Image: Sebastien Cuvelier
Deep within a verdant mountainous region of West Papua, a group of people has lived in relative isolation for generations. Indeed, the area in which they reside only began to be explored in earnest by westerners in the late 1930s. And while various of these tribespeople’s traditions may seem a little strange to outsiders, one ritual in particular might accurately be described as gruesome.
Image: Michal Dzikowski
The Dani group dwells in West Papua’s Baliem Valley – a relatively isolated but charmingly picturesque part of the world at an elevation of almost 5,250 feet. It’s thought that around a quarter of a million Dani reside in and around the valley, and some are distinguishable by a feature that might initially alarm those unfamiliar with their customs.
Image: Joel Santos
The distinctive disfigurements – for that is what they are – are the result of a practice, driven by tradition, that’s a little macabre. For older members of the Dani tribe, part of a finger should be severed when a husband, wife or other immediate family member dies. As a consequence, some Dani tribespeople can be seen going about their day-to-day lives with at least one mutilated digit.