Baliem Valley Festival, Papua, Photosafari 2018

Dani Tribe – Chieftain

The Baliem Valley Festival, Papua, Indonesia is held yearly around 7-9th August. It’s a festival to bring the Dani, Yani, and Yali tribes together for 3 days of dancing, mock war preparations, and fun. Many tourists and photographers around the world congregating to witness this colorful annual event. Accommodations are booked a year in advance. Getting good accommodations around this time is not easy.

Photosafari has brought 12 photographers for this wonderful trip.

The Dani Tribe was discovered by the modern world in 29th Oct 1909. The Grand Valley Dani was only sighted from the air in 1938. These tribes have been living in isolation before that.

The Dani Tribe has some unique culture. The men wear a “koteka” or penis sheath. The women folk are expected to cut off their fingers tips when a close relative dies.

The total population of these tribes is around 25,000. Most of whom are Christians.

Sweet potatoes are important in their local culture, being the most important tool used in bartering, especially in dowries. Likewise, pig feasts are extremely important to celebrate events communally; the success of a feast, and that of a village big man (man of influence) or organiser, is often gauged by the number of pigs slaughtered.

The Dani use an earth oven method of cooking pig and their staple crops such as sweet potato, banana, and cassava. They heat some stones in a fire until they are extremely hot, then wrap cuts of meat and pieces of sweet potato or banana inside banana leaves. The food package is then lowered into a pit which has been lined with some of the hot stones described above, the remaining hot stones are then placed on top, and the pit is covered in grass and a cover to keep the steam in. After a couple of hours, the pit is opened and the food removed and eaten. Pigs are too valuable to be served regularly and are reserved for special occasions only.

Ritual small-scale warfare between rival villages is integral to traditional Dani culture, with much time spent preparing weapons and treating resulting injuries. Typically the emphasis in battle is to insult the enemy and wound or kill token victims, as opposed to capturing territory or property or vanquishing the enemy village.

How about going for the 2019 Festival which falls around the 7-9th August to witness this unique culture firsthand? Photosafari has placed their hotel bookings for next year’s festival.

Chieftain learning photography. He is wearing a penis sheath called “Koteka” in Dani language.

Dani warrior

Dani warrior

Dani warrior

Mother and child

There is always a high lookout post at the village where the Chieftain would climb up to see if their enemies are attacking the village. It is from here that he directs his warriors.

A Dani warrior preparing for war

In the old days, disputes among the villages were often settled by conflict. A village had to be prepared for war and it is the chieftain’s responsibility to lead the village during these times. Often, the villagers who have mock battles to prepare themselves.

“Koteka” was made from this gourd.

The women folks

Dani Tribes still practice self-mutilation. A part of the finger is chopped off when someone closed to the person died.

Mother preparing her child for the reception committee

Children in the village

Children in the village

This kid was having lots of fun with us.

Dani Tribe

They hunt small animals and birds with bows and arrows


Children of the Yali Tribe

Yali tribe

Yali tribe

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