Ambassadors of the jungle

Come with us to this forest which connects the purest nature and the most savage of their tribes.

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Papua New Guinea tribes have cannibal character, they perform seductive dances for courtship, they smear their bodies with mud to defend themselves, cook in the jungle , and perform rituals torturing her body to resemble their crocodile gods. 

These mysterious lands which seem to rise out of the clouds are the Highlands, in the east of the island of New Guinea, to the north of Australia. Ambassadors of the Jungle live here. The fierce nature of these tribes, the practice of cannibalism and the fact that some groups cut off the heads of their enemies all this made the island a fearful place, which travellers tried to avoid.

The ‘mud men’ tribe live near Goroca, along the upper reaches of the Asaro river. Their strange means of defence is to turn into spirits and frighten off their enemies. For this, they make these masks of mud which, with their grotesque, exaggerated features. Once they have finished their masks, the warriors daub their bodies with mud, which they will later dye grey with another, more liquid, type of mud.

Today they have gathered together to prepare mono.  The ‘monos’, the main ingredient, are small, sweet bananas, which they scrape with a bamboo cane knife, shredding them into small pieces. Once cooked, this pulp will be of the texture of a thick bechamel sauce.

The mummies of the Enga or Kukukuku that is the name normally given to these cannibal warriors who live on the plains of the Aseki river. Cannibalism has always been common practice among the Kukukuku, and it is this that has made them legendary.  They ate thieves and prisoners of war, after fattening them up for a while. Leaders and warriors who died in battle were mummified. Cannibalism has almost entirely died out, though there are still isolated cases of human flesh being eaten in the most remote regions.

An important institution for these peoples is the Tanimet, seductive dances or courting ceremony.  The men invite the women from a different village.  The Highlander culture is exogamous it is forbidden to marry relatives and so they have to look for wives outside their own village.  Men can have as many wives as they can support, but the women can have only one husband. The songs speak of love affairs, and list the obligations of the future wifes.  

The north of Papua New Guinea is the sepik river region. The spiritual life of these people is centred on the tambaran or house of the spirits. On special occasions, they get together, dressed in traditional costumes, and dance naked around the tambaran. In this way, they call on the spirits that protect them. 

In the village of Timbumeri, on the southern shore of lake Chambri, the garamut tom-toms sound out, announcing the initiation ceremony of the crocodile men. From dawn, all the men of the village start work, preparing the ritual. By the river, beside the tambaran, they build a crocodile nest. The uninitiated, and the women, are not allowed to see what happens inside this area which represents the heart of the spirit of the king of crocodiles.
The men of these societies in Sepik subject themselves to real torture. With several hundred cuts, their skin takes on the appearance of that of their crocodile gods.

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