West Papua Diary

Here Is Custom Clothing in West Papua

West Papua

If we’re talking about custom clothing in West Papua, you might remember Koteka. In fact, there are other kinds of unique traditional clothing in the province. There are basic differences between clothing for men and women, but both men and women commonly wear some varieties. Most of them are made of natural materials, like sago leaf, water pumpkin, or Kasuari feather. 

The custom clothing is more than about uniqueness, but they are philosophical and distinctive, which make them different from those from other areas. Here is our list of custom clothing in the province.

Custom Clothing for Men

We briefly classify the custom clothing by the use. Here are some varieties for men.

Holim or Koteka

If we’re talking about Koteka, we’re talking about Holim as both names represent the same clothing variety. It’s well-known as Papuan’s traditional clothing worn on daily occasions to cover men’s genital area. Nevertheless, it has already fulfilled the politeness standard here.

Holim is worn by attaching it on the waist with a rope, so its pointed edge is headed upper ward. There are two kinds of Holim or Koteka, for cultural events and daily routines. For cultural events, they wear long-tailed Holim with unique ethnical carvings, while the shorter simple version is for daily activities.

Different tribes might have different Holim or Koteka. Some tribes have two water pumpkins in a set, while others have only one. It is made of ripe water pumpkin that is dried and removed from its seeds and flesh. They choose the ripe over the young one because of its harder texture and durability. They dry it to avoid putrefaction.

 

Custom Clothing for Women

The custom clothing for women has more varieties. Here are some of them.

Yokal

Yokal is traditional clothing for married women in West Papua. You can find it in suburban areas of the province. Its color is dark brown and red with tassel accents if necessary. It is philosophically valuable as it symbolizes how the people are close to nature and the universe. Besides,  only indigenous women wear it. The sacred clothing is not for sale, and its philosophy has still been well-preserved up to now.

Sali

Unlike Yokal, Sali is worn by single women. Made of tree skins, it showcases unique natural brown color, and married women can no longer wear it. Sali has to be carefully processed to loom the natural color of the tree skin.

Tassle Skirt

Unlike Koteka which is specialized for men, Tassle skirt is worn by women. The traditional skirt is naturally made of dried sago leaf or palm fiber. Some indigenous women wear Tassle skirt without top clothes. They only put on Papuan ethnical painting to cover their top part of the body. 

The custom skirt is generally matched with Baju Kurung. Some of them also complete themselves with decorating head accessories from Kasuari feather or dried sago leaf. Tassle skirt is worn for daily activities and cultural occasions. 

Baju Kurung

Baju Kurung is another custom clothing for women in West Papua. Influenced by external culture, it is generally made of velvet fabric. The people wear this clothing for tribe ceremonies. 

Baju Kurung is normally mixed with Tassle skirt with decorating feather Tassle on their neck, arms, or waist. Sometimes, they also match it with accessories, like bracelet and necklace made of hardened seeds. To complete the enhanced performance, they also put on head accessory made of Kasuari feather.

 

Custom Clothing for Men and Women

Some varieties of traditional clothing are specialized for either men or women. However, others are for both men and women. Take a look into them.

Ewer

Ewer is particularly similar to Tassle skirt in design. What makes it different is that both men and women wear ewer in West Papua. Besides, it is also made of dried straw. Today, ewer is combined with top clothes, mostly in fabric material. It philosophically symbolizes the life of Papuan people with nature.

Grass Fabric

Grass fabric is quite sophisticated as the process of making is complex. Despite its modern touch, the traditional clothing is still natural as it’s made of dried sago leaf. The best sago leaf is the young leaf edge picked at high tides. The leaf is dried and soaked before being woven manually. 

The weaving process employs a stick with one-meter length to associate the ends of the rope. Then, the dried leaf is twisted to be used as a waist belt. The waist belt can be doubled or more in other varieties. 

The clothing is commonly worn by urban people in South Sorong, not by suburban indigenous people. Domestic and international tourists can find this special fabric on the store for sale or merchandise.

Those varieties of custom clothing in West Papua show that the province is rich in culture. The philosophical value that they represent symbolizes that the people live so close to nature, and it makes the culture more amazing.

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