West Papua Traditional Clothes: Grasscloth Dress
The people of southern Sorong use grasscloth dresses for various traditional events.
“Usually we use this for events such as between dowry or weddings or carnivals,” said Ruth Karet, coordinator of the women’s association at the classic level.
West Papuan made this shirt from dried sago leaves. Sago leaves aren’t just any sago leaves, you know. Terms and conditions applied. “The tops of the sago palms must be covered and taken at low tide,” explained Ruth.
Getting to Know Grasscloth Dress
The word “grasscloth outfit” is used by the tribes in and around Inanwatan, South Sorong, in the Domberai traditional territory to describe the sago leaf shoots that are purposefully processed as noken and clothing (blouses and skirts).
There, Noken or commonly called “nokeno,” is not made from roots or bark as people generally know about Papuan Noken. The Iwaro, Awee, Kaiso, Eme, and Inanwatan tribal communities process it from grasscloth. Noken has been a part of UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritage since December 2012.
A grass skirt is a West Papua traditional clothes dress for women from the Imekko region (an abbreviated name for the districts of Inanwatan, Metemani, Kais, and Kokoda). In contrast, the men wear red cloth loincloths. It is the same with the eastern cloth for the Maybrat tribe and its surroundings.
Grasscloth skirts and grass cloth Nokens do not come from outside. The grasscloth is a testament to the local wisdom of the Iwaro, Awee, Kaiso, and Eme tribes, who live from sago trees.
How to Make a Grass Cloth Dress With Sago
Sago leaves are plucked and steeped for some time, and the bones are removed. The leaves are all that are left. Then, along the direction of the leaf bone, this leaf is divided into smaller pieces.
After that, Papuans will dry the pieces of leaves in the sun for one day. If it is dry, then the coloring process begins. The dye is taken from the grated Bengkulu tree roots. These roots will give red and yellow color, depending on the length of the boiling process. For black, they use earth. The coloring is complete, then the spinning process begins. The spinning process is the manual weaving of the grasscloth.
The Spinning of West Papua Traditional Clothes
2 The dry grass is first twisted together to be used as a rubber band at the waist, or called rope. They will vary the number of strings, at least two ropes. The people of South Sorong only use wood about 1 meter long to tie the ends of the rope and start weaving.
Making one grass usually takes four sago leaves. The length of the fabric work also depends on the number of ropes. There will be a price of IDR 500,000 for one grasscloth skirt. Clothing costs IDR 1,000,000 if you want a pair.
Now tassel skirts are not only worn by women. Men also wear them during certain events. With a modern touch, grasscloth West Papua traditional clothes are increasingly being traded, especially in souvenir shops for souvenirs.
Those are some types of West Papua traditional clothes that most people probably don’t know because other cultures have not touched them. Even though conventional Papuan clothing is still original and the shape is quite open, we should still respect and appreciate it.