Koteka: Traditional Clothes of Papua

Koteka is a traditional Papuan outfit specifically for male and are still worn in the highlands until now. Koteka is one of Indonesian culture, its unique shape may also be funny even some people thinks it’s pornographic, but the culture sometimes looks strange when seen from our point of view. Each region has its own culture, as well as the famous Papua with koteka. In addition to traditional clothing, koteka is also used as original souvenirs Papua. The meaning of koteka comes from the Mee language meaning “attire”. Meanwhile, the Dani tribe living in the Baliem Valley, Wamena, Jayawijaya regency calls this traditional men’s clothing by its own language, “horim”. Each tribe in Papua has their own terms to call it, but this traditional outfit is more known to be called koteka.

Koteka begins to form since the stretch of time, pumpkin is planted. After several months after growth, the gourd is tied up with stones to obtain a perpendicular shape. To get the curved shape of the pumpkin, before it is harvested, the hanging stone is removed. Koteka is made from a long, hard-skinned pumpkin skin or latin name Lagenaria Sicecaria. The tribe of Mee calls it bobbe. Bobbe is usually planted in the garden or in the yard. The process, bobbe is plucked (usually old) then inserted into the fine sand. On the fine sand flames a great fire, causing the skin to soften and its contents melt, then the seeds along with the liquid will come out of the bobbe. After that, the bobbe is hung (dried) over the fireplace to dry. Once dry, it is equipped with special plait and ready to use as koteka. Regarding the size and shape, the koteka is not related to the status of the wearer. Sizes usually relate to user activity, work or ceremony. Many tribes in Papua can be identified by the way they use koteka. Short ones are used during work, and long ones with ornaments are used in traditional ceremonies. However, each tribe has different forms of koteka.

Koteka has other functions as a marker of social status and even a symbol of resistance. Currently, people who still wear kotekas are found in Mee Pago (Mee and Moni) and La Pago (Lani, Dani, Yali, Katengban and Ngalum). These tribes are mostly settled in the Central Highlands of Papua (from Paniai Lake, the great valley of Baliem, and the Jayawijaya mountains). The formation of pumpkins had a specific purpose in Baliem society. The shape of koteka signifies the social class of the wearer as people who are known to have influence in society. If the Koteka is bent forward, the man must be Ap Kain or the leader of the confederation (clan leader). The middle class wears koteka whose side is curved sideways (haliag), among them is Ap Menteg (warlords) and Ap Ubalik (traditional healers and leaders), while the perpendicular forms may be worn by ordinary people.

The Dutch missionaries, who placed their first post in Papua in 1855, have known Koteka for centuries infliuenced rural communities to abandon their cyclical habits. For those who want to go to school, they provide a full suit, but the people in the Central Highlands did not completely abandon their koteka. In the 1950s the missionaries finally focused on other issues and left the problem about Papuan dressing to the people.

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