The Wigmen

(Alex) The Huli wigmen are the fiercest, most warlike tribe in all of Papua New Guinea. Ironically, the main goal of the Huli wigmen is to look and act like the beautiful endemic Bird of Paradise. The men do their best to “be” the beautiful birds. First, the men cover themselves in a shiny oil to make their dark skin glitter in the sunlight because the male Reggiana Bird of Paradise’s feathers shine. Then the wigmen cover their faces in yellow and red paint to reflect the colors of the birds. As their name suggests, the wigs are the most important part of the costume. The wigs are the cushion for rare feathers and plumes from Birds of Paradise, cassowaries, parrots, kites, hawks and any other

A hornbill and wild pig tusks adorn a Wigman

beautiful birds found. They wear necklaces made from cassowary quills, hornbill skulls and snake spines. Their grass skirts have green vegetation coming out of the back which bounce up and down like the long, elegant plumes of their models. We were laughing so hard because before the performance, all the men were grooming themselves and checking their makeup in tiny pink Barbie handheld mirrors. The image is the most crucial thing to get right.

Wigmen mid-dance

Now that the wigmen look like the Birds of Paradise, they need to dance like them too. Their dance reflects the mating dance of the male Bird of Paradise. The wigmen jump up and down to the beat of their possum-skin kundu drums chanting and singing. Men in two lines, facing each other, bounce around in a circle so their “tail plumes” sway and fan out. The bouncing up and down may not seem hard, but every few minutes or so, the men stop, breathe heavily and catch their breath. We giggle watching these huge, buff men jump up and down imitating the Bird of Paradise. After spending so much time with local New Guinean tribes, the Huli wigmen just blew us away.

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