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.
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.