Monday, May 11, 2009

Mourning, mutilation, spirits and Dani women

Funerals once were the most important Dani rite. They lasted several years, starting with mourning and the cremation of the deceased to drive the ghost from the living area. Elaborate rituals were held for important men and those killed in battle. The ghosts of these men were particularly powerful. Corpses of important Big Men were not cremated but mummified to be kept for supernatural reasons.

Mourning can be observed nearly everywhere. Women usually smear their faces and bodies with yellow clay or ashes to express grief for the lost relative.

One of the adjuncts to the cremation ceremony was the cutting off of a girl’s finger upper part. The fingers were tied off with string half an hour before the ax fell. Afterwards, the finger upper parts were left to dry, burned, and the ashes were buried in a special place.
This cruel practice of impressing the spirits is now prohibited but many middle-aged or older women can still be seen with missing finger parts and even cut-off earlaps once too many relatives had died.Living a life devoted to the spirits of the dead Dani, at the price of a handicap for daily life.
Baliem Valley, Papua, April 2009.

Labels: , , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

Photo Blog Blogs - Blog Top Sites Blogarama Blog Flux Directory