West Papua: Traditional Weapons and Arts

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West Papua also has its traditional weapons and arts like any other region in Indonesia. Find out more about their cultures and prepare to be amazed.

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Papua is the second-largest island of Indonesia after Kalimantan. The island was previously known as Irian Jaya, and the island is divided into two provinces, namely Papua and West Papua. As any other regions suggest, the latter has various cultures worth exploring, including traditional weapons.

Papua Traditional Weapons

Indigenous peoples use traditional weapons for many reasons. Some of them include hunting and fighting. After Indonesia’s independence, the culture war was prohibited and limited. Thus, the weapons are now mostly used for hunting purposes.

Bow and Arrow

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The bow and arrow is the main weapon typical of West Papua people. These weapons are employed for most hunting activities. Wood or bamboo is the material used to make the bow and arrows. Animal bones are also options for the arrows. Meanwhile, they use rattan for the bowstring.

As the materials come from nature, special expertise is required to use these weapons. Special expertise is also required as—sometimes—the arrowhead is greased with poison. The poison used to increase the lethal effect comes from the sap of certain plants available in the forest.

Spear

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Like bow and arrows, a spear is used for hunting and fighting. Its long handle is wood, while the spearhead is made of stone or sharpened bone. This weapon comes in various forms. Along with time, some modifications are made. Now, some spears are made of metal for additional strength and durability.

Bodkin

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Bodkin is a short knife with a thin blade. It is easily misunderstood as a dagger. Their difference is obvious, and its sharp tip can pierce through a target.  

West Papua people made this weapon using the bone of cassowary bird or bamboo in some cases. The bird’s bone is chosen to maintain its strength after brutal shaping and sharpening, besides its ease of shaping. After the whole part is made, they decorate it with cassowary feathers of other natural fibers for finishing. The indigenous people use it for hunting and extracting forest products.

Stone Axe

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Unlike any other Papua weapons, this tool is used for agricultural purposes. It is made of a stone sharpened to make the blade. Then, it is tied to a wooden handle using wood fiber. The people also use it to make their way to the forest.

Dagger

This weapon is one of Bugis’ traditional weapons. It has existed since the era of Sulawesi indigenous kingdoms. This weapon was introduced to Papua people after the transmigration program implemented by the Dutch.

West Papua Traditional Arts

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Arts are part of Indonesian culture. Every tribe in Indonesia has its traditional dances and musical instruments to express its culture. Now, we are here to learn about dances and musical instruments in the eastern side of Indonesia.

Traditional Dances

The region has so many traditional dances that will be described below.

  1. Musyoh is a sacred dance usually performed to cast restless spirits out.
  2. Men and women perform Sajojo for entertainment purposes.
  3. Yospan is performed for entertainment purposes in an event.
  4. Welcome is performed as an opening of events held in Papua.
  5. Perang symbolizes Papuan heroism and courage.
  6. Suanggi tells a story of a husband who lost his wife to an incident.
  7. Fela mandu is a societal dance for entertainment purposes.
  8. Entol is performed after a culture war victory.
  9. Fayaryar Kar Baryan shows a farmer cutting sago.
  10. Dow Mamun symbolizes war and victory.
  11. Awaijale Rilejale shows the beauty of Sentani lake in the afternoon.
  12. Men and women perform bet Pok Mbui in the noon or afternoon after every sago harvest. The dance is usually performed for two to three hours.
  13. Falabea is performed in the field in the dusk or night.

Musical Instruments

Below are some musical instruments played by the West Papua people.

  1. Tifa is similar to gendang. The technique used to play it is also the same. It is made of a wood plank. Its side is covered with dried buckskin.
  2. Yi is also known as suling. But, its appearance is different from that of other regions. It is played during various traditional dance performances. It is also used to gather people.
  3. Triton is a wind instrument made of shell. The name is taken from an island of which natural beauty is way more beautiful than Raja Ampat.
  4. Paar and Kee are integral parts of the instruments. Paar is made of pumpkin, while Kee is made of Cassowary bones.
  5. Krombo/Kerombi is a percussion instrument typical of Tehit tribe. It is made of bamboo. It is usually played to accompany a dance during a cultural ceremony.
  6. Fuu is made by combining wood and bamboo. West Papua people play it to accompany a dance, besides gathering people.

There are still many cultures in this eastern side of Indonesia worth exploring. And traditional weapons and arts are just a few. Read this Asmat Exotic Art and Culture for more references.