Self Adornment and Ethnicity in the Papua New Guinea Highlands

by Jaap Timmer, MacQuarrie University

This article shows the way Huli see self-adornment as part of a core of skills and knowledge inherited from their ancestors. It is one of the facets by which Huli distinguish themselves from their precontact as well as their current cultural neighbors. A recent revival of Huli dance performances, which have acquired worldwide fame, allows Huli men to pursue self-determination and affect their own destiny in a wider world. While for Western tourists Huli decorative styles are the authentic culture of a timeless present, Huli, dancing for tourists, feel a sense of superiority and empowerment in the face of foreign strength and wealth. The encounter with tourists and the creative tradition of self-adornment and display in performances for tourists express Huli desire and agency within the modem world system.

First Encounters With Wigmen

Soon after they were first encountered by white explorers, the Huli in the Tari basin of the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea became renowned worldwide by their magnificent wigs decorated with colorful plumes, Lorikeet feathers, and everlasting flowers. In November 1934, Jack Fox, while pros­pecting for gold with his twin brother to cover the area between Mount Hagen and the Dutch border, wrote of encounters with men wearing “half-moon”­ shaped hats made of human hair and decorated with flowers (Allen & Frankel, 1991; Ballard & Allen, 1991). They had met Huli-speakers, the second-larg­est language community in the Papua New Guinea

Highlands, numbering more than 60,000 people. [Major works describing Hull society and culture are Ballard (1995), Frankel (1986), Glasse (1965, 1968), and Goldman (1983, 1993).] Five months later Jack Hides entered Huli country from the south, crossing the limestone barrier to the Tari basin where he met “short, stockily built men, all carrying bows and arrows … they had mops of brown hair adorned with flowers” (Hides 1936, p. 79, 81; Allen & Frankel, 1991, p. 100). The photographs of the first men that Hides met in the Highlands were of Huli men sporting large wigs, bark belts, knitted aprons, and rear coverings of cordyline leaves (Cordyline sp.) (Hides, 1936, photo facing p. 78; Franklin, 1989, p. 100).

Hides’ biographer James Sinclair, himself a pa­ trol officer, wrote two books about the Huli: Wigmen of Papua (1973a) and Faces of New Guinea (1973b). Both books contributed to the popularization of the Huli as wigmen. A succession of other popular books, magazines, travelogues, and guidebooks fur­ther boosted this Huli emblem worldwide. [See for example, Dodwell (1983, pp. 106–128), Eastburn (1980a, 1980b), Kirk (1981, pp. 38, 50-63), Lightbody et al. (1998, p. 242), MacKenzie (1987), Margolies (1993), Nightingale (1992, pp. 112-113, 117),Tree(l996,pp. 113-115,237-238,241-244; 1997), Wheeler ( 1988,pp.174-175).) Recently, pho­tographs of decorated Huli faces with headdresses and face painting adorned national and foreign news­ paper advertisements, German telephone cards, the cover of The ’94 Summer of Love Edition, DJ Jean’s eleventh Mellow Clubmix House Party compact disk and music cassette, and the cover of the third edi­tion of Cultural Anthropology: A Contemporary Perspective (Keesing & Strathern, 1998). [Otto and Verloop (1996) .observe that similar images of the Asaro Mudmen are used as an evocative symbol of “exotic” Papua New Guinea(ns) and a global mar­ ketable image.] Besides playing a role in these me­dia, Huli also feature as an attraction in the tourist industry.

About 6 decades after the first whites visited Huli land, Western tourists regularly set off with guides and carriers to make contact with Huli wigmen in the Tari basin of the “last unknown.” [The tourist industry in Papua New Guinea generally supports the popular image of Papua New Guinea and Irian Jaya (West New Guinea) as “the last unknown” or “the forgotten earth.” See, for instance, Gavin Souter’s (1963) New Guinea: The Last Unknown and Jan van Eechoud’s (1951) Vergeten aarde.] While the first white explorers were recognized as dama or nonhuman spirits and these creatures filled Huli with fear and amusement (see Allen & Frankel, 1991), Western tourists are seen as human, albeit wealthy and powerful ones. Despite a curiosity about the ways of whites (honebi) and their skills and knowledge (honebi mana), Huli take for granted the regular appearance of tourists in their towns and vil­lages. These sightseeing tours offer far less dramatic experiences than the Fox brothers’ or Hides’ patrols, yet tourist brochures suggest the opposite. A recent travel brochure promises a “spectacular expedition

through the territory of the Huli tribe … the last accessible region where it is common to villag­ers wearing traditional dress. Bonaparte-shaped wigs of human hair decorated with flowers and Birds of Paradise plumes are the permanent fashion.” Tour­ist brochures foster a tourism that promises an ad­ venture in “savage unknown lands,” where Huli play the “Stone Age warriors” with an “authentic tribal culture.”

The 1992 Sepik Highlands Odyssey itinerary of Trans Niugini Tours, one of the largest controlled tour operators in Papua New Guinea (there are only a few tour operators in the country and most are controlled by non-Papuans; however there is a grow­ing minority of successfully independent national enterprises), claims that:

The Huli way of life is still traditional and highly influenced by their beliefs in ancestral spirits and sorcery. We will visit a Bachelor Centre where young men live for several years in seclusion while they grow their wigs; and may well be guests at a singsing, a celebration in full tribal regalia. (Singsing is the Tok Pisin term for any festival with dancing, singing, and feasting.)

The brochures and booklets are lavishly illustrated with photos of elaborately attired Huli dancers and laced with references to their spectacular, decorated wigs, colorful face painting, and impressive display performances. The Huli as wigmen is popularized to the extent that local tourist guides nowadays re­ fer to their own people as ”the wigmen” (see be­ low). This wigmen label, however, is not only the re­sult of Western representations that privilege exotic styles of bodily adornment as an index of authentic­ity. As we will see, Huli actively engage in showing themselves to present-day outside visitors as they would like to be seen: sporting magnificent wigs embellished with colorful, red and yellow faces and shiny skins, all expressing vitality and cultural dis­tinctiveness. I will argue that a group of Huli men in the village of Hedemali continue a tradition of bodily adornment to self-confidently display cultural strength, vitality, and pride to Western tourists “to ground and empower a path into the future” (Clifford, 1997, p. 178).

