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Huli: The Papua New Guinea tribe that has fetish for hair

Apart from hosting the third biggest forest in the world, Papua New Guinea is also the home of the Huli people.

The Huli are a nomadic tribe from the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea, living in the regions Tari, Margaraima and Komi, where they have been living for 1000 years.

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The group was an unknown tribe for Europeans until November 1934, when explorers Mick and Dan Leahy discovered them.

The Huli people apply red and ochre paints on their body making them the most colorful in the country.

Huli
The group was an unknown tribe for Europeans until November 1934 Photo: Courtesy

The ochre (red clay) and ambua (yellow clay) are considered sacred, setting their warriors apart from those of neighboring tribal groups.

While applying the ochre, the upper part of their face is painted yellow, and the lower part red.

The tribe also enjoys a variety in cultural expression including dance, music, body paint, costume, and weapons.

However, the greatest of all is their obsession with hair this naming male members of their tribe the wigmen.

Their obsession with wigs is related to their unique initiation rites where boys leave their families to learn their role in society at the age of 14 or 15.

During this time when when the boys are away, the main activity is taking care of the boys’ hair so that they produce ceremonial wigs.

The hair is wet three times a day with their ‘holy water’ after which they are sprinkled with fern leaves while chanting spells.

Huli
The tribe also enjoys a variety in cultural expression including dance, music, body paint, costume, and weapons Photo: Courtesy

Also, during this time, boys must refrain from eating fat and spicy foods so that their hair grows strong.

As the hair grows, it is formed into a mushroom shape by using a band of bamboo.

The boys must also sleep on their back with their head on a brick in order not to ruin the shape.

After approximately 18 months, the hair is shaved and carefully woven into a traditional Huli wig for everyday use, personal use, for ceremonies and for sale.

While making the wig, ornaments such as colored clay, bird of paradise or parrot feathers are added to make it unique.

After the boys’ first haircut, the process starts again.

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