Papua is a vital part of Indonesia because it has many unique cultures. In fact, many indigenous Papuan cultures exist from generation to generation and, until now, can only be accessed or used by indigenous people. For example, Yokal traditional clothes.
Yokal is one among many traditional clothes of Papua, such as Sali, Ewer, Koteka, and many more. Papua also has various accessories, such as Noken, Kinisi, Wam Esi, Yeke Esi, Walimo, and Muliages.
Traditional clothes and traditional accessories in Papua are not only a costume for special occasions. Each also has a meaning that symbolizes the wearer’s status in the indigenous social life.
Likewise, Yokal also shows a specific purpose when you see someone wear it.
The Symbolism of Yokal
Before getting deeper to see the meaning of Yokal, there is an important thing to note. Yokal is a West Papua traditional clothes that can be worn by women only. This rule is closely related to the symbolism of Yokal itself.
Yokal that Papuan women wear symbolizes that the woman is already married or has her own family. In this case, a widow woman can also wear Yokal. To complete this symbolism, people in Papua also have special clothes that signify the opposite.
For single women, who haven’t married yet, there are special clothes, Sali, to show this status. Yokal and Sali have similar designs, differing only by the basic color and pattern. Yokal’s base color is reddish-brown. Meanwhile, Sali’s base color is natural brown.
The decorations and patterns are also different. The result of Yokal is colorful, with an addition of a few stripes with different neon-bright colors along the fabric. Meanwhile, Sali’s result is still naturally brownish because the pattern in Sali is also in shades of brown color.
The different visual of Yokal and Sali is important in a traditional marriage ceremony of West Papua people. Because in a traditional marriage, a part of the ceremony symbolizes the change in the status of the women.
In this part of the ceremony, the women will take off Sali and wear Yokal instead. After that, the attendees will give marriage gifts and blessings to the women. Usually in the form of souvenirs such as Wam and Noken.
The Values of Yokal for The Local People
By deepening the understanding of Papuan traditional clothing, we can learn about the indigenous people’s live values. From Yokal, we can start with the ingredients to make Yokal. Yokal is made from processed tree bark. Specifically, the Wen tree (Ficus drupaceae).
This tree, also called Kowang, is a quite common tree to grow in the Papua region. Kowang or Wen tree can grow to a height of two meters and its trunk diameter can reach 90 centimeters wide. It is also a productive and valuable tree.
And as informed previously, the indigenous people in Papua also use the tree bark to make Yokal. The people utilize many parts of this tree, but all in a sustainable way. This means that after being taken, it can grow back in time.
This is one of the values of life held by the Papuan people. They live close to nature and utilize natural resources but maintain sustainably. This value is also held close by the maker and the wearer of Yokal in Papua.
That is why Yokal has become one of the exclusive Papua traditional clothes that can not be traded and used by people outside the indigenous Papuan community.
Now we know and understand the important meaning of Yokal traditional clothes for people in West Papua and Papua. This is why we must appreciate and respect their traditional cultures. Even better if we can learn some important values from the culture of the indigenous people in Papua.