Besides performing for tourists, Huli display during dance competitions that occur at festivals held for school and mission building inaugurations, In­ dependence Day celebrations, Christmas, and po­litical campaign events. Hull dance groups also perform for regional and national cultural shows at Mount Hagen, Goroka, and Port Moresby. [See Walls (1987) for a report of Huli dancers traveling to Port Moresby to perform at the Pon Moresby Show.] These regional and national performances honor the successes of Christian missions, the achievements of modern development, a diverse national identity, or the noble plans of a political candidate. During all these festivities the dancing is accompanied by singing, courting, and abundant drinking and eating.

Huli consider these performances as highly com­petitive and prestigious. Individual dancers stake virtually everything when they attend these events because they are seen to build prestige and strengthen cultural distinctiveness at local, regional, and na­tional levels. They see self-adornment as part of a core of skills and knowledge (mana) inherited from their ancestors. As an ancestral legacy mana embod­ies important ways to distinguish Hull from their precontact cultural neighbors and from others in their presently known world. Huli regard their culture as being superior to that of their neighbors and show­ing cultural pride motivates the wigged dancers to display the original mana body art.

The tourists also see authenticity in Huli bodily adornment. For them, the Huli are a people “frozen in time.” The wearing of Western clothing at the expense of traditional costume is, for many tourists, a sign of cultural degradation. Thus to both Huli and tourists, the most distinctive and characterizing fea­ture of Huli appearance is their bodily adornment. In this article I show why the Huli tradition of bodily adornment and display continues to be an important means of expressing cultural identity in precolonial, colonial, and postcolonial times. I argue that Huli maintain their famous tradition of bodily adornment to pursue goals of self-determination, (i.e., to make choices about their own destinies). To understand the continuity in the Huli bodily adornment tradi­tion I examine the history and the meanings of Huli body decoration and display. But before doing so, I sketch the development and character of the tourist, industry in Huli country, the encounter between Huli and tourists, and the staging of a particular Huli dance for the Western visitors.

The present case relates tourism and its effect of stimulating the authentication of tradition to the de­ bates on objectified and invented traditions in the Pacific. In these debates, modem Melanesian cultural constructions have moved from the margins to the center of anthropological attention. [Relevant refer­ences concerning the objectification of tradition in the Pacific are: Jolly and Thomas (1992), Keesing (1989), Keesing and Tonkinson (1982), Linnekin and Poyer (1990), Thomas (1992), Van der Grijp and Van Meiji (1993), and White and Lindstrom (1993).] Yet the increasing significance of tourism and what it conjures up in Melanesia is often not treated as be­ longing to “real” Melanesian anthropology. Notable exceptions are: the ironical documentary by O’ Rourke (1987) portraying the ways in which tourists traveling on the Melanesian Explorer choose to engage with Sepik people; the works of Gewertz and Errington (1991) discussing the Chambri (Sepik) reaction to international tourism; Kulick and Wilson’s (1992) discussion of Gapun (Sepik) villagers’ response to a Swedish tourist wanting them to be primitive; Otto and Verloop (1996) on the appropriation of the Asarc, (Eastern Highlands) mudmen tradition in campaigns to promote tourism; and Gunter Senft’s (1999) ex­ amination of how Trobriand Islanders present them­ selves to Western tourists.

Huli Turis Bisnis

During the last couple of decades development projects, government politics, missionary activities, and mining operations have changed lifein Huli land. After occasional contacts with white explorers and administration patrols in the 1930s and 1940s, the first pennanent administrative post and an airstrip were established at Tari in 1952. On the heels of government officials, missionaries established a vast range of Christian outposts all over Huli land. Soon mission Christianity began to exert a powerful in­ fluence over Huli thought and religious observance. Contact with the government, mission Christianity, Papua New Guineans from lands formerly unknown to Huli, and at a later stage, Western tourists and the mining of gold, has put the Huli peripheral to major centers of influence and has resulted in loss of autonomy, causing many to be concerned about power and control (see Ballard, 1992, 1998; Oark, 1995, 1997; Glasse, 1995; Frankel, 1986).

The present town of Tari is a busy commercial center with several large trade stores, government offices, mission stations, a hospital, a guesthouse, and a Catholic Church hostel. Twenty-four kilome­ters east of Tari, on the western slope of Mt. Ambua, is the “Highlands style” Ambua Lodge, a popular tourist resort (see Thompson, 1989). Though grow­ing settlements surround Tari, most people live in scattered settlements situated amid declining amounts of forest. Increasingly, people are moving closer to a rural network of roads and tracks which host minor aid posts, schools, and mission outposts. Although Huli continue to practice traditional resi­dential and subsistence patterns, mining activities and development projects are changing the area. In major centers like Tari, trucks with gas pipes and other mining equipment and Toyota passenger buses bounce over largely unpaved roads. Occasionally one may also see camera-laden tourists walking around in search for wigged men and traditionally dressed women.

Among the cosmopolitan throng of Western outfitted Huli, including many gamblers and drunken bar patrons, one regularly sees elaborately decorated men. These wigged men are usually on their way to a display somewhere in the Tari Basin, whether for local competition or for tourists. The appearance of these dancers is a welcome variation to the bored and drunken men who feel alienated from the mod­ ern economy and constrained by the traditions of their older relatives in the villages. These troubled men are often called raskols (‘Juvenile delinquents”) or pipiaman (“rubbish man”)-modern versions of Iba Tiri, one off the first Huli ancestors renowned for his uncontrolled sexuality and disordered behavior. Iba Tiri is associated with disorder, sickness, and irresponsibility. Appropriately, he dresses deviant in violation of Huli dress codes that radiate purity and masculine strength (see below; Goldman, 1993, 1995).

In a rural area about 20 km northwest of Tari, the village of Hedemali straddles the loose surface road that runs to Koroba. From the road, Hedemali is nothing more than a community school, a large tin­ roofed Catholic Church, and some trade stores scat­ered among patches of forest Only the colorful for­tified gate toa tourist lodge called Lakwanda evokes a Huli past. Proud of this lodge and the regular vis­its of Western tourists, many Hedemali villagers proclaim themselves closer to “modernity” than those in more remote places.

