Noken is a Symbol of Papuan Women’s Maturity, Its Price Can Reach 12 Million – Noken is one of the Papuan cultural heritages recognized by UNESCO in 2012.  The Papuan noken is a traditional bag made of woven or knitted wood fibres, leaves, or orchids. In Papua, women are considered adults if they are skilled at knitting noken. This was revealed by an Archaeologist of the Papua Archeology Center, Hari Suroto.

Women who can make noken are considered adults, while those who cannot make noken yet are considered the opposite. Noken is special because of its philosophical value. Noken, which is an original traditional bag made by Papuan mothers, is a symbol of fertility and peace for the Papuan people.

There are valuable values ​​in Papuan noken taught by the ancestors of the Papuan people across generations. In 2019, the Chairperson of the Papua Noken Foundation, Titus Christoforus Pekei, said that initially the Papuan noken was considered an object that was often seen as strange. However, because of it is full of valuable values, noken had been proposed as a cultural heritage to UNESCO.

On 4 December 2012, the Papuan noken was declared an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in Paris, France. The Papuan Noken is classified in the UNESCO category of “in Need of Urgent Safeguarding” or cultural heritage that requires urgent protection. Noken is a knitted net or woven bag handmade from wood fibers or leaves by people in Papua and West Papua Provinces, Indonesia.

Even, apart from being used for carrying crops, catches, firewood, babies, or small animals, as well as for shopping and storing things at home, noken can also be worn or given as a peace offering. As for Papuan intellectuals, noken is used to store books or bring notebooks to campus. As for the Dani tribe living in the central mountains of Papua, noken is used as a medium of exchange. A certain amount of Noken can be exchanged for a pig. This is in line with what was conveyed by Merry Dogopia (49), one of the noken craftsmen in Jayapura.

In his view, noken is a traditional bag that all Papuans must have.

“Noken is Papuan identity. In the noken, we fill all our needs, such as crops, possessions, as well as baby carriers. All of that is in the noken,” he said.

He said from the noken, you could see the tribe that made it. Merry gave an example of noken made from tribes in the southern part of Papua, where the traditional bag was given a Cassowary feather hanger.

An archaeologist of the Papua Archeology Center, Hari Suroto, said that creating a genuine noken is considered difficult and takes a long time. The manufacture only uses plant fibres and uses natural dyes. Plants considered to produce a good fiber are melinjo (Gnetum gnemon), crown of gods (Phaleria macrocarpa), and orchids (Diplocaulobium regale).

Meanwhile, Merry Dogopia said that in his hometown, noken is made from forest orchid fibers and only men are allowed to make it. “For those creating a noken entirely use orchids and there are motifs in my tribe, and those made only men, not women,” said Merry. He said the price of noken was quite expensive, up to Rp. 12 million because of it could take months to find the main materials.

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