Every region in Indonesia has original and beautiful traditional clothing, and so does West Papua. It is not an exaggeration to say that the West Papuan traditional clothing can represent the region only by its design. The Papuans wear traditional clothes to showcase their culture whenever there is a cultural event or performance.
The Papuans wear clothes to showcase their culture whenever there is a cultural event or performance. On a special occasion such as the commemoration of Indonesian Independence Day, several attendees will wear Papua clothing or accessories to exhibit their appreciation. Each traditional clothing has an underlying value among the local communities. In addition, there are some interesting facts about traditional clothes. What are they?
3 Interesting Facts about West Papuan Traditional Clothing
Koteka: Worn by Men and Speak of Their Social Status
The name koteka came from the language of the Paniai tribe, meaning clothes. Papuans also call it bobbe, horim, or hilon. Koteka has a unique taper shape. It only covers one outer part of the male’s genitalia.
This traditional clothing is made from the skin of bottle gourds (calabash). The bottle gourd must be old because the skin is rugged and more durable when dried than young ones. After drying, some bird or partridge feathers attach to the sharp end of the koteka. Due to this eccentric shape, koteka can only be worn by native tribal men.
The way men wear koteka reveals their social standing within the tribe. There are three ways to wear koteka:
- The upright position means the man is an ordinary young tribe member who has never had sexual intercourse.
- If the koteka is pointed to the left side, it represents the middle-class members of the tribe. The middle-class members could be descendants of warlords, physicians, or traditional leaders.
- Men of noble blood and high social status will wear koteka with the end tilted to the right.
Sali and Yokai Reflect on Women’s Marital Status
Sali and yokai are the West Papuan traditional clothing mainly made for women. Both have a similar design (circular shape) with different colors; sali is brown, while yokai has a reddish brown and earthen color.
Sali and yokai usually use dried tree bark or sago leaves available near the members’ residences. Both clothes require excellent crafting skills to maintain the material’s natural color. Only unmarried girls are allowed to wear sali. Meanwhile, the married ones wear yokai to show their marital status.
Women of the tribe wear these clothes in their daily life. They also wear it to attend the tribe’s traditional and cultural events. Additional accessories for wearing sali and yokai include noken bags, pig fangs, head tassels, and dog teeth.
Rok Rumbai (Tassel Skirt): Traditional Clothing for Rituals
Papua native women mainly use this traditional clothing. They put on this clothing in pairs with ‘baju kurung’ as the upper wear (clothes brackets). However, men wear this skirt on particular occasions, too. Men do not have to cover their upper bodies, while women use “baju kurung” or painted Papuan motifs on their chests.
To make it, the people use dry sago leaves and craft them into fringes. Then, the frames are strung together to create a skirt. This clothing has several accessories to complement the wearing, such as headdresses of palm fibers, woven sago leaves, and cassowary bird feathers.
West Papuan traditional clothing is the most straightforward and typical compared to the other regions in Indonesia. They have different purposes for each tribe member. You can always see one whenever there is a cultural performance by the Papuans.
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