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The Huli - Papua New Guinea’s Fascinating Indigenous People

2022-07-27
Lingua:English
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Papua New Guinea is an island nation in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. The Huli clan, also known as the Haroli, are an indigenous group that lives in the Hela Province of Papua New Guinea. The Huli have lived in this remote area for over 1,000 years and their presence only became known to Europeans in the 1930’s.

An aspect of Huli culture that has fascinated travelers and the international community alike is the “wigmen” and the tradition of making elaborate wigs. Such wigs are made from the hair of young men. In order to produce nice ceremonial wigs, the young men need to keep rigorous discipline when taking care of their hair. For example, they must refrain from eating certain foods and sleep in a specific position on a neck rest, with a wooden bar that is raised. To maintain soft hair, Huli men also wet their hair with holy water three times a day and sprinkle it with fern leaves while chanting spells. As the hair grows longer, it is formed into a unique shape that resembles the cap of a mushroom or pirate’s hat. The entire process takes 18 months, and at the end of this period, the hair is cut very close to the scalp. Each young man may produce a wig up to 5 or 6 weeks before they get married. After this time, their hair will no longer be used for wig making.

Sing-sings are elaborate song and dance festivals that take place each year. Up to one hundred groups from different ethnicities in Papua New Guinea travel to attend this large gathering. Sing-sings were organized as a way for multiple groups to come together peacefully and celebrate the abundance of diversity that exists on the island country.

The Huli have traditionally used a restorative approach to cultivate their land. Known as shifting agriculture, they clear bushland to grow food, then wait a few years for the land to naturally re-forest itself before growing crops in the same area again. The Huli also believe that there are supernatural beings that live in rivers and water, caves, the sky, mountains and bushland. These supernatural beings are thought to control the climate and the land, as well as affect the fertility of the soil.
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