Dani tribe (Baliem Valley)

Published: 2015

Updated: 02/04/2018 – Replaced photos with newly edited high-resolution photos.

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The Baliem Valley, also called Shangri-la by American pilots that first spotted the valley’s population in the 1940`s. Before then, this part of the highlands was thought to be unhabited by people, but it wasn’t before the pilots saw people here aiming with spears and arrows, they was just in for a surprise that this was a quite “developed” area of the highlands. Developed, as in having many innovative organizational and material innovations, however ofcourse being within their traditional culture.

The Dani people are one of the most populated tribes of West Papua, and today number over 220.000 people. Around 100.000 of these live in the grand Baliem valley, the rest of them to the north, south and west. The Dani people neighbour the Yali, Nduga- and Damal people. There is one city in the Baliem valley, Wamena, that is a strange mix between Papuan and Indonesian society.

I most likely have visited the Baliem valley more than 10 times over a period from 2003-2010, having lost count because of the frequency during a period when I lived in West Papua. Most of the visits to the area was primarily dedicated to trekking in the area, sometimes, among others, as far out of Dani territory as to the Yali- and Mek tribal regions in the east.

2003-2010

Baliem-valley wamena papua west-papua tribe dani-tribe Yali tribal oceania
Baliem river running trough the Baliem Valley
Baliem-valley wamena papua west-papua tribe dani-tribe Yali tribal oceania
Approaching Wamena, the most populated (and only) town in Baliem valley. There is no road connection to the coast (as of 2010) so to get there you have to fly in.
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Wamena
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Wamena airport
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My first visit to the Valley in 2001.
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First meeting with the chief Yali Mabel. He is most likely the most photographed Dani tribesman of the Baliem Valley. During my many visits to the Baliem valley, I met him many times in town, and If I had visitors, I brought them to his village for a cultural experience. However it is very money oriented. 🙂
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The Kurima mummy. Local legend has it that its a mummified warrior, who died several hundred years ago.
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Hamlet of Traditional houses (Honai)
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Baliem-valley wamena papua west-papua tribe dani-tribe Yali tribal oceania
Inside a honai.
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Crossing the mountains between Wamena and Tiom.
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One of my porters resting enjoying the view towards Tiom village.
Baliem-valley wamena papua west-papua tribe dani-tribe Yali tribal oceania
Scenic hamlet on the mountainsside outside Tiom.
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Cultural performance on the Baliem Festival in 2003.
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Baliem-valley wamena papua west-papua tribe dani-tribe Yali tribal oceania
Before the age of phonecameras, a camera was actually something exciting to study.
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Traditional Dani-elder.
Baliem-valley wamena papua west-papua tribe dani-tribe Yali tribal oceania
A cool nose-piercing is obviously a painful investment
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Looking towards the mountains to the SW of the Baliem.
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Baliem-valley wamena papua west-papua tribe dani-tribe Yali tribal oceania
Hunters who managed to get a few Cuscus during their hunt.
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Preparing the Cuscus and sweet potatoes.
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Village kids
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During a memorial of a influential man in a village in South-Baliem
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Baliem-valley wamena papua west-papua tribe dani-tribe Yali tribal oceania
Around 50 pigs were slaughtered during the event, and prepared in earth-ovens (heated rocks placed on top of food wrapped in banana-leaves) called “Bakar Batu” by the highlanders including the Dani.
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3 generations
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Baliem-valley wamena papua west-papua tribe dani-tribe Yali tribal oceania
Lonely elder I met on a mountaintrail south in the Baliem Valley
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Baliem-valley wamena papua west-papua tribe dani-tribe Yali tribal oceania
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Baliem-valley wamena papua west-papua tribe dani-tribe Yali tribal oceania
Mountainside in west of the Baliem
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On one of the hillstops in the middle of the Baliem Valley there is a area of pure white sand.
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The south of Baliem.
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Baliem-valley wamena papua west-papua tribe dani-tribe Yali tribal oceania
My latest visit the the Mummy of Kurima.
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Baliem-valley wamena papua west-papua tribe dani-tribe Yali tribal oceania
A man belonging to the Yali tribe. The Yali traditionally wear these rattan-rings around the weist, the Dani dont wear these normally.
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One Response to Dani tribe (Baliem Valley)

  1. Dani people are an indigenous tribe, which dwelled in the Baliem valley in the time of its discovery. They belong to some the “most decorative” tribes in the west Papua.