5 Rules of West Papuan Traditional Clothes and the Philosophy Behind Them

West Papuan Traditional Clothes
Sumber : Silver Bells Wedding Chap

West Papua has a renowned richness in culture, which always draws attention and triggers people to know more. Not less are their traditional clothes. Papuan and West Papuan traditional clothes are unlike others. Other than their unique design and materials, the clothes itself hold certain philosophies and are attached to certain rules.

West Papuan Traditional Clothes
Sumber : Imujio

This article will describe the certain rules in wearing traditional clothes and the values behind them.

  • There are various types of Koteka to be worn in different occasions

Koteka is probably the most famous traditional clothing of West Papua, and Papua in general. It is a piece of cloth worn by men to cover their genitals and not wearing any other garments than that. Koteka appears as a sleeve that curves upward, held only by a string of thread tied around the waist.

There are two types of koteka: one for daily use and one for special occasions such as the traditional ceremonies. The first one is plain without any fretwork, while the latter is longer in size and is decorated by Papuan ethnic fretwork.

The size of Koteka also differs, according to one’s social status. The higher he is in the hierarchy, the bigger the size of the Koteka.

  • Tassel skirts must be worn together with head accessories

The ancient Papuan used to conduct their daily activities without bothering to wear clothes. Some people still preserve the tradition until today, especially those who live in the hinterland. As they got more civilized, people of West Papua started to cover themselves in modesty.

If men have Koteka, women wear tassel skirts made from the dried sago leaves and cover their upper limb with tattoos or ethnic painting. The tassel skirts must be worn with head accessories, usually made of Cassowary bird feather and dried sago leaves to be put on the head.

The accessories are only worn for special rituals or ceremonies, while the tassel skirt is the daily clothes for women.

  • Sali is meant only for unmarried women

One of the unique features from West Papua traditional clothes is it could tell the marital status of a woman. Unmarried women wear Sali, clothes made from bark in brown color. Once they are married, they are no longer allowed to wear Sali.

  • While married women wear Yokai

Meanwhile, traditional clothes for married women are called Yokai. It used the same bark material as Sali, but in a reddish brown color. However, Yokai is often found only in the hinterland. Which means, people who live in big cities are not wearing this piece of clothing.

Yokai symbolizes the connection to nature, it is not allowed to be worn by random people or traded.

  • The three must-have accessories in complement to the clothes

The last rule of the West Papua traditional clothes is three accompanying accessories, which are usually worn during special occasions. Those three accessories are:

  • Dog teeth and pig fans. Dog teeth are worn around the neck as necklace, while pig fans are attached near the nostrils
  • Head accessories. A dangling tassel which is considered as a crown. This accessory is made of Cassowary bird feather, rabbit fur, and dried sago leaves.
  • Noken bag. Traditional bags carried by Papuan people. The bag was made of woven bark, usually slung over the shoulder or carried on the back like a rucksack. Noken bag is used to carry vegetables, fruits, and tubers. Men also carry it during the hunt to store birds, rabbits, and rats.

West Papua has a lot more to discover. Every aspect of their culture and traditional customs is always interesting to dwell on. The wonderful landscape tends to draw people in for a visit, whether for vacation or to learn more about their ethnicity.