Asmat is a tribe that located West papua. Some of them inhabit the hinterlands and the coast of Papua. This tribe has a unique life order in terms of its political, social, cultural, economic, and belief systems. They have different ways of life, social structure and ritual.
Every village in Asmat region is usually inhabited by approximately 100-1000 people. It is also known for its unique carvings. Moreover, Asmat Tribe Culture also become the interesting thing to learn by the researchers in almost of the world. However, we would come to expand about the history of Asmat Tribe in Indonesia first.
- The original name of Asmat
The name Asmat comes from the words of Asmat “As Akat”, which according to Asmat people means “the right one”. In addition, some say that Asmat comes from the word Osamat which means “man from the tree”. But if according to the neighboring Asmat tribe, the Mimika, this Asmat name comes from their words for the tribe of “manue”, meaning “man-eater”.
2. Asmat is the descent of the God
In ancient times, a God named Fumeripitsy came down to earth. He explored the earth and started his adventure from the western horizon of the sunset. In his adventure, the God had to confront a giant crocodile and defeat him. Despite the victory, the god was badly wounded and washed up on a river bank.
Although felt hurt, the God tried to survive until he met a flamingo bird that is noble. He helped the Gods to recover from the wound. After recovering, the gods lived in that area and built a house then carved two very beautiful statues. He also made a very loud drum sound to keep him dancing endlessly. The dance movement of the God was so powerful that it makes the two sculptures carved into life. Soon after, the two statues joined in the dance and moved to follow the God. The two statues were the first human couple to be the ancestors of the Asmat tribe.
3. The reason why Asmat declared themselves as the descendants of God
The mythological about the descents of the God is a trust owned by the Asmat Tribe, one of the largest tribes in Papua. This myth keeps the Asmat tribe believing that they are gods until now. It is not excessive, because Asmat does have a culture that is highly respected. In fact, this tribe has been known to foreign countries. That is why it’s not surprised if there are many researchers from around the world often visit the village of the tribe Asmat. They are generally interested in studying the life of the Asmat, its belief system, and the unique customs of the Asmat tribe.
4. The history of the Asmat’s Popularity
On October 10, 1904, the SS Flamingo ship landed in a bay on the southwest coast of Irian Jaya. It was a repeated events experienced by James Cook and his men. They were visited by hundreds of long dark-skinned boats that were believed as Asmat tribe. However, this time there was no bloody contact. Instead there is a pleasant communication between the two parties. Using sign language, they managed to exchange goods.
Since then, people began to come to the place that became known as the Asmat area. Expeditions ever undertaken in this area include expeditions conducted by a Dutch national named Hendrik A. Lorentz in 1907 to 1909. Then the British expedition led by A.F.R Wollaston in 1912 to 1913.
5. The history cannibalism in Asmat Tribe
Hearing the name Asmat tribe in West Papua would make you afraid, because this tribe is known as a cannibal tribe in Indonesia. Asmat tribe used to be famous as a tribe who behead people as one of their customary rituals. Plus, they were a cannibal tribe who became a perfect collaboration during the Dutch colonial era. This ritual was believed because they believed that death occurred through the witch and murder. They killed the enemy, so the soul of the dead people can leave the island. They also believed that the death can be restarted.
6. The Story of Michael Rockefeller’s adventure in Asmat tribe
In 1961, Michael Rockefeller, one of the heirs of the Rockefeller millionaire family, reportedly disappeared while trying to swim to the beach when his boat was overturned on the coast of Papua, Indonesia. At that time, he was thought to have been drowned. If he could survive to reach the beach, Michael Rockefeller certainly would be killed by the tribe of cannibals who inhabited the area around the coast of Papua-formerly named Irian Jaya-the province.
However, eight years later, in 1969, a documentary showing a white Papuan human figure appeared alongside indigenous Papuans. Although the footage shows only a glimpse of the appearance of a white and bearded man among the ranks of indigenous Papuan tribesmen who were riding in canoes, it was allegedly the man was Michael Rockefeller.
7. The government started to pay attention to Asmat Tribe
Although the Dutch colonial government did not cover the territory of Asmat until 1938, and Catholic missionaries also just started their mission in 1958, in fact major changes occurred in the region after the 60s. In the early 90s, Asmat tribes began to follow education programs from the government and began to embrace Christianity.
As the wood and oil processing industries began expanding into this region, fragile environmental conditions and mangrove forests in their coastal areas are threatened with destruction due to waste disposal and soil erosion. Although the Asmat have succeeded in achieving national and international awards for their artwork, this fame has not provided significant input to the Indonesian government in making decisions affecting land use in the Asmat territory until the early 90s.
Those are the history of Asmat Tribe Indonesia. Behind the admiration of Asmat’s art it might embedded in the minds of the people that Asmat tribe is a primitive tribe and cannibal humans who like to head enemies. Today Asmat tribe is more famous for its work art in the field of sculpture and carving. No matter what cultures that Asmat people have, it is one of the Indonesians culture that must be preserved.