Since 1988, 30 men in Hedemali have operated a venture called turis bisnis (“enterprise or business related to tourism”). Bisnis means modem “business” activities that generate cash, such as cash crops ventures, small trade stores, the sale of Mutrus ciga­rettes by women, transportation and cargo services, and local pubs (bia klap). The term bisnis may also be applied to ceremonial exchanges that include transactions of cash. [See Foster (1995), Neumann (1992), and Otto (1990) for similar connotations of bisnis as a cultural category on Baluan, Tanga, and among the Tolai, respectively.] Turis bisnis also has less material motives, despite the jealousy it causes among those who contend that its only purpose is to make profit on wealthy Westerners. The owners of the turis bisnis argue that they foster relations with foreigners by showing them Hull customs and skills (mana). They see their turis bisnis as a way to en­ hance their own power and prestige while cultivating the prestige of the Huli as a whole.

The Lakwanda Lodge and Cultural Center opened in mid-1989 and has grown into the sec­ond major tourist resort in Huli land beside the much bigger and luxurious Ambua Lodge, but has made it into the Lonely Planet bible for Papua New Guinea (Lipscomb, McKinnon, & Murray, 1998). McKie and McKie (1991) describe Lakwanda as a village guesthouse “offering budget priced accom­modation and the opportunity for guests to live within a Huli community for a few days” and “of­fering a unique experience” (p. 16). In the 6th edi­tion of Lonely Planet’s Papua New Guinea travel guide Lakwanda Lodge is described as well worth visiting for the scenery and the culture (Lipscomb et al., 1998).

The lodge was built on the advice of an Austra­lian traveler, who stayed 3 days in Hedemali in 1988. He talked at length with a local intellectual, Benedict Mindiria, who had just returned from France where he obtained a master’s degree in agriculture. The two discussed the prospects of building a resort for the increasing amount of Western tourists who want to travel beyond the Ambua Lodge. After discussing the possibilities of creating a guesthouse with the main leader of the Yugu clan in Hedcmali, Peter Payape, Mindiria contacted the tour operator Trans Niugini Tours based in Mount Hagen. They showed immediate interest to have an establishment in a ru­ ral area for trekking groups.

When Mindiria returned to Hedemali with the promise of an economically viable enterprise, he successfully mobilized Hedemali villagers for the project Trans Niugini Tours financed materials such as nails, blankets, a water tank, pots, and pans. Some 20local men, selected and directed by Peter Payape, built five bush-material houses on the slope of a nearby hill and a more sturdy, tin-roofed dining room on the top of the hill. The dining room also func tions as a meeting place for the lodge administra­tors to talk bisnis. The lodge is beautifully landscaped with shrubs and orchids, and a colorful gate that shields the premises from sight. From the top of the hill one has an astonishing view of the Tagali River and the green mountain range between Mount Pagaruma and Mount Huriba in the background.

At the back of the hill there is a small house in­ habited by an old man, Tomberia, and his 12-year­ old son, Thomas. Their dusty and smoky house serves to display stone axes, bows, arrows, pearl shells, cowry strings, wigs, feathers, and hand drums for tourists. The house is presented to tour­ists as a representation of a haroli site (haroli anda) where men formerly taught novices hunting skills, genealogies, the art of body decoration and dance, and other important knowledge (haroli mana, see below). Until the mid-1970s, Tomberia was a well­ respected haroli aba tutor for novices from the Buli clan who are neighbors of the Yugu. When mis­sionaries forced the abandonment of the cult, Tomberia lost much of his former respect. He re­ gained his position when regional, national, and tourist shows became serious business, and Tomberia’s knowledge and skills became impor­tant again. The Lakwanda dancers needed Tomberia for making and repairing wigs and magic spells for successful display, because there was no one left among the Yugu people who still knew how to prepare good body art. Tomberia also received sup­ port to teach Thomas his knowledge.

Tomberia usually sits by a fire in his smoke-filled house repairing or making wigs. With his body cov­ered with ash, wearing only a girdle strap with a knitted apron and leaves covering his bottom, many tourists think that he is some kind of shaman pos­sessing mysterious tribal powers. Tour guides ex­ plain that Tomberia maintains the powers of the haroli, a cult that resembles male initiation cults in the Sepik, which they have either already “seen” at an earlier stage of their Papua New Guinea adventure or have heard of before coming to Huli land. Behind Tomberia and Thomas’ house is a fake burial platform. It displays a skull that most Western visi­tors take as evidence of cannibalism.

Peter Payape and three other prominent Yugu op­erate the Lakwanda bisnis. The four small houses, accommodating four people each, are separately owned and maintained by the four Lakwanda men. They individually collect the revenues of each house (around US$25 per night per tourist) directly from the tour guides. The tourists come on average once a month in groups of 8 to 12 people and are divided over the houses according to a fixed ratio. The lead­ers also select men to participate in the performances and the preparation of meals for the visitors.

Hedemali villagers generally see the four Lakwanda men as headmen (agali haguene) who have successfully exploited Western tourism. The four men, born in the 1930s, graduated from the now virtually defunct haroli bachelor cult. This cult ma tured and ritually cleansed bachelors according to specific knowledge and skills (haroli mana). From about the age of 15, young boys gathered in the bush for at least 2 years. There they underwent harsh ritu­ als to clean their bodies, eyes, and minds of female pollution. During their stay in the bush they were not allowed to have contact with women. This pro­ hibition protected them from polluting substances, ensured purity, and developed masculine strength. Purificatory rituals assured the attainment of matu­rity, knowledge, and aggressive qualities. Besides attaining strength and manda (“knowledge”), the novices grew their hair with the aid of special kinds of leaves, water, and magic. From these hairs they made wigs (manda).

The graduated bachelors are favored husbands and typically become prominent men in society, leaders who have secured the “attainment of manda (‘knowl­edge’)” (Goldman, 1983a, p. 239). Consequently, the four Lakwanda men, as haroli graduates, enjoy the status of the skills that gave them access to power to mobilize labor and to secure land for a tourist lodge. Moreover, these powerful men were able to raise capital through remittances sent home by their sons working on coffee plantations in the Western or Eastern Highlands.

