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Art-Pacific (Carolyn Leigh - Ron Perry): Guide to Artifacts

Bundi barkcloth butterfly dancers from Papua New Guinea

[4 tapa cloth butterfly and 1 tapa cloth flower costumed dancers: 53k]

Figures 1: Bundi butterfly and flower dancers wearing barkcloth dance costumes at the 1995 Goroka Show. The butterfly costumes use the same barkcloth techniques as their traditional kaima dance costumes.

[dancer in full body red, blue, white and yellow butterfly tapa costume: 52k]

Figures 2: The butterfly dancer can move the wings on his costume by pulling cords on each side. The laplap and streamers are also made from barkcloth.

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.

[yellow, green, red</b> and black designs on white tapa butterfly dance costume: 34k]

Figures 3: Barkcloth butterfly dance costume painted with natural pigments. Photo courtesy of a private collection.

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.

[tapa cloth over cane framework, painted with green edged with black, white and gold stripes, plus a yellow and red flower design : 30k]

Figures 4: Barkcloth shield-shaped standard with flower design. Photo courtesy of a private collection.

The five types of kaima performers and their costumes are:

[tapa mask with pig's tusks and other teeth: 38k]

Figures 5: Young Bundi side dancer wearing a barkcloth mask with pig tusks and a barkcloth bag.

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.

[Tapa cloth star-shaped flower costume with red petals and a yellow and black ray center: 13k]

Figures 6: Barkcloth flower dance costume, another style of flower is in Figure 1. Photo courtesy of a private collection.


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(1) Alternate spellings and terms for:

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Melanesian art TOC | Map of art areas of Melanesia
Papua New Guinea: Highlands: body art - Bundi tapa - jewelry/dancers | Karawari and Blackwater Rivers: masks - carvings - map | Massim: artifacts- Trobriand Kula - map | Kula canoe | New Britain: Baining - Sulka - Tolai dukduk | New Ireland: Malagan | Ramu River: masks - carvings - map | Sepik River: masks - carvings - villages - map | Papuan Gulf: masks - carvings - map - Gogodala - Kukukuku
other areas: Asmat | Solomon Islands: crafts - jewelry - map
art and craft:
barkcloth (tapa) | body art | cane and fiber figures | canoes and prows | jewelry/dancers | masks - Middle Sepik | phallocrypts | pottery - Chambri | shields | story boards | suspension hooks | weapons | yam masks - fiber | yam masks - wood

Indonesian art TOC | Dyak baby carriers and masks | furniture | Java folk art | Lombok baskets | Lombok lontar boxes | masks from Bali and Java | puppets

China: Bai textiles/art TOC | baby carriers | baby hats | woodblock prints

Collecting New Guinea art in the field since 1964.

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Artifacts on this site were collected in the field by my husband, Ron Perry. I take the photographs, do the html, text and maps. 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. by Carolyn Leigh is licensed under Creative Commons CC BY-ND 4.0