Uncovering the History and Heritage of West Papua

West Papua

One of the provinces in eastern Indonesia has a long history. The name West Papua has a long history dating back to the colonial era; moreover, if you uncover other cultural heritage and local wisdom.

History of the Name West Papua

The colonial era’s interaction between Indonesians and colonizers gave its name. The Tidore language gives the word “Papo Ua” the meaning of “not joined”.

This word means that the island or province is separate from the sultanate of Tidore.

However, there is also a history of the name West Papua comes from the Malay language, namely “Papuwah”.

The meaning of the word is curly hair, in addition to other names such as “Babwa”, which refers to the Raja Ampat Islands.

The word “Babwa”, which means sunset, later merged into “Papwa”. The word is now called “Papua”.

1. Precolonial Period

Before getting a name familiar to the Malay community, Papua had received a foreign name in the late 500 AD.

The Chinese named this place “Tungki”. This history is obtained from the travel records of traders who brought spices.

In another case with the Majapahit Kingdom, people called “Janggi” to refer to Papua. Around 700 AD, Indian traders gave the name “Samudranta”, which means the end of the ocean.

2. Colonial Period

The development of the name began to be seen when the King of Spain gave the name Nueva Guinea (New Guinea).

This name was given because the region’s inhabitants were similar to people living in Guinea, West Africa.

3. Modern Times

With the achievement of independence, the name Papua was form by the government of the Republic of Indonesia.

This Province was formed through a division from Papua Province in February 2003, with the initial name West Irian Jaya.

This division was part of the regional autonomy carry out in almost all regions of Indonesia during the time of President Soeharto.

In 2007, the name West Irian Jaya officially became West Papua.

Heritage of West Papua

If you take the time to visit this province, you will see a lot of cultural heritage that must be preserve.

Although not a few have been blend with modern art, they still display the characteristics of this paradise earth.

1. Batik 

Generally, the typical Papuan Batik motifs are mostly similar to those developed in the Papua province.

The motifs represent its natural scenery, such as Raja Ampat’s famous coral reefs and marine parks.

Some famous motifs are the bird of paradise motif, the Honai House, and the Tifa musical instrument motif.

The Honai motif refers to the philosophical meaning of a house full of happiness.

In addition, there is also the West Papua Prada motif. In the Javanese dialect, the word “Prada” means batik textiles decorated with gold ink.

Prada Papua motifs often adopt archaeological relics in Papua taken from cave wall paintings in Biak and the Jayapura district.

2. Doom Island

Dum or Doom Island is one of the islands near Sorong. In the language of the local Malamooi tribe, “dum” means an island with many fruit trees.

This island is include as a historical tour in the Papua region and has a very beautiful natural charm.

3. Tapurarang Archaeological Site

Located in Kokas District, Fakfak Regency, this archaeological site found various red handprints painted on the cliffs’ stone walls and caves on the sea’s edge.

This archaeological attraction is also know as the Kokas archaeological site.

The red colour of the handprint paintings on the cliff resembles the colour of human blood. So the local people also often call Tapurarang or blood handprint paintings.

4. Patimburak Old Mosque

This historic old mosque is in Kokas District, Fakfak. This mosque is one of the relics of Islamic history in Papua and is one of the centres of Islam in the Fakfak Regency.

Some Papuan historical literature states that it was in this place that the first beginning of Papuan civilization began with the entry of Islam in Fakfak.

Although the people still adhered to animism at that time, the coastal people of Fakfak had already embraced Islam.

5. Mansinam Island

Mansinam is a Protestant Christian religious tourism island. It is located about 6 Kilometers from Manokwari.

Every year on February 5, thousands of people from all over Papua come to this place to hold a celebration commemorating the arrival of Ottow and Geissler.

These two German nationals arrived on Mansinam Island with a mission to spread the gospel.

That’s a bit of history and heritage in West Papua. Many things can still be explored so that future generations can recognize this history.