West New Guinea / Irian Jaya 1989

Surrounded by visages

(First contact to a traditionally cannibal tribe, the Yalis)

After leaving the last bend behind us, and so being able to once more enjoy a free view of the village, we suddenly stand still, petrified. About 70 men of the mountain village have gathered on top of a little hill, watching us closely.

We have been marching through the central highlands of Irian Jaya for weeks now, with the aim of making a first contact to the people of the apparently cannibal Yalis tribe. The 500 kilometres through the rain soaked jungle were a torture, but all of a sudden our dream should eventually come true. Nervously, we watch two young warriors armed with axes separating from the group of men and running straight down to us, their bodies wonderfully coloured and decorated with white feathers. We too start approaching them now, feeling pretty uneasy though. The fierce-looking warriors painted their bodies with a mixture of lard and earth-colours. Large boar teeth loom out of the sides of their noses. Their ears are pierced with decorated bamboo sticks. Almost each one of them is adorned with wonderful feathers dazzling in all kinds of colours. As we make our way to the village square, we are bashfully followed by the women and children. The women and children are all only wearing bast skirts. A wide ribbon is wrapped around their heads covering their foreheads. This ribbon carries a wide meshed net, twined without knots, which hangs down their backs and is used to transport all sorts of things: children, for instance, sometimes sleeping, sometimes screaming, little piglets, bananas, sweet potatoes, and anything edible to be found along the way.

In the meantime, the men have gathered at the village square, along with the young boys, approximately 10 to 12 years of age. They run around us in a circle, dancing, singing and yelling wildly. Many of the warriors are armed with axes, bows and arrows, some even with dangerous spears. They seem to be falling into ecstasy…

Depending on how time allows, I shall publish my book already written in 1989 in the category “Journal West New Guinea Yalis”. This gives you the possibility to join me on my early expeditions, and to learn at first hand about a tribe threatened with extinction today.


West New Guinea 1989

Expedition into the Central Highlands of Irian Jaya to the Yali tribe.
His search for the ritually cannibal Yali tribe took Denis Katzer 500 kilometres by foot through the mountainous jungles of West New Guinea. After many weeks on his way, he eventually reached a village, which had never before been visited by a white man