There exists general agreement among men, par­ticularly among those engaged in the turis bisnis, that only they are able to successfully command the modern world. They cultivate images of men who are seriously concerned with the welfare of their village and its worldwide fame. Some men suggested to me that present-day male bisnis is a continuation of their traditional (and current) concern with trans­ actions and exchange of pigs for bride-wealth, pay­ments of compensation, sacrifices to the ancestors, or supportive gifts to friends. They generally do not allow women to participate in male bisnis. Most women believe that men throw away money, drink too much beer, and are too pleased with themselves. The men believe the women have an incorrigible tendency to endlessly complain about what men do. Men often stereotype women as quarrelsome, back­ ward, and traditional; fit only for pig husbandry, children, and agricultural chores.

Modem gender relations still reflect the dominant Huli male ideology of pollution that surrounds “fe­male sexuality” (Clark, 1993; Oark & Hughes, 1995; Goldman, 1983a). In daily life, males live separate from females, grow food in separate gardens, and cook and eat food in their own houses. Children up to the age of 6 usually live in their mothers’ houses, after which they move in with close male relatives. Men’s fear of female pollution informs many of the cleansing rituals in the haroli institution and affects to the meanings of body decoration and display (see below).

Besides the differences between male and female, religion provokes conflicting opinions about the Lakwanda enterprise and Huli body art. All men engaged in the turis bisnis are Catholics. Most op­ position against turis bisnis, particularly the staging of traditional dances, comes from adherents of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. The Seventh-Day Adventist denomination, which has grown rapidly in the Southern Highlands over the last few decades, attracts a small but growing group of people in Hedemali. The Seventh-day Adventists strongly re­ ject everything that they see as bad and unworthy Huli traditions, including the Huli language and Tok Pisin (cf. Jebens, 1997). The Adventists promote the use of Western clothing, schooling, and English. According to many Adventists, my interest in body decoration was “stupid” and “arrogant” and they particularly condemned me for participating in Huli dancing. None of the Adventists support the tourist lodge. The Catholics in Hedemali do not fear the Adventists. Instead, they reject their Christian broth­ers and sisters’ opposition to Huli tradition as igno­rant of its potential as a resource to engage in the modem world.

Competing opinions aside, the majority of Hedemali villagers are proud of the turis bisnis and the growing fame of Huli traditions throughout the world. People from elsewhere in Huli land also sup­ port Lakwanda and are now building their own houses for tourists as something positive. Some of them have started building houses for tourists, ready­ing dancers for shows, and collecting material ob­jects for display. Many of these new tourist opera­ tors court Trans Niugini Tours for business. Before going into more detail about the motivation of these people, in particular among the Lakwanda men, we will consider how Huli present themselves to West­ ern tourists, and how these interactions affect Huli relationships with modernity.

Performing for Tourists

White Americans comprise the majority of tour­ists at the lodge, but during my 6-month stay in Hedemali I also encountered an Italian group and two Israeli families. Tourists are mostly prosperous middle-aged professional men and women-managers, salespersons, physicians, lawyers, scientists, administrators, and teachers who purchased a ticket offered by the Travel Corporation of America from Trans Niugini Tours. Expectations of idyllic places and smiling natives in untouched places motivate most visitors. This desire to see Papua New Guinea’s primitive cultures is exploited by glossy brochures and tour guides.
During many conversations with tourists, I noted their envy of the Huli as unconventional, improvi­dent, free, and gypsy-like. These visitors to Huli land want to break away occasionally from the constraints experienced in Western society, perhaps in an attempt at self-discovery (cf. MacCannell, 1976). They see their journey through Papua New Guinea as a way to understand, witness, and learn about an “authentic” people on an increasingly fragile planet. Many tourists express environmental concerns about de­ forestation, the large-scale mining, and pollution. The Huli and other Papua New Guineans allow tourists to express dissatisfaction with Western cultural norms, excessive industrialization, and moderniza­tion. The Huh evoke a fabricated world where exotic Huli wigmen, adorned with body art, become valuable tourists commodities. The presence of an anthropologist added to the authenticity of the people. Why else would an anthropologist be out there? An anthropologist was, in the eyes of the visi­ tors, a lone adventurer struck out to an unknown part of the world seeking exotic objects of study, to discover unusual social lives and astonishing cus­toms (cf. Errington & Gewertz, 1989).

During the endless numbers of photographs and hours of video recordings, Huh men do their best to entertain the visitors. They prepare food in a ground­ oven, play bamboo panpipes, bamboo jaw’s harps and double string musical bows, make fire with a stick and bamboo strings, and sing courting songs in the evenings. But the tourists come to see elabo­rately decorated Huli men dancing. On the last morn­ing of their 2-day stay at the Lakwanda lodge, just before lunch, the tourists enjoy the beauty of mali dancing.

Early in the morning, the dancers begin their preparations at a nearby creek. They take care not to be seen by women because their looks would pol­ lute and dull the decorations. After carefully unpack­ ing wigs, plumes, and other items, they place string girdles around their waists and affix red netted aprons with hanging pig tails. Then they put on woven fi­ber bands around their biceps and lower legs to which they add red clay coloring. Strings of Job’s tears (Coix lacryma-jobi) and necklaces made of cowrie shells, bead shells, and cassowary quills are slipped on next. Crescent-shaped pearl shells are placed on top of the bundled necklaces and a Hornbill pen­dant hangs on their backs. The dancers help each other with the snake skin or bead headbands that will support their wigs. Cooperation is also needed to affix the plume and feather adorned wigs on their heads. Wig placement is followed by torso oiling, face painting in yellow and red patterns, and the threading of shell ornaments through the holes in their ears. Finally, the dancers insert dry blades of grass, Cockatoo feathers, or cassowary quills through their pierced nasal septums. When ready, the ritual specialist Tomberia will cast spells over the dancers to give them strength and to impart brightness and radiance to their decorations.

