January 1, 2015

0745, 1346, 1389 INDONESIA (New Guinea) - Dani Tribe in Baliem Valley

Posted on 16.07.2013, 30.11.2014, and 01.01.2015
The Dani (also spelled Ndani) are a people from the Grand Valley of the Baliem River, a broad, temperate plain lying 1.800m above the tropical jungles of Papua, of the island of New Guinea. They are one of the most numerous tribes in the highlands, and simultaneously one of the most well-known, despite the fact that were discovered only in 1938. At least 50.000 Dani live on the valley floor, and another 50.000 inhabit scattered settlements along the steep-sided valleys around the Grand Valley. Temperature is mild, rainfall moderate, wildlife harmless and disease rare, so it can said that this is one of the world's most pleasant corners. Sweet potatoes are important in their culture as food, but also as the most important tool used in bartering, especially in dowries, and this is reflected in the over seventy different names used for this vegetable. They grow also ginger, taro, cucumber, carrot, greens, yam, and a single fruit: banana. As most Papuans, they consider pigs the most important living creatures besides people. Pigs mean wealth and social importance. Only the possession of several wives is as important and usually a man who has many pigs will have more than one wife.

Their tools are made of stone and bone, wood and bamboo. A few of the more exotic materials, such as seashells, furs, feathers and the finest woods, reach the Grand Valley along the native trade routes. Metals, and even pottery, were unknown to the Dani, but despite their primitive tools, their houses and gardens are complex. Their settlements are collections of compounds enclosed by a stockade, within which are four kinds of structures, arranged according to a traditional pattern. At one end of the oval courtyard is the circular domed men’s house. On both sides were long rectangular family or cooking houses and smaller circular structures in which each woman slept with certain smaller children and her husband, when he was not in the men’s house. Finally there are houses divided into stables where the pigs were kept. More about their houses I wrote here.


The men only wear long and thin sheaths for penis (kotekas), and the women short skirts woven from orchid fibers, decorated with straw, and woven bags (noken) across their backs. Their fondness for "dressing up" shows the most during the time of war, when put boar tusks in their noses, and headdresses made of Paradise birds feathers. Dani occupied one of the most fertile parts of Papua, so they often had to fight for their territory. Actually ritual small-scale warfare between rival villages is integral to their traditional culture, with much time spent preparing weapons, engaging in both mock and real battle, and treating any resulting injuries. Some sources say that they practiced cannibalism, others the opposite. Anyway, they were the most dreaded head-hunting tribe on the island. The tribe is also notorious for the custom that if someone dies in the village, each of his female relatives will have a segment of their finger cut off.

The Dani have their mythological justification of the fact of death, with a story in which they recount the race between a bird and a snake. It tells of a contest, which decided weather men would be like birds and die, or be like snakes which shed their skins and have eternal life. The bird won, and from that time all men, like birds, must die. Another thing which brought fame to the Dani are the several hundred years old ”smoked” mummies of the men who have contributed much to the tribe. Two of them can be seen in the Baliem valley - in Akima and Jiwika villages (in the second postcard).

About the stamps
On the first postcard
The first stamp is part of the series Chinese Zodiac - Year of the Tiger, issued on February 6, 2010, and consisting of three stamps with the same face value (1.500 IDR). The second, depicting Mount Fuji, is part of the Golden Years of Friendship Indonesia-Japan series, about which wrote here.

On the second postcard
The first stamp is part of the third series entitled Traditional Textile of Indonesia, issued on October 2, 2011. As the first two (about which I wrote here, and here), this series contains also eight stamps with the same value (2500 IDR):
17/33 Songket Melayu, Riau
18/33 Songket Mentok, Bangka Belitung
19/33 Batik Mega Mendung, West Java
20/33 Tenun Sora Langi, West Sulawesi
21/33 Tenun Tolaki, South East Sulawesi
22/33 Tenun Tanimbar, Maluku
23/33 Batik Papua, Papua - it's on the postcard
24/33 Batik Papua Barat, West Papua

The second stamp, depicting Elegant Sunbird (Aethopyga duyvenbodel), is part of the series Indonesia's Threatened Bird Species, about which I wrote here.

On the third postcard
The first stamp is part of a series of three, issued on January 15, 2014, to celebrate the Year of the Horse. The second stamp, depicted Flores-Hawk-eagle (Nisaetus floris), is part of the series Indonesia's Threatened Bird Species, about which I wrote here.
The Dani Of The Grand Valley, by Hans Ossen - frankossen.com
Papua - Dani Tribe in Baliem Valley - .papuatrekking.com
Dani people of West Papua, Indonesia - mannaismayaadventure.com

Sender 1: Larissa (direct swap)
Sent from Bandung (Java / Indonesia), on 23.07.2012
Sender 2: Afendi Riyanto (direct swap)
Sent from Bekasi (Java / Indonesia), on 08.11.2012
Photo: Johannes Wadumuri
Sender 3: Murch
Sent from Bogor (Java / Indonesia), on 27.04.2014
Photo: Kal Muller

1 comment:

  1. When i was small, i saw the documentary about this tribe. It was tremendous film!!!!I am still under the strong impression :)