Tag Archives: Papua New Guinea Tattoo

The Tufi Tattoos

The Tufi tattooing is a beautiful tradition that remains alive in Oro Province.  The art of traditional tattooing is dying, but, traditional artists and master tattooist in Tufi have kept the tradition alive for women in this culture. Tufi is known world-wide for its enchanting natural beauty. The town of Tufi is surrounded by reefs. It is one of the top diving spots in the world and a place of rich cultural heritage. The Tapa cloth also comes from Tufi. The town is located in the Eastern Peninsula of Cape Nelson in Oro Province, Papua New Guinea. 

Ramona at Kasiawa
Picture from Mr Jan in PNG


Mr Jan in PNG

Ramona at Kasiawa Ramona at Kasiawa

When a Tufi girl is ready for marriage she might, for some weeks, enter the hibernating process of getting a facial tattoo. The tattooing is an old traditional practice that has faded away and disappeared in most communities, but there are some areas where the tradition lives on.

Ethel is proud of her tattoo Ethel is proud of her tattoo

The girl stays in seclusion during the time of the application, which is made by a qualified tattooist – sometimes a relative; always a woman. First the pattern is drawn in black, and when the girls’ parents have expressed their appreciation the tattooist starts the actual process. Dulcie at Kafuaruru village and Levinia at Angorogho, two of the still active tattooists, use a modern needle instead of the bush needle that was tapped by a stick, which was the old way. The dyes today are also mixed with modern ingredients that give a stronger…

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Crocodile scarification: An ancient Chambri Initiation

Crocodile scarification is an ancient initiation practised by the Chambri tribe of Papua New Guinea.

The Chambri tribe believe they evolved from the mighty crocodile. Source: Supplied

DEEP within the jungle of Papua New Guinea (PNG), there is an ancient initiation tradition that turns boys not into men, but into crocodiles. The men of the Chambri tribe in the East Sepik province of PNG practise crocodile scarification, an initiation for boys entering manhood during which their skin is cut and scarred to represent the scales of a crocodile.

The Significance of the Crocodile

The crocodile is a significant spiritual and symbolic animal in PNG, and the Chambri tribe believes it descends from the powerful predator. The ancient myth tells the story of how crocodiles migrated from the Sepik River onto land to eventually become humans.

In Papua New Guinea it is thought men evolved from crocodiles. Picture: Nina L. Chang.

In recognition of this ancestral connection, the young men of the tribe are inflicted with hundreds of deep cuts in cascading patterns down their backs, arms, chest and buttocks to give their skin the look and feel of a crocodile’s body.

The Scarring Procedure

The intensely painful scarring procedure involves discipline, focus and dedication. The young initiate first joins his uncle in a spirit house, where he is held down while tribal leaders make hundreds of slices roughly, two centimetres long, into the boy’s skin with a bamboo sliver.

There is no pain relief other than the chewing of the leaf of a medicinal plant, as the young boy must show enough strength to prove he is a man. The Chambri people believe that by suffering immense pain at a young age, they will be better equipped to withstand pain later in their lives.

Photo: David Kirkland

Once the cuts have been made, the boy lies near a fire where smoke is blown into the wounds and clay and tree oil pushed into the cuts to sculpt the scars so that they remain raised when healed.
Then the initiates are adorned in an ornate headdress and jewellery at a big tribal ceremony, where the boys officially become not men, but crocodiles.