At around 11:00, drum beating and shouting be­ hind shrubs signals the dancers’ appearance at the dancing ground. The dancers slowly enter the open space in a line, while the tourists, loaded with cam­ eras and video gear, sit quietly on wooden benches under a thatched roof. Amid the whining and click­ing of cameras, the dancers form 2 lines facing each other some 3 feet apart. Beating their hand drums in unison to accentuate every second beat, the dancers synchronically jump up and down, flexing their knees and bobbing together in unison. A two-tone shout known as mali iwa accompanies this move­ ment. The plumes wave on the wigs as buttock cov­erings of vivid green branches and leaves sticking up the dancers’ backs move up and down in the same rhythm. The performance lasts approximately an hour. After the show the tourists discuss the amount of film used to capture this extraordinary performance. They hurry to lunch after which they walk to the Tagali River to board rafts for a spectacular journey through a gorge. There is half an hour left for some explanations of the dance. Stephen, a Huli guide from Wabia, evaluates the dance in English:

I give an explanation about the dance. If you want to stand between the dancers and take pictures, it is open now while they are lined up. So go back to your countries and show your wantoks [“compatri­ots”, the meaning is known to some tourists). Show them the wigmen, our beautiful decorations we only have … The sing sing is not started today or when the whites discovered this area … This singsing was started from our ancestors and this is still on today. So in the old days when they wanted to do a singsing they do singsing when they have a big fight with other clans. We have individual clans here in the Huli area. When they finish with the fight, the winners do the dancing. They want to feel happy and proud like the bird of paradise when it wants to display … So its real meaning is about the bird of paradise, the Raggiana bird of paradise and that was started from our generations in the old days … The oil [poured over the upper part of the body) comes from a tigasso tree. We do not find this oil around here. We trade them two hundred, two hundred and fifty kilometers out here [point­ing to the south]. This is from our neighbors, the cannibals. They were cannibals in the olden days. But the government came and they stopped it. They learned a lesson from a priest and so they stopped it-eating people … [At this point the guide calls up Peter Payape and urges him to stand near to him in front of the tourists) Peter Payape, the chief of this clan. [Adopting the term “chief’ for this Hedemali headman is, I suggest, the result of Stephen’s familiarity with Americans stereotyping Native Americans. Errington & Gewertz (1989, p. 53, n.6) also notice the use of the term chief among tourists visiting the Chambri.] He has some words to say with us before when we leave … [Peter ut­ters some words in Huli]. He is saying that he wel­comes everybody here in his village. Now he is say­ing thank you very much for staying two nights with us in his village. He is very sad that you leave. He wants us to stay with him all the time in his village. However, we have to go back. He is asking you to tell the people in your countries how the wigmen culture is. He [Peter] said, we are different altogether from the countries in the world-the wigmen are different. The cultures are still on … Therefore, he said we can all put on these Western clothes and stay together and even here, some people have Western clothes. Everybody in the villages has their own tra­ditional clothes and you will not find this in other Provinces in the country. This is the only place, here in the Huli area. This is the last place for the whites to discover, so we are still on our own cultures and on our own traditions as always … So he is saying, friends, thanks.

Two themes stand out in this lecture. Firstly, Stephen appeals to the romantic notions of the tour­ists. He invites the guests to pose among the dancers to take photographs with the theme “I was there among the natives” (Fig. 1). Meanwhile, he regales the tourists with stories of cannibalism practiced by southern neighbors. Secondly, Stephen and Peter Payape explain that wigs and mali are an ancestral legacy that distinguishes the Huli from other Papua New Guineans and people in other countries.

Economic and development concerns motivate the dancing, the lodge, and turis bisnis generally. How­ ever, many men are also eager to dance for tourists as an honorable activity for foreign guests. Dancing allows the men to express vanity, pride, and beauty to these foreigners. Each dancer earns about US$7 when displaying for tourists, but when I remarked that one could only buy 4 bottles of beer for this amount of money (which is what the dancers gener­ally did right after the performance), they replied by arguing that, of course, 4 bottles would never make a man drunk, but that it was much more important to have a photograph of oneself taken by a tourist. Dressing up and dancing mali for tourists give Huli men a visible status in the world. Why do Huli men downplay the economics of mali dancing and stress the importance of gaining worldwide fame? To answer this question I will first look at the meanings of mali decorations and then trace the recent history of this dance. I will suggest that dancing mali in the tourist lodge continues tra­ditional ways of expressing cultural identity through bodily adornment and display.

From Haroli Displays to Mali for Tourists The meanings of headdresses, plumes, face paintings, headbands, and other performance regalia is a complex subject that has received little attention (Feld, 1982; O’Hanlon, 1983, 1989, 1992; Sillitoe, 1988; Strathern, 1979; Strathern, 1985; Strathern & Strathern, 1971). While scholars have rarely exam­ined the rich traditions of body art in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea, they are of great importance to Highlander identities. The existing literature on the Huli has linked self-adornment to sexual antago­nism (Glasse, 1974), physiological and sociologi­cal connotations of the skin (Frankel, 1986), Huli speech forms (Goldman, 1983a), and male health and sexual abstinence and birds of paradise symbolism (Goldman, 1983b). In my M.A. thesis (1993) I have related Huli body art to ideas about authen­ticity as expressed by Huli, tourists, and anthropologists.

Huli limit their material art forms to the decora­tion of the body. Body art is the “aesthetic locus” of Huh society; it is “a privileged field where aware­ ness and performance are higher, where expectations and efforts converge” (Maguet, 1986). To understand this clan. [Adopting the term “chief’ for this Hedemali headman is, I suggest, the result of Stephen’s familiarity with Americans stereotyping Native Americans. Errington & Gewertz (1989, p. 53, n.6) also notice the use of the term chief among tourists visiting the Chambri.] He has some words to say with us before when we leave … [Peter ut­ters some words in Huli]. He is saying that he welcomes everybody here in his village. Now he is say­ ng thank you very much for staying two nights with us in his village. He is very sad that you leave. He wants us to stay with him all the time in his village. However, we have to go back. He is asking you to tell the people in your countries how the wigmen culture is. He [Peter] said, we are different altogether from the countries in the world-the wigmen are different. The cultures are still on … Therefore, he said we can all put on these Western clothes and stay together and even here, some people have Western clothes. Everybody in the villages has their own tra­ditional clothes and you will not find this in other Provinces in the country. This is the only place, here in the Huli area. This is the last place for the whites to discover, so we are still on our own cultures and on our own traditions as always … So he is saying, friends, thanks.

Two themes stand out in this lecture. Firstly, Stephen appeals to the romantic notions of the tour­ ists. He invites the guests to pose among the dancers to take photographs with the theme “I was there among the natives” (Fig. 1). Meanwhile, he regales the tourists with stories of cannibalism practiced by southern neighbors. Secondly, Stephen and Peter Payape explain that wigs and mdli are an ancestral legacy that distinguishes the Huli from other Papua New Guineans and people in other countries.

