Get to Know Tumbu Tanah: a Large Part of the Arfak Tribes’ Identity in West Papua

West Papua
Sumber : Wikipedia

The Papuan ethnic dances are well known as the cultural wealth of the archipelago, in addition to the traditional houses and folk songs, which also reflect an identity of the Papuan indigenous people. This treasure trove of island diversity, which still has hundreds of indigenous tribes, certainly has distinctive dance art. The Arfak tribes are unique tribes of West Papua that practice a distinctive dance called the Tumbu Tanah dance.

How does the Tumbu Tanah dance get to become a large part of the identity of the Arfak people? Get further information regarding the special ethnic dance in the following paragraphs. 

West Papua
Sumber : Jubi

Tumbu Tanah Dance as an Identity of the Arfak Tribes in West Papua

Having become a traditional dance art belonging to the Arfak society in Manokwari Regency, Tumbu Tanah dance is also known as Dansa Tumbu Tana. It is usually performed to celebrate important events within the community, such as victory over wars, welcoming guests, and weddings, and is a form of praise to the spirits of their ancestors.

Tumbu Tanah, known as the snake dance, represents togetherness, be it from the family side, the community, or the ancestry. Uniquely, the tribal dance of West Papua may involve residents of one village, or even a combination of residents from several existing villages, to dance together.

The song’s lyrics sung during the snake dance are written based on the form of events celebrated, from tribal war victories, meetings of leaders, or weddings, to get the rhythm and voice tone in praises are set. The songs performed usually contain poetry regarding love, the natural environment, the leader figures idolized by their people, and the good deeds of Gods (the almighty spirits). 

All of the dance elements such as formation, movement, musical instruments, accessories, and accompaniment are symbols of the identity of the Arfak community. Tumbu Tanah dance is usually performed by men and women in pairs and is included in the group dance category because more than two dancers are doing it. 

The Varieties of Tumbu Tanah Ethnic Dance

The dance indigenous to the rich Papuan culture in West Papua is divided into three main types:

Igemu Ngakeyam

The name of the dance originally means “finding a mate,” and it is indeed a variety of Tumbu Tanah dance performed to find a life partner. Based on the rules, the men will dance first. Then, once a woman is interested, she will enter the dance formation and take the man’s hand. In addition to that, the woman will also hang her noken—a traditional Papuan bag. When the event ends, the families of both men and women will gather and discuss it further.

Igemu Keyam

The dance variety is derived from the words meaning victory of wars used to be performed by the Arfak society in West Papua when they fought with other tribes. When the war is over, the men chant poetry about agility and strength. The family will then greet them with a Tumbu Tanah dance performance in the village.


The Papuan ethnic groups also has another Tumbu Tanah dance variety, that is yaum. The people generally perform the ritual dance modified with chanting poems to welcome visitors.


Tumbu Tanah is a West Papuan culture that involves dance performance and oral tradition—song and poetry performances. It is indeed a large part of the identity of the Arfak tribes as these people always show hospitality when greeting guests or newcomers, and it has been performed across different generations. 

With the tradition, parents can teach their children positive character values in either families or society. Thus, in conclusion, the precious gem of West Papua contains deep meaning in life, such as love, sincerity, togetherness, politeness, friendliness, hospitality, openness, and family values. It makes many new visitors feel very respected and comforted.