The History Behind Tattoo Tradition in West Papua

The History Behind Tattoo Tradition in West Papua

A tattoo tradition does not only exist in the modern era. In fact, this tattoo tradition has existed for many years. Even before the advent of technology, there were a lot of ethnic groups that had this tradition. It includes the tattoo tradition in West Papua that has existed since the Neolithic era.

The native tribes of West Papua who have this tradition are the Moi Tribe. Since the Neolithic era, the tribe of Moi has known permanent body paintings called tattoos. They are probably one of the most famous tribes in West Papua when it comes to tattoos.

So, here is the philosophy behind tattoos for the Moi Tribe!

The History Behind The Tattoos Tradition of Moi Tribe

The History Behind The Tattoos Tradition of Moi Tribe - Tattoo tradition in West Papua

Moi Tribe is one of the native tribes of Sorong, West Papua. Some people also know them as the Malamoi Tribe. The majority of them live around the north coastal area. So, it is understandable that many immigrants passed by in the past because it is one of the main transportation routes.

Of course, there will be some human contact between the immigrants and the natives. Because of that, it is natural that there is a cultural mixing between the two. This is also what happened when Austronesian people came to the land of Papua. One of them is the tattoo tradition.

According to historical records, the Austronesians brought the tattoo tradition to West Papua. They carried this tradition during the Neolithic era. Therefore, it is clear that the tattoo tradition of the Moi Tribe has existed since ancient times. This tradition has been passed down from generation to generation.

However, unfortunately, this one West Papuan tradition is almost extinct. The younger generation from the Moi Tribe no longer carries this tradition. They began to leave the traditional tattoos for some reason. So, for now, only the older generations have them.

How The Moi Tribe Make Their Traditional Tattoos

tattoo tradition of the Moi Tribe

Making a traditional tattoo is not that different from making a modern one. The concept is the same: inserting ink into the skin. It is just that the people from the Moi tribe use fine charcoal. The charcoal is made from burning wood. Then, it is mixed with langsat tree sap.

Once finished, they will implant it on the skin using fish thorns and sago thorns. Because all the ingredients come from nature, it is natural that the colors are limited. If it is made from fine charcoal, then the color is probably black. However, aside from black, there is the color white and red.

In terms of shape, most of them are also very simple. Most of them are geometric from rounds, triangles, and other forms that are probably not that complex. However, the artistic value is indeed very high.

The Philosophy Behind Traditional Tattoos of Moi Tribe

Moi Tribe traditional tattoos

In the land of Papua, the Moi Tribe is not the only one who has traditional tattoos. There is also the Sentani Tribe which comes from Jayapura, and the Waropen Tribe which comes from Waropen. The three tribes have different philosophies regarding the tattoo tradition.

The tribe of Sentani usually uses a tattoo three days before the wedding. It will make them more beautiful and handsome as the groom and the bride. For the Waropen Tribe, the tattoos symbolize their beauty, power, and social status.

As for the Moi tribe, traditional tattoos have an aesthetic meaning. The Moi Tribe’s traditional tattoos were made to beautify themselves. It is one of the body ornaments whose presence is important for the tribe members. Aside from that, this is also a culture passed down since the ancestors.

This is why we must maintain the presence of the tattoo tradition in West Papua. Especially for the Moi Tribe.

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