Set E1 Melpa Ndika Dancers


These dancers are dressed for festive display. These men are covered in black soot and rub pig grease over their bodies to create a shiny dark display A dark body coloration for men is the desired effect for a  masculine “martial” display. They wear large wigs (peng) decorated with the koi wal headdress which represents one of the most sacred feather set. This applies to the Melpa, Enga and Mendi tribes.


Only men wore painted geru boards made from tree bark tucked into their display, which show membership of male initiation societies.


These dancers carry very large carved drums with handles.






Set E2 Melpa koem peng


For other rites including courtship, the heavy Koem peng wig is sometimes worn by the Melpa, Enga and Wahgi.




Set E3 Melpa Women Donors


The women would accompany the men to the festivals and would support them in their performances. The women would also be adorned, generally in red paint. Their headdress would generally mirror that of the men. Typically at a moka (gift-exchange ceremony), there would be groups of donors and recipients recognisable by differences in headdress display.

Typically the donor would have a more lavish display, such as a koi wal set, when compared to the recipient. If the most prestigious koi wal sets are not available, the women spouses might substitute with an alternative display of eagle feathers, set against red and other white feathers, stacked high to announce their status as donors. Other women relatives would act as helpers, and would have a small display, consisting of a circlet of small red feathers.


The schematic drawings show some typical Melpa women divided into donors, recipients and helpers. Note that the typical face paint is a red base, with blue/white lines drawn around the eyes and radiating from them. Younger women generally don’t have these lines and are instead shown with patches on the cheeks. The schematics also contrast some typical Mendi women, with their red faces and yellow markings.


The women do not wear wigs. Occasionally a head net is used to build up the headdress. Animal furs and shells may also be used.

Schematics of Melpa and Mendi women. Melpa women have bright red face paint with blue/white markings while Mendi women have bright red face paint and yellow markings. Generally, the towering headdresses identify the donors and the lesser headdresses are recipients. The Mendi women are wearing rolled feather tower Koi wal sets.






Set E4 Melpa Women Helpers and Recipients