These expectations and the efforts that Huli men put into embellishing their bodies, we need to examine the expressive qualities of decorations and head­ dresses. The expressive potential of wigs is largely related to haroli mana, the rituals of the bachelor cult. Haroli mana promotes an ideal state of physi­cal well-being and social distinction (see also Frankel, 1986; Goldman, 1983a). Haroli ensured the cultivation of unpolluted bachelors by detoxifying their bodies and souls of female-induced contagions. Once married, men enter the dangerous realm of sexual reproduction, orderly cultivation, pig hus­bandry, and, inevitably to male pollution, sickness, and ultimate decline. The bachelor cult effectively ended after the introduction of missionary activities in the 1950s. Taboos that once reserved certain land and forest regions for the cults have disappeared, clearing the way for new gardens and timber has­ vesting for house building and for sale to the gov­ernment and the missions. One cult place in Kebia has been refurbished and now serves as a tourist site. The Kebia site has no traditional function, although people do their best to invest it with an aura of pride and mysticism to visitors (see Timmer, 1993).

In the 1960s, government officials and mission­aries saw mali as the entertainment of a primitive people who needed pacification and conversion to Christianity. The Christian mission legislated the first deliberate cultural “editing” by supporting “custom­ary” (secular, social) culture, and opposing (truly) “pagan” (religious) heresies. When the haroli cult was denounced as “pagan; the lore for bodily adorn­ ment was threatened in role to support expressions of manliness, pride, beauty and achievements of power, and knowledge. Mali, however, was toler­ated by the new and nationally sanctioned religion. As Christianity gained momentum, Hull mali flour­ished, largely to brighten up Christmas celebrations where the dance was renamed kris mali. The mis­sion thus set the stage for the redefinition of this dance.

In precontact times, mali performances were the most important occasions for men to show their embellished headdresses. The bright red-and-yellow face paint motifs contrasted with black face paint, which is associated with death, danger, and destruc­tion and required for raids, hunting, and dispute meetings. Mali celebrated the death of an enemy or the tege ritual cycle, which involved competitive cycles of reciprocal exchange of pigs and pork (see Ballard, l 994; Frankel, 1986). The semantic coa­ lescence of mali (“celebratory dance”) and mali (“death platform”) indicates the sense in which mali metaphorically celebrates death (Goldman, 1983a). In any case, the mali performances were occasions to enhance one’s own performance, and to diminish that of an opposing team. This was most clearly pro­ nounced when a group of men presented their virility, strength, and vigor to a defeated enemy and taunted them. Perhaps dancing for tourists is a similar deliberate presentation to a people to whom Huli feel superior or whose strength and beauty they wish to counteract.

Goldman (1983) explains that public displays of men, including the perambulations of haroli, are inextricably bound to the sexual divisions in Huli society. Dancing in full attire is done at cleared pub­lic dance grounds (hama) in opposition to the pri­vate world of domestic activities; the unseen, unre­corded, and covert (anda).Hama represents an arena for the presentation of self and display. Major “pub­lic” events, such as compensation payments and dis­putes, take place on hama; it is where exchange be­ havior, with pigs, paint, or parlance, is publicly registered and where only the best or purest forms of material should be used (Goldman, 1983a). In­terestingly, the main dance ground in Hedemali cur­rently lies within the confines of the tourist lodge that is a male venture.

The prominent role of men in turis bisnis con­ forms to the changing role of mali dancing in Huli society. Huli men feel an increasing need to protect themselves against females, the agents of illness transmission. Clark and Hughes (1995) point out that new Huli ideas about female and sexual pollution center on pasindia Tiris (”prostitutes,””sinimpets”), migrations of coastal people to the Highlands carryi­ng nambis poison (“sorcery that is thought to origi­nate from coastal areas”), and gold from the Mount Kare alluvial gold mine. Pollution in these modern contexts is associated with females, and can be seen as a metacommentary on the Huli experience of encapsulation by the power of the postcolonial state” (Oark & Hughes, 1995, p. 336).

Although the old haroli institution allowed men to cleanse themselves and become dominant males, the absence of the cult made men feel more vulner­able to pollution. The virtual disappearance of this institution and the increasing threat by female pollution have, I suggest, transformed mali dancing into a form of persistence against modem threats. Self­ decoration has thus grown in importance in main­taining (or reshaping) gendered relations of power. The decorated body has increasingly become the domain of men’s expertise. Women either admire or ignore the male display, but they play a small role in mali and other male bisnis.

Older face painting designs were less spectacu­larly colored than the ones applied today. Accord­ing to informants and early Huli photographs in, for example, Sinclair’s books, the patterns, however, following an accepted formula, have remained the same. The basic pattern for mali is a division of the face with 2 curving lines across the cheeks running from nose to ears, and a line on the nose that may cease at the bridge of the nose or divide the fore­ head. The nose line is white with black or blue spots, while the red, blue, and white lines on the cheeks may number from 2 to 4. Toe 2 lines running from the nose, following the eyebrows to the ears, sup­posedly resemble the tail feathers of the Raggiana bird of paradise. These lines are painted in dots or stripes, using the orange/reddish-brown baked clay known as harene hare. These lines are inspired by the orange stripes on the black hairs of pigs, also called mali.

The head is the prime focus of aesthetic attention in Huli society and “[t]he centre of a man’s beauty is in his hair” (Goldman, 1983b, p. 481). Male hair, like the wigs made from it, is a highly sensitive site of beauty. The elaborate coiffures made during bach­elorhood, and the techniques for adorning the body and dancing, are associated with these ideals of manhood. The shapes of the haircuts in haroli displays and the shapes of wigs in mali dancing indicate the social standing of the graduate haroli. The types of hair shapes also symbolize masculinity, cleanness, and mana.

