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Indigenous Woodcraft from Papua


People who live in Papua are blessed for having abundant resources of natural potentials to harness. Moreover, they are well-known for their skills and creativity to create excellent pieces of arts and handcrafts. One of their well-known indigenous handcraft from Papua, is the handcraft that uses wood as the main material. Using wood, they can create many handcrafts such as unique hats, bags, paintings, sculptures, and many more. The indigenous handcraft from Papua has a fairly high economic value.

Tree Bark Painting

The tree bark painting came from the indigenous people who live around the Sentani lake. Therefore, it is one of the treasured indigenous handcraft from Papua. The tree bark painting is created by using tree bark as the canvas. They usually paint cultural symbols such as human, animals, and so on.  They use the tree bark from Khombouw tree to create beautiful indigenous handcraft from Papua.

When creating this painting, they process the tree bark before they use it for the painting by compacting it. The process of making this painting usually takes around a week. After it is completed, the tree bark painting could be sold at a fairly high price, around 50.000 IDR to 500.000 idr. The price is usually adjusted with the difficulty of the making process. Hence, the indigenous people can make the tree bark paintings as one of their main source of income.


One of their heritage is a unique hand knitted bag called Noken. The materials being used in Noken manufacture is mostly tree roots or tree barks. Then, the Mamas (the nickname for Papuans women) will knit the fibers in to a bag form.

Noken’s uniqueness does not stop there; the most unique character of the Noken is its way of using it. Noken is not draped over the shoulder or being carried by hand, but it’s being draped on the head. In December 4th 2012, Noken has been acknowledged by UNESCO as an “intangible cultural heritage.”

Traditional Wood Carving

When we think of indigenous handcraft from Papua, we usually think about traditional wood crafting. Traditional wood craft is one of the most well known indigenous handcraft from Papua and the most famous traditional wood crafting is from the Asmat tribe. Asmat traditional woodcraft usually have a uniquely distinctive and more difficult pattern. Hence, this wood crafts are sought by many tourists and art collectors.

The Asmat tribe usually make traditional woodcraft, by using stone axes, animal teeth, and also sharpened clam-shells. For the smoothing process, the Asmat tribe usually uses hog teeth, fish teeth, and oyster shells. Because of the difficulty in the making process, the traditional woodcraft is usually sold at a very high price and are highly valued. During the UNESCO Convention of 2003, the traditional woodcraft from Papua has been categorized as an “intangible cultural heritage.”


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