Thursday, April 4, 2013

Papua New Guinea Tribes (and an art project)

Born to be wild!!!

According to the internet (which we all know is 100% accurate- wink wink), many of the indigenous tribes in Papua New Guinea came to the island from Australia and Asia during the ice age, when the seas where low and islands where still moving and growing due to earthquakes and volcanoes.   Because the island has such rough terrain in some parts, many of these tribes never travelled outside of their area, their cultures grew independently and they developed languages of their own.  There are hundreds of different tribes and over 800 different languages.  They lived in constant warfare with other tribes, and in some areas, head-hunting and cannibalism (yuck) were rampant.  In some places of New Guinea it is still practiced. (Note to myself: we are not going to New Guinea) 

The tribes developed ways of decorating their bodies that were meant to scare off the other tribes and show the fierceness of the men.  In a world that these days is more and more hooked on technology, it is amazing to think of these people living much as they have for thousands of years.  Some tribes are still being discovered in the deep jungles and mountains who have yet to see people from the "outside world".  Here is a little info on just a few of the tribes of Papua New Guinea. 

The Huli Tribe- this tribe is also called the "Wig-men" because they wear elaborate ceremonial wigs made from their own hair and bird of paradise and parrot feathers.  They paint their faces in yellow, red and white paint and also pierce their noses with long bones.  Part of their traditional costume also includes a necklace made from bird beaks and claws and they carry a huge ax with a pointed end. They have lived in the Southern Highlands area for over 1,000 years.  They are divided into clans and the people in the clan are all considered family.  Considering that one husband can have many wives, they probably ARE all related so that makes sense ;)  Men and women live separately- the men live together and the women live with the children in their own huts.  The men hunt for meat and the women grow plants for food and gather what grows wild.  There are estimated to be about 100,000 people in the Huli Tribe.

The Mud Men of Asaro- ok, these guys are creepy.  According to legend, the tribe hid in the Asaro river to hide from an enemy tribe.  At night, when they could escape, the enemy spotted these scary, mud-covered figures rising from the river and were scared away.  So this became their "thing".  They didn't want to cover their faces with the mud because they thought it was poisonous (!), so they made clay helmets with frightening faces to scare away potential enemies.  They also wear pointed bamboo "claws" on their fingers.  I don't know about you, but if I saw a Mud Man I'd sure hightail it out of there!!  Very effective, Mr. Mud Man.

The last tribe I'm going to talk about are the tribes of the Sepik River area.  For these people, life revolved around the river, and they worship the animals of the river, especially the crocodiles.  In a rite of passage and as a show of bravery, the men of the tribe cut the skin on their body, mostly their back, so they will resemble the beloved crocodile!!  Sometimes I can't say it enough - I LOVE BEING AN AMERICAN!!!

If you'd like to see a very interesting video of the different tribes click here.  But please note that there is some nudity.  It's just how they are in Papua New Guinea- they let it all hang out.  It's not likely to be even noticed unless you point it out, but I thought I should tell you.  Now on to our art project!!

Papua New Guinea Tribal Masks
For the project you will need:

  • paper plates
  • paints
  • feathers or torn paper
  • scissors or an exacto knife (adults only please)
  • glue
  • pipe cleaners or yarn

1.  Watch the video above or go online and google  Papua New Guinea tribes to see some of the face painting designs.
2. Cut the eyes, nose and mouth out of the paper plate.  Punch a hole on either side for the pipe cleaners or yarn so you can wear it.

3.  Paint your mask and decorate it with feathers. 
 If you want you can put a stick through the nose!  Go wild - there is no wrong way!

My not so fierce warrior!!

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