Five Interesting Facts About Papua You Have To Learn

Indonesia, as we all know, is a massive archipelago. The thousands of islands separated by sea, separating and isolating fellow Indonesians from one another. What this has resulted in is a country rich with diversity. Yet, one island in particular stands as the most diverse, a land 'lost in time' but rich with interest. We're talking about Papua of course, half of which lies under Indonesian dominion (Irian Jaya). 

Here we present Five Interesting Facts About Papua:-


1.  The Indigenous People of Papua Dislike the Name “Papua”

 

Well, you would too if you knew that Papua translates to ‘frizzy-haired’. This was of course a name given by ‘foreigners’ to the land, namely Portuguese and Spanish expeditions who likened these new, ‘frizzy-haired’ people to people they had seen in Guinea, West Africa; hence Papua New Guinea, the frizzy-haired people of the 'New' Guinea. Not fun being categorized by a natural physiological trait.

Allegedly, one of the kingdoms in Papua, Name Tota Kaimana, who use the Irarutu dialect, refer to themselves as 'Nuu Waar', Nuu meaning shining and Waar meaning together. This is interpreted as 'the light which contains the secrets of nature’. Now isn’t that a much nicer title?

Source: Wallpaperweb.org

Source: Wallpaperweb.org

2. Half of the population aren't originally from the island

It is said that around 48% of the island's inhabitants actually originate from off other island. A migration of people from Lesser Nusa Tenggara, Java and even Sulawesi came to the island around 50,000 years ago. Others claim origins from Australia and Africa, but have not been confirmed. When these migrants came upon the island, the harsh landscape isolated each group from one another resulting in around 250 separate tribes being formed, many of which developed their own cultures, beliefs and language. 

Source: Trekpapua

Source: Trekpapua

3. Papua is the Only Place in Indonesia where It Snows

In the western central highlands you will find Carstenz Pyramid. No, it isn’t really a pyramid, no Egyptians or Aztecs made it this far… it is the name given to the top of Puncak Jaya, Indonesia’s highest mountain standing 4,885 metres above sea-level. It was named after after the Dutch East India Company (V.O.C) commander Jan Carstenszoon having described the glaciers he saw on the Summit in 1623... Here, high atop the dangerously rocky crags, snow falls in the tropics. A peculiar sight so close to the equator!

Source: Dreamyourvacation

Source: Dreamyourvacation

4. It is the “Language Laboratory”

Due to the previously mentioned isolation of the tribes, each with their own dialects, it is believed that over 300 languages are spoken on one island. To put that into perspective, there are 6,500 languages spoken in the world, so this amounts to 1/5 of all languages in the world spoken on a single island. Wow!

Although the people of Papua can fluently communicate in Bahasa Indonesia, it is evidence of the diverse origins of the indigenous population. Indeed, it’s why American and European researchers have nicknamed it “The Language Laboratory.”

Source: Freedomflotillawestpapua

Source: Freedomflotillawestpapua

5. The Island is Literally a Gold Mine

Well, it’s obvious why the people, their culture and their lands have become so under threat over the decades, and thus have become a topic of such debate and much bloodshed.

From Indonesian government and military control to exploitation by foreign companies, it could be said that Papua’s blessing is also its curse… with a predicted 2,5 billion tons of gold and copper beneath the ground, and an industry that generates 50% of the island’s GDP, who knows what possible effects greed and exploitation could have on these truly beautiful lands, with a cultural landscape that cannot be matched. 

Source: Dakwahmedia

Source: Dakwahmedia

Papua, or 'Nuu Waar' as we have discovered is the preferred term, is an island that is shrouded in misunderstandings. In a cruel twist of fate, it is a place that is cursed by its blessings. Only through better understanding of the province, with it’s colourful cultures and jaw-dropping vistas, can Nuu Waar thrive on it’s own terms.

In the true Indonesian way of Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity), we should cherish the differences of people around the archipelago and hold them true for years to come. 

Share your love and care towards the unique island by pressing one of the buttons below! Or if you want to learn more about the people of Papua, read our article 11 Things That Have Changed The Dani Tribe of Papua.  

 


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