West Papua is a province in the most Eastern part of Indonesia, in the farthest west of the Papua Island, to be exact. This province stemmed from Papua province and became an official region on its own from 18 April 2007. West Papuan society has a lot of similarity in customs and culture with Papua itself.
One of the most prominent traits is the proximity with nature which is shown in their everyday lives. Some tribes remain deep in the mountainous forest, some reside in the more modern cities.
Speaking about culture and customs, traditional clothing of West Papua is one of the most interesting subjects. In this article, you will find out more about Ewer, one of many clothes that holds certain uniqueness and shows the value of the people.
What is Ewer Made Of
As much as the people close to nature, Ewer made from materials produced by nature: dried sago leaves or straw, sewn together to make tassel skirts. This clothing is a symbol of how people respect nature and depend on mother nature.
Ewer is handmade by locals. They are involved in every step of the making, starting from harvesting the Sago leaves from the forest. Sago is the staple food in West Papua, so the people have abundant supplies of the leaves.
After collecting the leaves, the next step would be cutting the leaves to the right shape as a skirt. The finely cut leaves then dried naturally under the sun until they changed to white color, indicating that the leaves had dried perfectly.
The final step of making Ewer is stitching and wovening the leaves until they are shaped into a skirt.
This all-natural tassel skirt is still worn by ethnical groups such as Tobati, Sentani, Yapen, Biak Numfor, Nafri, and Enjros. Together with the skirt, people of West Papua usually wear this together with head accessories made of Cassowary bird feather or woven sago leaves which are considered as a “crown”. But the crown is worn only during traditional ceremonies or rituals.
How West Papua People Wear Ewer
Despite being a skirt, Ewer is a clothing meant for men and women. However, there are different rules to obey in wearing it. Women wear Ewer with a top, named Sali for the unmarried and Yokai for the married one. Meanwhile, men do not need a top when they wear Ewer, which means their upper limbs remain nude.
Ewer in the Modern Era
Making Ewer from dried leaves is a part of ancient civilizations. In the modern days as of today, people who reside in the city no longer wear Ewer as their daily clothes. Only when they have to participate in ceremonies or rituals, they wear Ewer as a part of traditional clothes.
However, indigenous tribes still hold onto this tradition. They keep wearing Ewer and other traditional clothes as they live close to nature.
Traditional Clothes Other Than Ewer
Ewer is only one of the many unique traditional clothes in Papua. There are about 6 kinds of traditional clothes, but all of them have one similar trait: using materials from nature. It shows how Papua heavily depended on nature in the past, even until today.