the symbols and significant meaning related to their life with neighborhood and nature. Arfak people value the importance of kinship and togetherness. Tumbuk Tanah dance also indicates that they need help from other people, including family and neighbors for various activities. 

The movement of the Tumbuk Tanah Dance is unique. The dance movement imitates the snake movement that bends on the ground. No wonder that this dance is also well-known as a snake dance. The snake is the symbol of majesty in the community. The people perform this snake dance in bulk as this dance doesn’t limit the number of dancers.

Keeping Nature Utilization Tradition

West Papua

Spreading from the coast, low lands, to the mountains in Mount Arfak, West Papua, some Arfak tribe who live in the inland areas still maintain the traditional lifestyle, including utilizing the natural resources, such as plants and animals. They rely on the importance of nature for a living. 

The locals eat plants and go hunting the wild animals around them for food. Apart from the food purpose, the locals also use wild animals and plants for traditional medical treatment. These things will help them to treat wounds and various diseases, like internal diseases, sprains, body aches, skin diseases, and muscle strength enhancement. 

The plants and the animals they utilize will go through some processes, such as burning, scraping, crushing, or boiling before being consumed. 

Carrying Out Machete

West Papua

Another unique tradition that Arfak tribe still preserves is carrying out machete or arrow. This tradition started when the strangers came to visit the area of West Papua, especially in Mount Arfak. At the beginning of history, the locals did not welcome strangers to their community as they thought that the existence of the strangers became a threat to the Arfak community. 

The Arfak people killed the strangers and cursed them. They also had to carry out a machete with them wherever they went. As a result of that, some of the Arfak people, especially men, will carry out machete with them till now. Now, they slowly open up to the modernization and welcome the guests to visit them.

Living in a House with Thousand Legs

West Papua

When it comes to Arfak Tribe in West Papua, we need to talk about their vernacular house. This traditional house is called Igkojein or Mod Aki Aksa. This vernacular house is also well-known as a house with a thousand legs because of its unique design and architecture. With the foundation and structure of the piles of wood, this house shows the cultural values of life and togetherness of the Arfak community.

Besides that, wicker rattan will cover the roof and the floors with the wall made of the arrangement of wood. This house usually has a height of 4 to 5 meters and a width of 8×6 meters. With a particular design, this house becomes a comfortable shelter for the Arfak people. 

The locals also build this house to protect them from wild animals, storms, earthquakes, and cold air.  Furthermore, the frequent contention among the Arfak people becomes the reason for building this house in a high place. They can live safely and stay away from the threat of the enemy in the house while monitoring their enemy from the house.


The Arfak Tribe in West Papua still maintains their cultural and traditional values. It can be seen from the ways how they still apply the tradition in their life. Despite the modernization, the Arfak people and the locals in West Papua slowly open to some changes without losing their identity and cultural beliefs.