The dancers are Gende people from Bundi mission station. (1) The Gendes live on the mountainous fringe of the Highlands about 100 km northeast of Goroka. They are trading intermediaries between the Usino people in the Ramu River lowlands and the Highland Chimbu. They raise and trade sweet potatoes and pigs, along with shell ornaments and black palm bows. In pre-contact days, they traded stone axes.
Kaima means song and is the most important of the four dance ceremonies among the Bundi. The costumes are made of barkcloth. A sing-sing is performed by a whole tribe or clan, but is owned by the man who made the main payment to purchase it. This leader knows all the songs, ritual, costumes and dances.
Barkcloth for kaima costumes is beaten out of white bark. Construction takes place in a hut in the forest. Women dancers come only after the costumes are completed by the men.
The five types of kaima performers and their costumes are:
The Bundi were very adamant that only materials and colors from the forest were used in these costumes. They said the yellow come from a tuber like ginger, possibly turmeric? Bright red comes from the pulp in Bixia orellana seed pods. Black is usually charcoal or sooty ashes. Whites, yellow, red and oranges come from clays.
We have been given an olive-like seed from the grasslands that was a deep blue. The bush is said to come up in the rainy season, but we have not seen this documented. Mixed with other dyes, the blue would give the natural green and purple dyes that we have seen on some bilums.
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Books used to research this article.
(1) Alternate spellings and terms for:
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Artifacts on this site are collected in the field by my husband, Ron Perry. I take the photographs, do the html, text and maps. More background in Who We Are. Art-Pacific has been on the WWW since 1996. We hope you enjoy our New Guinea tribal art and Indonesian folk art as much as we do. Carolyn Leigh, P.O. Box 85284, Tucson, AZ 85754-5284 USA, Art-Pacific at http://www.art-pacific.com/