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Story Publication logo October 19, 2022

Knitting Together Rainforest Diversity (bahasa Indonesia)


a yellow plant

The main threat to Papua's Noken craft is the continuous exploitation while plant growth is slow...

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This story excerpt was translated from bahasa Indonesia. To read the original story in full, visit National Geographic Indonesia. You may also view the original story on the Rainforest Journalism Fund website here. Our website is available in English, Spanish, bahasa Indonesia, French, and Portuguese.

Sunset view at Anggi Giji Lake (Dana Laki) surrounded by Sub Alpine forest. In the vicinity of the Arfak Nature Reserve there are twin danai, Lake Anggi Giji and Lake Anggi Gida (Female Lake). Photo by: Yuda Rehata Yudistira/National Geographic Indonesia. Indonesia, 2022.

The women transport, process the wooden stands into strands of yarn, and knit them with days and weeks of diligence.

Noken is not just a knitting bag; it is also the universe of sovereignty of Papuan mothers to grapple with life and become one with the might of the tropical rainforest.

The land of PAPUA became boisterous in October 2021, with the organization of the XX National Sports Week (PON). Along the sidewalks of Jayapura's main street, hundreds of Papuan women sell noken while spinning yarn on their thighs and knitting. The noken, which was registered as World Heritage on December 4, 2012, is sold at prices ranging from hundreds of thousands to millions of rupiah. A golden yellow ang-grek noken is offered from Rp1 million to Rp10 million. The numbers offered and the sidewalks seem paradoxical. However, these artisans are like family. If one crafter's merchandise sells and another crafter's does not, they share the profits.

The tradition of knitting noken made of bark wrapped in shavings of orchid stems originated from the Indigenous people of Mee' Pago (Central Papua region) and La Pago (Central Highlands Papua region). According to Agustina Y. S. Arobaya, orchid researcher and lecturer at the University of Papua, the philosophy of noken for the Papuan people is like a womb, very strongly related to women.

In "Noken and Papuan Women: An Analysis of Gender Discourse and Ideology" published in the scientific journal of Malanesia, Elisabeth Lenny Marit said that Papuan noken is an artifact that is attached to Papuan women from birth to death. Mothers use noken to carry babies to toddlers on their backs, both when farming and traveling. Noken is also used to transport pigs.

Septerina Mandacan, a wanja of Kwau Village, Arfak Mountains Regency.
Arfak Mountains collecting plant materials to make noken. Image by Yuda Rehata Yudistira/National Geographic Indonesia. Indonesia, 2022.

Dendrobium regale in its natural habitat, as noken material. A rough estimate of fiber needs orchid stems for the crafters, two bunches per month or more, depending on orders. Each bundle is produced by two clumps of large-sized orchids growing in nature. Image by Yuda Rehata Yudistira/National Geographic Indonesia. Indonesia, 2022.

Nephentes maxima is one of the species of pouch semar (Nepentheceae family) that we found in Arfak CA. The diversity in shape, color, and size of this species is very high. Image by Yuda Rehata Yudistira/National Geographic Indonesia. Indonesia, 2022.

Bulbophyllum subpatulum, a plant of the orchid family (Orchidaceae), was identified by Jaap J. Vermeulen, a Dutch botanist in 2002. This orchid grows attached to tree trunks (epiphyte) with flower diameter between 1.25cm-2cm. Image by Yuda Rehata Yudistira/National Geographic Indonesia. Indonesia, 2022.

It was a beautiful surprise when we found a clump of Bulbophyllum muricatum offering up some flowers. Growing on a forest floor covered in thick moss, this orchid has warts all over the surface of its flowers. Image by Yuda Rehata Yudistira/National Geographic Indonesia. Indonesia, 2022.

Musa ingens is the largest and tallest banana plant in the world. Growing up to 30-35m tall, its leaves can cover the forest canopy. Endemic to the Arfak Mountains, the fruit is small, only 10 centimeters across, and not delicious. The fruit is drupe and astringent. People use the fronds of the stem to cure fever. Image by Yuda Rehata Yudistira/National Geographic Indonesia. Indonesia, 2022.

PRESERVING ARFAK. The Arfak Mountains Nature Reserve is one of the Nature Conservation areas (Kawaqsan Pelestarian Alam or KPA) in West Papua Province, with an area of 68,325 hectares across 8 districts. Map by National Geographic Indonesia.