First, the bachelors fashion a mushroom-shaped manda tene (“first hair”) that goes with faces painted with charcoal and playing pan-pipes during displays. Toe young men announce their “crudeness” with the simple charcoal color, while the pan-pipes signify playfulness. At regular intervals, the boys emerge from the bush in their bachelor costume decorative to publicly display their status. The perambulations were intended to display the quality the bachelors’ hair, wigs, and body decoration. After graduation from the cult, the young men cut their hair and add locks of hair from other men to make wigs. Depend­ing on the achieved haroli status they would either make a down-turned manda tene or up-turned manda hare (“red hair”) wig. The manda hare is comple­mented by red and yellow face-paint, tree-oil on their torsos, and a “virile” bow (Goldman, 1983a). Men with manda hare keep the maruia tene for everyday decoration. The manda hare, rimmed with flowers, Lorikeet feathers, and plumes is reserved for spe­cial display during mali.

Magnificent wigs, brightly colored face paint­ing, and spectacular, waving plumes not only evoke power and virility for a male audience, they repre­sent the personal attractiveness and endurance that attract women. Individual men may be motivated to dance from the experience that to decorate and to dance is to enhance one’s character and beauty to attract females. Courting behavior during re­gional or national celebrations is prominent and considered appropriate. The idea of becoming at­ tractive to women makes men sexually excited be­ fore and during tourist performances. Though men speculate about having sex with white tourists, this is strongly discouraged by the tour guides. Sexual excitement begins from the moment the dancers dress, paint their faces, and place wigs on their heads in the early morning. There is much joking about erections during the dances caused by the rubbing of the knitted loincloth. Discussions rage about who will attract the eligible women after the dance.

Toe Authenticity of Mali

Junu Huli
l am Huli
Bauwa payabu bidago
With Bauwa leaves (Casuarina) as a tanget [but­tock covering]
Bai tola payabu bidago
With Bai leaves (Castanopsis acuminatissima) as a tanget
Aulai do manda deneru henedago
With yellow flowers (Helichrysum bracteatum) in the hair
Ira Habano pu larogoli
I used to plant the Habono tree (Rapanea fam. Myrsinaceae)

(Gurubugu, previous headman of Koma, cited in Goldman, 1983a, p. 297)

Huli mali is an important marker of Huli ethnicity. Although bureaucrats, tourists, linguists, and anthro­ pologists use the term “Huli” to indicate the Huli­ speakers, the most authentic label for Huli ethnicity is hela huli. Hela huli refers to their putative ancestor, Hela, which they share with three neighboring groups. Mali essentially derives its authenticity and status from an association with this early ancestor. Consequently, Stephen, the tour guide, stresses that mali is an ancestral legacy. This assertion reflects a Huli ideology that holds that self-adornment, and in particular mali dancing, represents personal and group identity that is strongly related to the founding ancestors and mana.
Recounting the spread of knowledge and skills, specific narrative genres detail items for bodily adornment. According to one account, mali origi­nated as human practice when dancing plumed birds were chased away by an eagle (see Timmer, 1993). The birds flew in different directions; some went to the east, others to the south, while the less colorful ones stayed in Huli country. Since these dramatic events, Huli have traded with neighboring groups to get the valued plumes for their headdresses.
Other narratives describe mali dancing as an es­sential part of the mana shared out among 4 dis­tinct groups of hela descendants: the hela huli, the hela obena (lpili, Enga, and Mendi, including · Wola), the hela duguba (Papuan Plateau groups, including Kaluli, Onabasulu, Etoro, and Bedamini), and hela duna (Duna speakers) (Ballard, 1994; see also Biersack, 1995). Huli traded with their neigh­bors and other non-Huli groups prior to contact to acquire and redistribute scarce stone axe blades, salt, tree oil, black palm bow staves, shell, mineral oil, pigs, plumes, and spiritual items such as spells and rituals. Huli distinguish their trading neighbors according to the mana divisions in styles of self­ adornment and display. Huli tend to see themselves as the most developed people in the area and, for example, duguba and hewa (Foi- and Fasu-speak­ ers, not related as descendants of hela) are seen as backwards. These are the southern Huli neighbors that Stephen accuses of being former man-eaters. Duna and obena are considered to be more like the Huli and the most distinguishing feature of the Huli mentioned in relation to them is the style and qual­ity of bodily adornment and the unapproachable Huli mali. The original spread of mana and the resulting compartmentalization of the knowledge and skills make up a real culture with direct interaction linking all the groups which are classified, among other characteristics, according to styles of bodily adornment and display (cf. Schwartz, 1975). Huli conceptions of ethnicity are thus related to their hela “brothers” and are most clearly expressed in decorative styles and dance forms.

A special form of Huli narrative, the pureremo, recites the process of mana distribution among the four Hela peoples (Goldman, 1983a). Goldman (1983a) recorded one pureremo, which describes that hela huli were endowed with yellow and purple flow­ered wigs, arrows with decorated shafts, pan-pipes, double-stringed musical bow, Jew’s harp, and aprons made from pig’s tails and hand drums; hela duna obtained an axe, certain aprons, feathers worn in the hair, and string-caps; hela obena received a certain dance style, small cowrie shells, and spears made from a Lai tree; and hela duguba were endowed with their tree oil, axe, bow, species of cane, dog-teeth necklace, bamboo through their nose, hair style, shouting style, and killing stick. My informants added to this that hela duguba got the dance called dawe gereya, hela duna the dance tele te, and that the hela huli obtained their mali.

Another pureremo, recorded by Goldman (1983a), shows how Huli adapt distinguishing features of administrative culture into this traditional poetic form. It enumerates that duguba build houses in trees with sago fronds, duna build houses with roofs of pandanus leafs, obena build houses with roofs of cane, huli build houses with roofs of grass, and honebi (“whites”) build houses with tin roofs. Both these texts not only indicate how Huli negotiate their identity in speech forms. they also reveal the value attached to visible aspects of culture. In particular, items for body decoration and dance styles are clear markers of Huli identity; they are the most impor­tant medium for expression of mana.

