Tari: Living Among the Huli Wigman Tribe
Located deep in the heart of the Highlands region of Papua New Guinea lies the city of Tari, the capital of Hela providence. I had come here as a volunteer with Medicine Sans Frontiers (Doctors without Borders). For the next few months, I would not only get a chance to practice medicine but to do so with breathtaking 360° views in a country that very few people visit.
Exotic location, warm weather, nice scenery, what more could you want as a young student living in America. The only catch, contact with the outside world would be limited, if at all.
In retrospect, this disconnect wasn’t that bad because the first iPhone had just come out so life didn’t revolve around social media.
Huli Wigman Tribe
Hela providence is home of the Huli tribe. Rooted in deep cultural traditions, this is one of the only places in the world where people adhere to a more traditional way of living. For instance, pigs are considered the most valuable asset, which can be used to pay a dowry for a bride.
As you may have guessed this is a male dominated culture. Male’s achieve status among the tribe through their courage and skills in war and by the amount of pigs they own.
The more pigs you own, the more powerful you are!
Traditional attire for Huli men consists of: cassowary quill through the nose, kina shells around the neck, a knife made from cassowary bone placed in their belt, a strip of snakeskin across the forehead, bilum (string bag) across their shoulder, and a belt made of pigs tails.
Despite being renowned warriors, Huli men have something in common with males from the western world – an obsession with their hair. But unlike the modern male, the quality of their hair is a symbol of maturity.
As their name suggests – Huli Wigman – attention is meant to be drawn to their ‘wig’ made from their own hair. In their tradition, each boy grows his own wig. To do so the young virgin boy enters ‘wig school’ and undergoes tutelage from a wig master for 18 months.
In the end, the young boys wear their wig to demonstrate that they have made it into adulthood.
Tari is world renowned for its wildlife. Birdwatchers from around the world ascend to Ambua lodge to view the various birds, including the legendary bird of paradise.
Direct flights from Port Moresby to Tari start around $400 USD round trip.
Where to Stay
A stones throw away from Jackson International Airport. This aviation themed hotel has a nice pool area, amazing views of the surrounding area and runaway, minus the noise.
This 56-room hut style lodge is 7,000 feet above sea level with breathtaking views of the Tari valley and houses its own hydroelectric plant.
Leave at Home
You will be stepping back in time. Think functional, not fashion. Denim and other dark clothes will only attract mosquitos and other pesky insects. Expensive jewelry will attract unwanted attention that can, and does in some cases, lead to theft. A good pair of hiking boots and a reliable flashlight or head torch are essential.