Being one of the many secluded and wild regions in eastern Indonesia, West Papua is not a place you can underestimate. With a mere 2.9 million population, this province is brimming with distinctive indigenous character. West Papua culture and culinary are another two points that will make it known by the world. What are they? Here are some brief details for you.
When talking about culture and cuisine in Indonesia, one article is not enough to cover everything. So does for West Papua. The Papuan culture is very extremely diverse. Some of them also constantly evolved to cope with world cultures. They were isolated, but after time the cultures are developing and adopting the new influences. So, here are some of them.
1. Native Ethnic Groups
As one of the locations that have been rich in culture since 40.000 years ago, the New Guinea island is filled with an intricate mosaic of ethnic groups. The used to be wild and isolated tribal groups have counted around 255 in total. It also includes the untouched groups that are hidden in the lush forest of west Papua and remain uncontacted.
What makes west Papua culture mind-blowing is the huge diversity in language and live environment. Around 25% of the natives speak in New Guinea language. At some point, one group can have more than one language simultaneously. The different land also does not stop the development of the people.
Many groups are living in different locations, such as the high land and the lowland areas. The different living environment creates another distinctive display of daily life culture, which includes food, activities, trading, and outer world contact. One thing is for sure, west Papua culture and culinary are way more diverse to talk about in brief detail.
One of the influences in Papuan culture is religion. Since 1850, west Guinea was introduced to Christianity through Dutch. However, as time goes the religion starts to expand. However, the main indigenous group religion is either Animist and Christians. Meanwhile, the non-native migrants are mostly Muslim.
It is also considered that West Papua is one of the two protestant-majority provinces you can find in Indonesia. As for now, Islam is the second prominent religion. After that west Papua also has Buddhism and Hinduism, which only take about 1% of the total population. Again, in many areas, the presence of religion will affect culture and the native culinary.
3. Flora And Fauna
Another culture and location-related information you need to learn is the flora and fauna. As an isolated and wild area, Papua has more than 5-10% of the total species on the planet. The flora and fauna diversity makes the location a perfect place for national parks and conservation areas. It is also known that Papua is the host of some rare or endemic species.
One of the rarest fauna that inhibits the west Papua is The New Guinea Singing Dog. It is also a home of many Goodfellow tree kangaroo, Salvadori’s teal, and many more. Other than west Papua culture and cuisine, there are also ranges of the ecosystem. The on-group landscape was filled with lush green forest, alpine tundra, the equatorial glaciers.
The stretching and west Papua locations are extending to the southern lowland. The vast area and the amazing biodiversity in Papua is one of the reasons the location is deemed as the hidden gem of Indonesia. It has many untouched, undiscovered, and isolated areas filled with wonders. It includes the ranges of flora, fauna, culture, culinary, and many other things.
One of the Papua cultural heritage that is far from the Indonesian dress code is the penis guard. The unique culture dress based on the tribal group was one of the identities used by local Papuan. While the man wearing the penis guard as part of culture dress, the women do has a quite open dress code. Again, it is the opposite of the Indonesian conservative dress code.
However, as time goes the more modern clothing was introduced to the local people. Outside the tribal areas or groups, people tend to cover up their bodies with proper clothing. It is especially vital for females. Tourists can see the traditional dress culture by visiting some ethnic groups. But still, you got to respect the dress and wear appropriate clothing.
Food And Drink
If group, language, religion, and dress are part of the culture, you will need to see the culinary. In the case of west Papua culture and culinary, Papua is on the wild side. You can find a diverse food and drink made of plants, animals, to some unique blend of materials. Porks, root plants, fish, and vegetarian-based food are very common in West Papua.
1. Aunuve Habre
Made of tuna fish, the culinary is one of the typical food you can find from native Papuan dishes. It is a fish cut that is wrapped inside taro leaves. After that, the fish will be streamed using a skillet in water and salt. The seep of fish is the primary flavor you will find from this simple and culturally rich dish.
2. Udang Selingkuh
A quite new and unique food that is pretty beloved by locals or tourists. The name itself is one of the highlights since it means a cheating shrimp. The name came from the shrimp claw that looks like a crab. The cooking process itself can be boiled or fried. One thing is for sure, Udang selingkuh is one of the popular culinary in Wamena.
Papeda is the epitome of west Papua culture and culinary. While it is popular in Papua, but the sago-based dish is also a staple dish to some eastern Indonesia. One unique point that makes papeda unique is its appearance. The Sago is cooked till it turns into mush. The white sticky textured porridge is later eaten with tuna or mubara.
4. Sate Ulat Sagu
Another staple culturally rich culinary is Sate Ulat Sagu. In English, it is a Sago caterpillar satay. The strange yet staple indigenous food was made of caterpillars gathered from the old sago tree trunk. The sight of it is not for everyone, but native Papuan are pretty used to living with nature. Which makes Sate Ulat Sagu one of the main dishes in the ethnic group.
Cultural Activities – Baliem Valley Festival
Since Papua is very rich in culture, it is hard to include all of the activities. In this case, one of the biggest cultural events you can find in the center of West Papua is the Baliem valley festival. It is located right in the Baliem valley that is surrounded by green mountains. The valley itself is one of the tourist destinations to see three ethnic Papua’s interior tribes.
Every year the tribes gather in Wamena to held the west Papua culture and culinary festival. It highlights many cultural values and traditions, between the three tribes. It also displays the mock battles between the tribes, which later include traditional celebrations. People will do some activities such as Sikoko, Puradan, pig racing, cooking, and many more for two days.
Not a lot of people know about west Papua aside from its turmoil uprising with the Indonesian government. Behind all of that concern, the province is one of the many culturally rich locations. The untouched and hidden gems make each of the cultural standings turn into one of the attractive points of west Papua. Thus, make it a potential future tourism destination.