Here are 4 Facts About Honai, A Traditional House in West Papua

Traditional House in West Papua

Traditional House in West Papua

Have you heard about the term Honai? This is a name for a traditional house in West Papua. This house is very famous as it attracts the attention of tourists from the country and abroad!

The indigenous Papuan who takes residence on the mountain commonly lives in Honai. The houses are often found in the area near and within the Baliem valley, Jayawijaya. Several tribes, such as Dani, Yali, and Lani tribe use Honai as their living quarters. 

4 Facts About Honai, A Traditional House in West Papua

The Honai house is known for its unique round shape. The house is constructed from dry straw or conical reed for the roof and wood for the walls. It has no window, and the entryway is small and narrow in size. Here are some fascinating facts about Honai:

  • Mushroom-like Shape with no Windows

This house has a mushroom-like design, no windows, and a narrow entryway to protect the members from the mountain’s cold. It uses renewable natural materials such as wood, straw, conical reed, and ground as the floor. About height, it has 2.5 meters. 

There is only a tiny door and ventilation. This design functions to protect the members from wild and dangerous animals. In the middle of the house, there is a dugout. The people use it as a furnace to burn coals.

  • Available for Tribe’s Male Members 

Only male members of the tribe can inhabit or live in the Honai house. So, female members must reside in a place called the Ebe’ai house. There is also a specific place for livestock named Wamai. 

These three houses are pretty similar in design. However, the Honai house is larger than the other two. The term “Honai” derives from the word ‘Husn’. It has the literal meaning of ‘men’. Then, the word ‘ai’ means a house. If we combine the purposes, Honai is a house for men.

As a result of the house function, female tribe members are entirely forbidden to enter the Honai house. Similar to this reasoning, male members cannot enter the Ebe’ai house. 

Even though they are married couples, females and males must live in different residences. This practice has become a hereditary culture and tradition that every tribe member must oblige.

  • Consists of Two Floors and Different Functions

Although this traditional house in West Papua looks small and narrow, it has two floors, each serving a different function. The people use the first floor as a place to sleep. 

Meanwhile, they can eat, relax, chat, and do family activities on the second floor. Usually, 5 to 10 people live in one Honai house. This is intended to make the house warm.

  • As a Weaponry and Mummy House

This is one of the reasons why only male members can occupy the Honai house. The place also functions as weaponry to store hunting equipment such as bows and arrows. Since the job of procuring food through hunting falls on the hands of men, the Honai house is also used to train young male members.

From time to time, the male members use the Honai house to gather around and formulate war strategies should a conflict arise. In addition, they keep the tribe’s symbols and items of ancestral heritage in place. If there is a harvest from the field, the tribe members usually keep their tubers inside the house. 

You can find a Honai house for corpses mummified with smoke. If you want to see this, you can visit Aikima Village and Kerulu Village in the Baliem valley. These villages have the most popular Honai house for smoking mummies.

Honai: Made to Adapt Harsh Living Conditions

From the information above, we can conclude that Honai, a traditional house in West Papua, is made to suit the harsh living condition of the mountain. Aside from being a dwelling place, the Honai house has significant functions for the tribe’s urges. As a tourist, remember to prepare and bring warm clothes if you want to see and live a while in the Honai house!