INDONESIA,PAPUA By Jimmy Nelson
Baliem Valley is situated 1600 metres above sea level in the midst of the Jayawijaya mountain range of Papua Indonesia. The Dani live in the actual valley. They are farmers and use an efficient irrigation system. Archaeological finds prove that the valley has been farmed for 9,000 years.“If the hand does nothing, the mouth does not chew”The Dani often had to fight for their territory against different villages or other tribes. That’s why they have been called the most dreaded head- hunting tribe of Papua. This is remarkable considering the fact that they did not eat their enemies, like the majority of other Papuan tribes did.
BALIEM VALLEY FESTIVAL, PAPUA INDONESIA
The Dani, Yali and Korowai universe is filled with all kinds of spirits, some
more personal in character than others. Particular reverence is paid to
ancestral spirits. In times of trouble, domesticated pigs are sacrificed to
the spirits of the ancestors. The tribes have an extraordinary and rich oral
tradition, including myths, folk tales, magical sayings and charms.
ASUMPAIMA VILLAGE, BALIEM VALLEY, PAPUA INDONESIA
In the midst of the Jayawijaya mountain range of Papua in Indonesia, on a
plateau situated 1,600 metres above sea level, you can find the Baliem
Valley. The surrounding peaks of 2,500 to 3,000 metres provide a steady
supply of rain, making the valley a lush and fertile habitat.
Archaeological finds prove that the valley – only ‘discovered’ in 1938 –
has been farmed for 9,000 years.
YETNI VILLAGE, SOUTHERN BALIEM, PAPUA INDONESIA
The koteka, or penis gourd, is one of many distinguishing features as far
as traditional clothing is concerned. The Yali and Dani men tend to the
growing of the calabashes with both tribes meticulously cultivating a
The koteka of the Dani is much smaller than the long and slender one
that the Yali men wear. A gourd is a piece of traditional clothing.
Without it, men consider themselves naked. Just as people look to
facial and bodily decorations to establish a stranger’s tribal identity,
so too do those in the know look to penis gourds.
The Dani often had to fight for their territory against different villages or other tribes. But there is an understanding between the villages and tribes, unwritten rules, as a result of having to ‘share’ this secluded and almost inaccessible part of the world.
The territory of the Dani has a relatively dense population, divided in different groups and famlies with a higher or lower hierarchy depending on the value of their land or the size of their community.
WESAGALEP VILLAGE, SOUTHERN BALIEM, PAPUA INDONESIA
The tribes’ tools have not changed in thousands of years: stone axes, net
bags hung from the forehead, bows five or six feet long and arrowheads
carved specifically for particular purposes, such as to kill large game,
birds, or their enemies.
Their material culture is limited to the indispensable things of daily life.
However, they do cherish the modest luxury of body ornaments.
DANI IN BALIEM VALLEY
Only recently emerged from the Stone Age, the Dani are known as the “gentle warriors”. With their simple tools of stone and bone, they nonetheless, managed to sculpt green fields that hug the hills, where they grow root crops, and raise pigs. They have also built outposts and lookout towers to defend their valley from hostile tribes.
DANI IN BALIEM VALLEY
For a large part of the day men take turns to sit on look-out towers while colleagues are down below to protect them and raise the alarm when there is a surprise attack.