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Papua New Guinea: A Scuba Divers Adventure


The Huli Wigmen of Tari Highlands

Up Close With These Colorful Warriors

So where are the cannibals? The huli wigmen don't mind perpetuating the myth of their man-eating ways if it keeps the missionaries at bay, but the truth be told -- they are warm and gentle people who would never harm a visitor to their land. The Hulis do have a history of small territorial disputes -- they fight over three things -- land, pigs and women -- in that order. A Huli "big man" will need plenty of each -- land for farming, pigs as a measure of wealth and a number of wives to tend to the lot.

We are delighted to visit several villages and meet the folks. Some of the men are "educated" and speak English very well. After experiencing western culture and traveling through the modern world, these gentlemen prefer to live in their native villages without the myriad distractions and indulgences of our complex societies. Life is simple in the highland village. There is plenty of good food, close-knit families and a greater respect for the wonders of nature.

Huli traditions are as old as the hills. Young men venture into the jungle alone for months to prove their manhood, exercising their hunting techniques and developing the skills that will earn them respect within the community.

During this period of self-sufficiency, the young men grow their hair long in preparation for creating their first wig.

Before special gatherings and seasonal events, Huli wigmen spend hours preparing their costumes and make-up, complete with ceremonial wigs and accessories. This scene resembles backstage at a Las Vegas show -- dozens of men are finishing their face and body make-up, adjusting the feathers in their wigs, and helping each other with all the minute details of costuming before the celebration begins. Preparation materials include clay and flowers, bird feathers and bones, various plant oils, hand-woven fabrics and threads, precious stones and artifacts from the sea.


click on the images
wigmen jump With colorful painted bodies, intricate make-up, ceremonial wigs and accessories, these Huli Wigmen perform the classic bird dance, which mimics the famous birds of paradise found only in these interior highlands.

MPEG Movie:
Huli Wigmen Peform Bird Dance

(4.7 megabyte MPEG movie with sound)

3 wigmen It takes years to grow the hair necessary to construct several wigs, in this case an elaborate ceremonial wig. The wig also contains pigments, bird feathers, flowers and other ornamental elements fashioned by hand, as individual as each member of this clan.
groom The men prepare themselves for a ceremonial dance using clay and flowers, bird feathers and bones, various plant oils, hand-woven fabrics and threads, precious stones and artifacts from the sea.
spirit dancers Beating their hand drums and dancing to prove they are not afraid of unseen spirits, these wigmen were honored to have guests from a far away land in their village.
spirit dancers After a pleasant lunch under the shade of an open hut next to a running stream, the wigmen told us about their experiences with missionaries and their worries about the erosion of their unique culture.
mens hut The men's hut is the centerpiece of every village. Here men live together with older boys and tend to the most important matters of the village.
huli bride The women's hut is located nearby, where women and girls and young boys live together, tending to the plants in the garden and caring for the prized possession of the family -- the pigs.
grave hut A Huli Grave Hut marks the burial location of an honored member of a Huli clan.

Photos on this page by Rob and Robin Burr

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