I visited a village called Jiwika, located in the north part of the valley. I spent unforgettable five days with the members of the Dani tribe who are absolutely the most positive, funniest, noble and craziest people I’ve ever met in my life. Thank you God of forest ghost for that surreal and exceptional experience!
Live & customs of Dani Tribe
Dani live a modest, rural life, exclusively from agriculture and some lost tourist like me. Their life is based on planting potatoes (they know more than 70 different kinds of potatoes) and pig farming. Once fearless warriors today are peaceful and very sociable people.
In the past war was the main part of their life and Dani were known as the biggest warriors among all tribes. They fought for stealing a pig or a woman (well, it is almost the same, right?). After the war, which was more ceremonial than anything else, Dani who won the battle performed victory dance and sang traditional songs while the ones who lose the battle grieved and mourned and women cut off part of their fingers.
Dani were known as the biggest warriors among all tribes in Papua!
Funeral ceremonies – cutting fingers
The Dani tribe have some interesting customs. One of which involves funeral ceremonies. That was one of the most bizarre Dani customs. If someone dies in the village, women cut off part of a finger as a form of mourning for the deceased. Fingers were cut off with a stone ax and it was a job of the women’s closest family member.
This lady has lost 4 members of her family – 4 fingers cut
Dani mummified the biggest and the most fearless warriors amongst them. There is a village in Jiwika that possesses a real mummy. A group of anthropologists came here from the far West and estimated that mummy is about 250 years old. Other details about it nobody knows. Today mummy is a tourist attraction.
Although anthropologists gave some recommendations how to take care of the mummy to preserve it Dani didn’t do any of it. Mummy ‘lives’ in the wooden hut without doors next to the pig hut.
The oldest man in the village who is also the head of the village is in charge to run all businesses with the mummy. When curious visitors come to see it he takes out the mummy from the hut and puts it on the stump so that all visitors can photograph it. You can even take a selfie with it, very cool. I saw the ‘chief of the mummy’ as he stepped out of his small wooden hut with solar cells on top instead of a chimney. Inside the hut with a grass floor, without any furniture I saw a nice little LCD television. It’s good to be the owner of a mummy, oouu jeeaah!
Mummy in Jiwika village
Cannibalism in Papua
Before the trip I read some stories about cannibalism in Papua. Although in the past tribes practiced cannibalism there were few who ate members of their own social group (God, how that sounds, like it’s perfectly normal to eat someone who is not your family…).
For those who ate their ‘blood’ relatives occurred some strange nerve disease. And again not to all of them, just to the female tribe population. Females have always eaten brains of the victims which had the largest concentration of specific “crazy” pathogens. Women who were suffering from this fatal madness laughed like crazy.
Today tribes don’t practice cannibalism anymore. Lucky me!
Cannibals? No way!
In the ‘Dani tribe village’
Within a village typically lives about 50 people. Every village has one man’s house where all initiated men are staying and sleeping and several women’s houses in which live, you guess, women. Children live with their mothers until they reach the teenage years.
There are also separate huts for pigs which plays an important role in the life of almost every Papuan tribe. Pigs are creatures from mythology and many believe that the whole world came out of the prehistoric pig. They are equal to all members of the family and also a symbol of power and real money with which you can make payments.
For Dani men, his social status are initiated by the number of wives and pigs he has. Similar like in the modern civilizations except pigs are replaced with luxurious fast cars.