According to the world’s environmentalists, West Papua is dubbed the last outstanding wilderness in Asia Pacific. True to its nickname, the gem in the eastern portion of Indonesia comprises of a dazzling array of landscapes from thick tropical jungle to arid savanna, endemic animal species, and other undiscovered treasure. It’s no wonder; the land of tree-kangaroo is often favored by the globe’s avid adventurers seeking out an escape.
In addition to the out-of-this-world natural attractions, West Papua interestingly is inhabited by 250 ethnic groups spreading across the region, and they are called Melanesian people. Do you know any information about this race? Melanesians refer to the inhabitants living in a sub-region of Oceania—Melanesia, that ranges from New Guinea to the islands of Fiji and Vanuatu. Their physical characteristics include dark complexion, brown to blond hair, and long, narrow nose.
Here are several striking facts regarding Melanesian peoples that leave you speechless making you have a great interest in West Papua:
The Melanesian Civilization Has Existed for More than 45,000 Years
One of the prominent Indonesian archeologists, Mr. Harry Truman Simanjuntak, believes that New Guinea Island, specifically West Papua, has been dominated by Melanesian race in the past 45,000 years. Formerly, the people used to be named Australomelanesian allegedly carrying out a significant array of civilization findings such as foraging, hunting tool making, belief system, and dwelling.
There is an abundance of historical evidence showing the fact about the presence of Melanesian people during the ancient age. A couple of artifacts and relics have just been found in some districts in Papua province such as potteries from the Neolithic period and stone tables from the Megalithic period in Bukit Srobu, Jayapura. By means of the sophisticated discoveries, Melanesian people have played a major role in advancing the world’s human cultural development for multiple decades.
Melanesian People in West Papua Have Multifarious Languages
The truth that Melanesian people occupying the mainland of West Papua and surrounding small islands speak differently from each other literally is mind-blowing. How come the only island has hundreds of traditional languages? Although the Melanesian languages are on the whole in the same root, named Papuan, the words and accents are pretty dissimilar. The key reason why each village carries its own language is due to the geographical isolation and social disconnection as well.
Based on West Papua linguistic map, there are more than 270 languages scattered across the region. The names of verbal communication locally spoken were formed during Dutch occupation. Some of them might sound unfamiliar to other Indonesians include Bahasa Aikwakai, Bahasa Asmat, Bahasa Karon Dori and many more. Don’t you know that all of these languages have no alphabetic system? Are you interested to practice one of the unique languages? Go have the class, please!
Varied Extraordinary Cultures Wowing Anybody
Melanesian people in West Papua astoundingly come with a wide variety of unusual cultures from clothing to daily habit and from food to housing. Did you once hear the finger cutting, an extreme tradition performed by the tribe of Dani? When one of the family members passed away, the woman relatives must sacrifice their finger to be cut off. The objective of the custom is to show the grief and respect the ancestor. The locals commonly call this Ikapilin.
Unlike the other Indonesian ethnic groups which rarely recognize fighting tradition, nearly all of the Melanesian societies hold a war dance. The communities strongly believe that it symbolizes good things such as bravery, sacrifice, and heroic action. During the procession, every one of performers wears traditional garments such as koteka (a type of dried gourd to cover male sex organ), tassel skirts made of root, and traditional bead accessories. Aside from it, the musical instruments such as Krombi and Pikon are elegantly played.
Melanesian Faith and Life
Arguably, the people of West Papua inhabiting the highland are very religious and cling to their conventional customs inherited by the ancestors. They keep maintaining their sublime ways of life. Speaking of the faith, the Melanesian cultures are always associated with the animism practice. Although some are converted to Christianity, the traditional religions of which ritual is worshipping the animist spirits can be seen in the entire West Papua. The raised pigs are often presented for the offerings.
For the livelihood, the Melanesian societies living in the mountainous area cultivate their land and raise chickens and boars. Here, the people consume yams or sweet potatoes. Meanwhile, those residing in the lowland like the people of Korowai, usually devour the gluey papeda, uniquely made of sago flour, and sautéed larvae. The rests that occupy the coastal villages prefer catching fishes to feed their families.
It’s pretty attention-grabbing to acknowledge Melanesian people who inhabit West Papua. Their languages, customs, lives, and beliefs are undeniably amazing.