Goldman argues that pureremo illuminate aspects of Huli life: ancestral reckoning, genealogical claims to land, kinship relations, exchange behavior, roles in large-scale rituals, sexual mores, and decorative accouterments for wars. Pureremo often function as an educational medium to articulate knowledge or cultural truths. The extract cited at the beginning of this section is derived from a speech made to mem­bers of the Koma clan {laluba valley, Koroba sub-district) enjoining them to collect compensation for two victims. The other two pureremo are also typi­cally invoked in argumentation and afford cultural uniformity, cultural unity, and ethnicity: Mana functions as a symbol of identity and integrity as succes­ sive levels from the individual to the tribe, and af­ fords the Huli criteria for self-definition: ina mama mamali naga mana ogome mo mbiyaore kemagoni (“the mana of our ancestors makes us one”) (Goldman, 1983a, p. 67). Goldman (p. 45) glosses mana as “custom” or “culture,” and observes that as discourse, mana actualizes and “encapsulates a socio-historical accounting of knowledge” (p. 67). By relating mali to mana, Huli appeal to the author­ity of mana to establish this dance as an ancestral legacy. Mali in this sense represents Huli mana.

To found these categorizations Huli provide pureremo that relate them to mana and gives them epistemic validity. They were often voiced in Huli and then explained to me in Tok Pisin when I in­ quired after the differences in self-adornment and display between Huli and their neighbors, and be­ tween Huli and dress styles of other, mostly African peoples, which I showed to them on plates. In ways similar to the pureremo, which adapts features of administrative culture, Huli have recently placed the Western tourists in their known universe in which mali provides an important way to express identity. In their interaction with tourists, bodily adornment functions in much the same way and has thus be­ come an important object in the turis bisnis.

Embracing and Commanding the World Promising economic benefits account for some of the initial motivation of turis bisnis. Though all of the four bisnis leaders asserted that they were able and willing to subsist without money, they craved beer, sugar, canned mackerel, rice, shoes, watches, radios, hats, and cars. Moreover importantly, the new-found riches of tourism funds bride prices. Ironically, these same leaders do see the tourist en­terprise as the key to economic viability. The Huli economy depends mostly on remittances sent by, relatives working elsewhere in faraway mines, plan­tations, or other jobs. For Huli, remittances are the only realistic way of gaining economic prosperity. The men running the lodge, by contrast, earn far less money. However, within 4 years the coordinators of the lodge saved the considerable sum of US $20,000.00 in a shared account at the Bank of Papua New Guinea in Tari. In November 1991, they spent this money on a second-hand Mitsubishi truck in Mt. Hagen to transport people and cargo to and from Tari and Koroba. This enterprise contributes to the financial prosperity and the fame of these trav­eling entrepreneurs.

Lucrative economics aside, the turis bisnis is seen as an means to gain local control of modernization. This is most clearly expressed in a document writ­ ten by Benedict Mindiria (1991). Mindiria explains that since the early 1950s different forms of outside control were imposed upon Huli society. Initially, it was the Australian Colonial Administration that nominated influential “tribal members” as luluais (“local headman appointed by the government”). A decade later, luluais were replaced by elected coun­cilors and in 1975 the colonial administration was put to an end. For Mindiria, Papua New Guinea’s independence gave its people the ability “to con­tinue [to] maintain their dignity, respect, influence, and authority.”

After independence, radical changes affected the lives of the Huli people and then the “traditional lead­ ers” who made first contact with whites. National political, legal, and economic systems undermined the authority of the traditional leadership and local institutions. Furthermore, a cash market economy based on coffee and wage labor altered the “estab­lished subsistence agriculture and traditional lives of the people.” Mindiria (1991) states that these “modem transitional factors” necessitated a revalu­ation of the moral values and attitudes of the people. Local leaders felt a heavy responsibility to address these “modernising development factors” lest they lose further dignity, self-respect, influence, and au­thority. Mindiria suggests that the Lakwanda lodge can give people in Hedemali an active role in the development of their local society, Papua New Guinea, and the wider modern world.

The objectives of the Lakwanda lodge formulated by Mindiria (1991) can be summarized as follows:
(a) presentation of local “pride, identity and self­ respect” by staging cultural activities for tourists and by extension the world system; (b) giving local school children the chance to learn older cultural activities; (c) providing national and overseas stu­ dents the opportunity to study and document the contemporary “profile” of Huli culture as an example of a “village-society under change”; and (d) teach­ing foreigners about Huli customs and vice versa in a “communicative, acquisitive or socialising pro­cess.” [For some years the Lakwanda Lodge has housed photography students attending the Interna­tional High School in Port Moresby. These “field trips” are designed to give some expatriate and coastal or island Papua New Guinean students pho­tographic opportunities (see McKie & McKie, 1991) and induces the school to produce calendars por­traying some magnificent photographs of adorned Huli men.]

Tourist lodge personnel and Hedemali villagers strongly reject the notion that they are somehow outside the modem world system and “just beginning” to use tourists to contact the state, Australia, America, or Europe. Instead, they remember the first Europeans who came to their land and the succes­sive precolonial and postcolonial events that con­nected Huli to the outside world. Huli understand these events according to local histories and cultural practice. While most Huli welcome foreign-inspired change, they believe that contact with external power and knowledge does not increase their access to it. The felt marginality arising from this observation forms the main ground for the need to express ethnicity in the modem world.

I have indicated that bodily adornment was important in the expression of maleness and ethnicity in the earlier regional context While haroli mana centers around the attainment of pure manhood, the pureremo indicate that mali is a marker of Huli ethnicity. What has recently contributed to the im­portance of mali is the displacement of Huli within powerful discourses on civilization and progress. This has led Huli to make difference matter more than before, fueled by an experienced cultural ho­mogenization and a sense of loss of identity and tra­dition. It is thus not surprising that an important way of expressing Huliness, namely self-decoration and dance, is used to articulate difference. Dancing Huli mali nowadays is a response, a reinterpretation, and a challenge to perceived hegemony. Informants would say that dancing for tourists is rewarding because tourist take their pictures home and talk about the Huli dancers. Some also stress that dancing mali gives some variety to life. Men who were eager to dance, but did not have the apparel or were not allowed to join the group, often expressed their disillusion in the following way: Ah, mi Les no gut tru, laip bilong me olsem nating (“ah, I feel very tired, my life is for nothing”). The en­ counter with tourists and the creative tradition of self-adornment and display in the performance of mali expresses Huli desire and agency within the modern world system. Huli embrace tourists to ex­press and protect their own traditions and identity. The focus on bodily adornment and dance at the tour­ist lodge appeals to Western tourists and the Huli desire to practice rituals that stress male potency, strength, and cultural identity. The new role of mali dance in a tourist context gives the wigmen of Huli a new look at their past, which many find important to continue.


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