BEFORE THEY PASS AWAY.KALAM TRIBE,PAPUA NEW GUINEA
By Jimmy Nelson
The eastern half of New Guinea gained full independence from Australia in 1975, when Papua New Guinea was born. The indigenous population is one of the most heterogeneous in the world. Traditionally, the different tribes scattered across the highland plateau, live in small agrarian clans.
The first visitors were impressed to find valleys of carefully planned gardens and irrigation ditches. The women of the tribes are exceptional farmers. The men hunt and fight other tribes over land, pigs and women. Great effort is made to impress the enemy with terrifying masks, wigs and paint.
RAINBOW OVER SIMBAI
Nested high in the mountains Simbai is a village that is unreachable except
by prop plane. It takes days walking through the bush through steep mud
slick hills. With no roads, it is easy to get lost.
This has kept the culture strong and rich and from assimilating to the rest
of the world. Simbai really is like stepping back in time.
KALAM PIERCE THEIR NOSE AS INITIATION FOR YOUNG BOYS
Simbai is the home of the Kalam tribe in the heart of the highlands of
Madang. It is one of Papua New Guinea’s undeveloped places where
people still live a subsistence lifestyle in traditional villages scattered
through pristine wilderness territory and untouched by westernisation.
Once a year, the week-long cultural festival, which is normally hosted in
the third week of September, features the initiation of young boys by
nose piercing (“sutim nus” in tok pidgin). Young boys about 10 to 17
years old go into a “hausboi” (men’s house) to learn about initiation
rites from village elders and get their noses pierced.
When it comes to body decorations, their bodies are heavily donned with
“bilas” (body ornaments) such as large kina shells, hornbill (kokomo)
beak necklaces, cuscus fur, wild garden flowers and arm bands.
Pig fat provides the final shine.
BIRD FEATHERS & KINA SHELLS
The crowns of the head-dresses are decorated with bird feathers
comprising those of the cockatoo, parrots, lorikeets and bird of
Small round kina shells are hooked on to and hang suspended
from the hole in the nose while others insert King of Saxony
bird of paradise feathers.
KALAM MEN AND BOYS
The eastern half of New Guinea, the world’s second largest island, gained
full independence from Australia in 1975, when the nation of
Papua New Guinea was born. The indigenous population is one of the
most heterogeneous in the world.
It is believed that the first Papua New Guineans migrated to the island
over 45,000 years ago. Today, over three million people, approximately
half of the total population, live in the highlands.
The harsh terrain and historic inter-tribal warfare has lead to village
isolation and the proliferation of distinct languages. A number of
different tribes are scattered across the highland plateau, surrounded
by mountains. Traditionally they live in small agrarian clans consisting
of a group of families.
LIFE IS SIMPLE IN HIGHLAND VILLAGES
The highlanders live by hunting, done primarily by men, and by gathering plants and growing crops, done primarily by women. The men help clear the land, but the rest of the cultivation is the responsibility of the women.
The residents have plenty of good food, close-knit families and a great respect for the wonders of nature.