Dancing With The Dead: Meet The Chimbu Skeleton Dancers of Papua New Guinea

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There are quite a number of indigenous tribes around the world with their peculiar cultures and practices which may seem queer to an outsider.

Dancing With The Dead: Meet The Chimbu Skeleton Dancers of Papua New Guinea

One of such tribes is the Chimbu (or Simbu) of Papau New Guinea whose Province is located in its central Highlands. The term “Chimbu” was given to the people by the first Australian explorers in 1934 who heard the word “simbu” (an expression of a pleasant surprise in Kuman language) exclaimed by the locals when they first met.

One of the things that set the Chimbu tribe apart from others is their skeleton dance which originated to intimidate enemy tribes in what is a hotly – contested and highly – territorial country. It also expected that the enemy tend to believe they are not human and have some source of supernatural power.

The tribesmen – painted head-to-toe in black, with a vivid white coating outlining the head and body to give the impression of bones. Even so, this formidable sight may well be enough to make anyone think twice about advancing on a tribe deep within the Chimbu Province of Papua New Guinea.

Dancing With The Dead: Meet The Chimbu Skeleton Dancers of Papua New Guinea

The Chimbu people live at an altitude of as much as 7,800 feet, high up in the mountainous New Guinea province of their name. This is, however, just one of a handful of facts known about the group, who have remained largely a mystery to the outside world. Still, perhaps this only makes the Chimbu’s penchant for supernatural-like body paint even more fascinating.

Traditionally, the Chimbu tribes don’t live in villages but in dispersed settlements. Typical houses in Chimbu Province are oval or rectangular, with dirt floors , low thatched roofs, and walls woven from flattened reeds. Men live in large communal men’s houses (hausman ) set on ridges for defensive purpose while women, children, and pigs live in separate houses.

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However, the slowly increasing tourism attraction and interaction therefore means that the dances or ritual are starting to be done more as shows by community – integrated people , than by the more remote in a traditional setting.

The Chimbu tribe of Papau New Guinea has largely remained a mystery making their skeletal body paint even more fascinating.



Uzonna Anele
Anele is a web developer and a Pan-Africanist who believes bad leadership is the only thing keeping Africa from taking its rightful place in the modern world.

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