West Papua Traditional Clothes That Create the Legend They Are Today

West Papua Traditional Clothes

As a province in the easternmost part of Indonesia, West Papua stores beautiful cultural wealth worth exploring at least once in life. One of the most distinctive characteristics of it is West Papua traditional clothes. If you ever heard of koteka and nothing else, then you’re in for an exciting ride here. In reality, West Papua still has many other traditional clothes not yet known by many people. Each traditional cloth has a unique and philosophical value held highly among locals. To get to know more, let’s see how their traditional clothing contributes to Indonesia’s cultural wealth below.


West Papua Traditional Clothes

The most popular traditional Papuan clothing is koteka, also known as hilon, harim, or bobbe. Koteka is a classic dress for men with a pretty eccentric look. The cloth is used to cover the male genitalia, while the rest of the body is left almost naked.

Koteka is made from the rinds of water pumpkin, which has been removed from its seeds and pulp. The selected fruit is usually ripened so that the texture is more rigid and will last long after getting dried out. Afterwards, koteka will be created into sleeve-like form. Some tribes like Tiom modify their koteka by using two water gourds instead of one.

Wearing koteka has a particular meaning. According to West Papua custom, the higher the man’s position, the larger the koteka size they’ll wear. 

Tassel Skirt (Rok Rumbai)

West Papua Traditional Clothes

Rok rumbai is one of West Papua traditional clothes explicitly made for Papuan women. However, it’s also possible for tassel skirts to be worn by men as well. The skirt material comes from dried sago leaves that are arranged neatly.

Women love to pair attributes or accessories to support their tassel skirts, such as a headdress made from palm fiber and cassowary feathers. Just like koteka, tassel skirts aren’t equipped with a top. However, women can pull up the skirt up to their chest if desired, creating a long dress-like silhouette. Alternatively, they can decorate their upper body by drawing typical Papuan motifs using homemade natural inks. The motifs are usually inspired by the diversity of flora and fauna existing in West Papua.

Yokal and Sali

West Papua Traditional Clothes

Yokal and Sali are two other Papuan traditional clothes that are also made specifically for women. The difference lies in the wearer’s status: Yokal is for married women, while Sali is for unmarried ones. Yokal comes in striking colors of earthen and reddish-brown, while Sali is only in brown. 

Yokal and Sali can be found easily anywhere in West Papua. These clothes illustrate the meaning of being close to nature because their primary material is tree bark. This outfit must be carefully crafted to retain that natural brown color. Besides, both have an elongated circular shape and are rolled neatly horizontally. The structure has been woven in such a way as to produce fabrics with a fine texture.


Besides West Papua traditional clothes, locals also complete their appearance with accessories. Here are several most common ones:

  • Crown-like head jewelry 

The crown-like head jewelry is made of white or yellow cassowary feathers. Besides using the cassowary bird’s plumage, sometimes it’s also possible to use grass as a substitute for feathers. The result is a very unique yet beautiful shape when worn on the head.

  • Noken

Noken refers to a unique woven bag only found in West Papua. Its woven resembles a net and is usually made of woven bark and tree roots in the forest. Noken comes in many sizes and various functions. For instance, a large type of noken named yatoo can be used to transport firewood, different garden crops like sweet potatoes, beans, and potatoes, groceries, or merchandise to home or the market. You can also use yatoo to carry a small child.

A smaller noken than yatoo is called gapagoo, and an even smaller one than gapagoo is called mituteeis. According to your needs, these two are usually only used to carry small items such as betel nuts or cigarettes. All noken bags are worn by hooking it on the head and letting the widest part dangle behind your back.

  • The teeth or fangs of pigs or dogs

Not only do the West Papua traditional clothes use natural resources as their material, but the accessories also implement a similar approach. Pig’s fangs are usually worn on a Dani man’s nose, which indicates that he’s a warrior. If the fangs are facing downwards, it means that the soldier is angry and wants to fight. 

What do you think from our list above? We hope you find our information on West Papua traditional clothes and accessories fascinating! Don’t forget to share this article to learn the cultural wealth of West Papua much easier.


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