Dani

The Dani live in the highlands of Papua and settle especially the Baliem-Valley. The Dani, the Lani, who live in the west of the valley and the Yali, difficult to reach, who are living in the south-east share the 1.700 meter high valley. It is estimated that a number of 65.000 Dani exists. Some sources even assign the number of 200.000. The valley and its residents were discovered by the American Richard Archbold first in 1938. It was just called the Grand Valley at that time. Despite the cool temperatures in the evening the Dani almost did not use any clothes. The women wore some skirts made of braided grass or orchid fibre if they were affluent. Dani-men are well-known for their penis tubes named Godeka. The elderly wear nothing more until now whereas the younger men still wear the Godeka for festive occasions. Otherwise, they prefer western clothes. Thus it appears that every visitor will experience the contrasts of the Stone Age and the modern world. The life of the Dani is still very traditional. Most of them live in typical settlements, called hamlets. They are reminiscent of a fortification with their closed construction: A simple wooden fence contain the whole village and you gain access through a small ladder. At the top of every village you always find the men house. The family huts as well as the cookhouse which is used by everybody are located more towards the sides. Dani are masters in laying out of fields. They cultivate their vegetables also on sheer mountain sides. The valley is fertile and besides the very popular sweet potato they grow tomatoes, manioc, avocado, cucumber and so much more. Pigs have great importance in the life of the Dani. Not without reason the biggest town of the valley Wamena contains with „Wam“ the Daniword for „pig“ in its name. The pigs serve less as food but rather as barter objects. Through regularly exchanges or the give away between the individual villages, clans or also within the family, they socialise with others and cement ties. Dani men need to provide a dowry till this day. Therefore, the climaxes in the life of a Dani are marked by the pig festivals which take place every few years. These big celebrations accomplish several tasks concurrently: weddings are celebrated, new engagements are announced, and young Danis are admitted to the adult population. In addition to these big traditional pig celebrations many small ones are found in modern times. No political or bigger event will take place without any pig celebration, and they organise them for tourists as well.

The tourism in the Baliem Valley is not notable. Until today, the valley can only be reached by aircraft. Every single piece of cloth, each car, every drop of fuel, just everything needs to be transported by aircraft. Therefore, the development to the modern world is much slower than everywhere else. The tourism increases very slowly as well. There is no tourism industry. Only few accommodations and guides depend on income from tourism, are adapted or used to it. It also contributes to a very relaxed and authentic atmosphere, which the Baliem Valley has retained until today.