Sunday, May 03, 2009

Crossing the mountain: Visiting the Dani tribe of Papua

Baliem Valley and the Dani tribe waited a long time to be discovered. It was Richard Archbold who discovered the well hidden valley during an aerial reconnaissance flight in 1938. Literally, he had seen over the mountain wall—some summits higher than 4,000 meters—and broken the seal on a stone-age culture.

Nowadays the tiny 60×30km Baliem valley which lies about 1,600 meters above sea level can easily be accessed by plane from Jayapura, the coastal capital town of Indonesia's Papua province. Reaching Jayapura isn't difficult but flying there takes time. Jayapura is at the very Eastern end of Indonesia, some 5,200 km away from Indonesia’s most Northwestern tip, Aceh province. Put into transatlantic terms, these two Indonesian cities are as far from each other as Dublin from New York.

21st century Baliem Valley has still remnants of the stone-age, knives made out of bone or bamboo are still in use, traditional pig feasts are still celebrated, some hundred year-old mummies have survived purges by the government, and old fences surrounding the land of the villages are still in use. Stone-axes, the weapon for occasional tribal wars had been used well up into the 1950/60s but then what we would call civilization entered the Baliem Valley and missionaries and civil servants began to transform century-old value systems.

Photo above: Dani watch tower, a witness of times when tribal wars were still being fought.

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At May 4, 2009 at 2:01 PM, Blogger Sidney said...

Wow... you are adventurous ! I envy you !

At May 9, 2009 at 9:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ein sensationelles Foto. Besonders durch den Rauch des Lagerfeuers wird zusätzlich zu dem hervorragenden Motiv auch noch eine mysteriöse Stimmung erzeugt. Da Du das Bild im RAW-Format gemacht hast, kannst Du den Bildausschnitt noch problemlos verändern und auf das Wesentliche reduzierien. Dann ist es wirklich
großes Kino, Bruder !
Schöne Grüsse an das andere Ende der Welt. See ya soon /Ulf

At May 11, 2009 at 2:37 PM, Blogger brommel said...

danke, Uff. habe ne ganze Serie davon gemacht. Durch die sich ständig ändernde Windrichtung ist jedes Bild anders, obwohl vom gleichen Ort fotografiert. Ist wirklich wie ein Film aus einem anderen Jahrhundert. gruss


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