Getting Know the Unique Arts of the Asmat Tribe in Papua

Getting Know the Unique Arts of the Asmat Tribe in Papua – The Asmat tribe is a tribe in Papua which gets famous for its unique wood carvings. This tribe is divided into two populations, namely the tribe living in the coast area and the one living in the hinterland. The both of the populations differ in many aspects such as way of life, dialect, ritual, and even social structure. This tribe from Papua believes that they come from the descendants of the god Fumeripitsy.

According to Asmat mythology, Fumeripitsy was attacked by a crocodile while walking from the headwaters to the sea. The mortar the god was carrying sank and a fight broke out. He succeeded to kill the crocodile, unfortunately he was badly injured. Fumeripitsy was taken care of by a flamingo while stranded on the banks of the Asewetsy river.

When he recovered, he built a Yew house, carved statues, and made drums. Fumeripitsy started to dance continually. The magic coming out of the dance bestowed life for the two statues that he carved. The living statues are the first human partners or ancestors of the Asmat Tribe.

The Language of Asmat Tribe

The language used by the Asmat people is classified based on the population area, namely the coastal area or downstream and upstream. The division of the downstream Asmat language is divided into parts of the northwest coast group and parts of the southwest coast group. While the division of the upstream Asmat language is divided into the Keenok and Kaimok groups.

The Various Arts of the Asmat Tribe

Besides being famous for the art of sculpture, there are various kinds of tribal arts from Papua. Shields and masks are also typical arts of the Asmat people.

1. The Art of Downstream Asmat and Upstream River

The Downstream Asmat and Upstream River arts are sculptures in a style arranged from top to bottom according to the ancestral lineage. The example of the statue  is “Mbis”.

2. The Art of East Asmat

Eastern Asmat art is a carved shield. This shield was generally made of a very large size, even exceeding the height of the Asmat. The top of the shield is decorated with black and red stripes, as well as white dots.

3. The art of Northwest Asmat

The art of the northwest Asmat Tribe is in the form of an oval statue and at the bottom it is slightly widened. At the head of the statue is in the form of a fish or turtle. Sometimes there are pictures of ancestors decorated with bodies of various types of animals.

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