Category Archives: 8. Feature

Skin cutting initiation festival in the inland Sepik region

Initiates on the second final day of their skin cutting ceremony. Peeping through their fenced up spirit house to witness their sisters and mothers singing and dancing on the outside. Family members would encourage the initiates on throughout the whole night on the last day of the initiation. Plenty of singing and dancing, blowing on bamboo long pipes and other instruments. No sleeping for the whole night, all the villagers would sing and dance non stop on this final day before the initiates get officially released out of the spirit house.

In the inland part of the Sepik, with almost 1.5-2hours walk from the Sepik river, Yamok Village was having its annual skin cutting rituals for its boy’s initation.

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Deep Skin Cutting rituals of Blackwater Sepik River

One of the highlights of my Papua New Guinea trip would be the ceremonial initiation of boys. The ritual scarification when males would have their skin cut with razors deeply and repeatedly to form a decorative scars resembling the sacred crocodile spirit as part of turning young boys into men. In most villages along the Sepik river with exception of Blackwater villages, women are excluded in this ritual scarring.

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Slaughter of Pigs – the Kalaam Festival, Simbai

The Kalaam Festival, Simbai, Papua New Guinea

The local celebrated the morning with 40 pig slaughters lined up at the sing sing grounds. An amazing sight that wasn’t as brutal and gory as I expected but quite intense nonetheless.

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Vegetarian Festival like you never seen before

Think the Vegetarian Festival in Thailand is a benign occasion where meek vegetarians run around promoting eating vegetables and no killing of animals?

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Land of the Naga – last of the headhunters

I dreamt about Nagaland after I saw it on the map one day. Obsessed about the place, it took me a few years before I finally visited this strip of land between Burma and NorthEast India.

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Climbing up the 18meter Baobab Tree

Midway up the Baobab climb.

One of the highlights of my Madagascar visit would definately be Morondava’s Avenue de Baobab. These thousand year old giant trees strangely look like it has roots growing from its top. According to the Madagascans legend, they believe that God in creating the first trees, made the mistake and created these trees upside down.

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More photos of the Cham dance at Korzok

More photos from the Korzok Cham dance.

More photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostory

More photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostory

More photos from the cham dance

More photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostoryMore photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostoryMore photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostoryMore photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostory

More photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostory

More photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostoryMore photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostoryMore photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostory

More photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostoryMore photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostory

More photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostory

More photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostoryMore photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostory

More photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostoryMore photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostory

More photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostoryMore photos from the cham dance photos

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Preparing for a Cham Dance in Korzok Village, Tsomoriri

Prior Warning!

Image intensive for those with limited bandwidth. Keeping the photos small. You can click on them to see the bigger version but that will lead you to the flickr site where I am keeping the photos. So if you wanna view the bigger version, just use the open new tab or window rather than clicking the images.

PS : sorry about not processing the photos on PS, am a little lazy to clean up the photos, so you are getting the images unprocessed, just resized and converted straight from raw with the dust spots and all.

Early September 2009

A high lama visited the village of Korzok at Tsomoriri and they decided to perform a Cham dance only the day before. The Cham dance or Masked dance is only performed by the monks and suppose to give merits to the audience, the monks are dressed in beautifully made ornamental costumes and masks of animal deities.

I happened to intrude into the preparations for the cham dance while everyone else, the villagers and the tourists  including some annoyingly and irritating Indian ‘press’ photographer (you know who you are) and  a few other rich European photographers with huge camera set-up waiting in the courtyard for the performance. The monks were kind enough to let me stay on and photograph them dressing up for the dance. The whole setup was amazing, everyone  went about the preparations, the other monks and a few villagers helping out, dressing the monks in their beautifully intricate and heavy costumes.

The feeling I got from this event : well its more genuine and provincial, more real compared to the other large cham events that is happening in the other places.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The monks preparing for the first cham dance, there are 2 dances or ‘acts’. The first ‘act’ has the monks covered without the deity masks.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

Korzok village isn’t really a rich village hence the rather humble setup for the costumes and cham dance setup. However the village use to be quite rich before with the villages having tons of pashmina goats, sheeps and other livestock trading with nomadic changpa people.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

A monk all dressed up and ready for the first dance

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The two cham masks of animal deities for the second dance. The eyes of the masks were initially covered, before the  preparations, the high lama came in to  conduct some prayers, summoning the deities at the various altars. Then walked over to the masks performing the prayers, the covers were taken off from the masks.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The caretaker monk in charge overlooking the costumes. He is in charge of the daily evening pujas (prayers) for the gompa and also in charge of the costumes and the chest of cham masks.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

Laying out the costume for the first dance

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

Taking out the deity mask for the second dance. Its eyes were uncovered after some prayers and chanting by the  high lamas and the monks before the performance.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The monks all prepared and waiting for the high lama to inaugurate the whole dance by saying prayers and giving offers to the deities gods at the altars. The dressed up monks all gathered at the altars and did some quick chanting before the performance. To my knowledge, they had to summon the spirits or deities before the performance.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The high lama greets all the dancers and proceeds to praying and invoking the gods at the altars and asking for blessings to the performance.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

All ready, the monks walking out for the first dance one by one, drumming along the way

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The monks out to the courtyard for the first dance while one of the head monks watches on, he co-ordinates the dances.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The dance at Korzok gompa courtyard, quite a big event with the villagers out in their best clothes even though this was a last minute, the event announced and decided only the day before. Word gets out pretty fast here.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The cham dance at Korzok gompa courtyard with audiences from Korzok and nearby villages

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The villagers watching, some came from nearby area around Korzok and Tsomoriri lake. All came with their best clothes and beautiful colorful woollen weaved shawls made with the local pashmina wool.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

Preparing for the second dance with the deity masks

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The monk and his sword awaiting for the mask to be placed on him

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

Putting on more detailed ornaments, actually takes quite awhile putting on the little details.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The Korzok gompa not really a rich monastery, they still make do with the decorations. The skull ornament is usually craved out from bone but they were inventive to create it from leather.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

Waiting for help with his costume for the second dance with the deity mask

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

During the break for the second dance, one of the villagers offering yummy salted goat butter tea to everyone including myself! Such wonderful people!

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

Antelope mask deity for the second dance

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

Dressing up for the second dance, preparing for the heavy deity head mask to be placed upon

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The deity mask is incredibly heavy! One of the monks allowed me to carry one of them after the dance.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

More ornaments waiting to be dressed up

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

Second dance over, the last cham dancer returns back to the gompa as the trumpets playing to welcome him back. The trumpets are blown signifying that the dance is over, following the dancers in and out of the gompa chambers

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

Cham dance over, the monks playing the tibetan trumpets as the high lama proceeds back to his chambers in the gompa

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The high lama giving his blessings to the local villagers as he returns to his private resting chambers

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

Show’s over, the monks taking their instruments and other stuff back

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The villagers making their way back home after the cham dance along with their prayer wheels

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The locals going home after the cham dance with the frequent sand storm looming over. The ladies dressing in their best clothes, colorful shawls self weaved from the wool they got from their sheep and pashmina goats.

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