On our return to the treehouse, we pass banyan trees, with their dramatic, aboveground root flares. Some are said to kill and eat male witches they call khakhua. Hour melts into hour as we push on, stopping briefly now and then to rest. I ask Kembaren if he has a gun. Dutch missionaries who came to convert the Korowai in the late s called it "the hell in the south. We leave at first light, still soaked. Bailom and Kilikili, each gripping a bow and arrows, have joined the porters. The tribesman demands that we give the clan a pig to absolve the sacrilege. In four decades of journeying among remote tribes, this is the first time I've encountered a clan that has evidently never seen anyone as light-skinned as me.
It seems an odd way to add beauty to the female form, but no more bizarre than tattoos, stiletto-heel shoes, Botox injections or the not-so-ancient Chinese custom of slowly crushing infant girls' foot bones to make their feet as small as possible. Word of such treatment, combined with Korowais' own ambivalence, prompted some to limit witch-killing even in places where police do not venture. Now, to my surprise, Boas says he will postpone his homecoming to continue with us, lured by the promise of adventure with a laleo, and he cheerfully lifts a sack of foodstuffs onto his shoulders. Cannibalism was practiced among prehistoric human beings, and it lingered into the 19th century in some isolated South Pacific cultures, notably in Fiji. The tribesman demands that we give the clan a pig to absolve the sacrilege. He grabs my hand and thanks me for bringing his son home. Lepeadon shows me how, ticking off the fingers of his left hand, then touching his wrist, forearm, elbow, upper arm, shoulder, neck, ear and the crown of the head, and moving down the other arm. A jagged hole mars the forehead. The next morning four Korowai women arrive at our hut carrying a squawking green frog, several locusts and a spider they say they just caught in the jungle. Paul Raffaele "I see you're just like us," Lepeadon right told the author after receiving him in the Letin clan treehouse. I count out the money and pass it to the man, who glances at the Indonesian currency and grants us permission to pass. A youngster tries to yank my pants off, and he almost succeeds amid a gale of laughter. Bailom and the porters are waiting for us and wearing worried faces. But Bailom was unswayed. Paul Raffaele Paul Raffaele Kilikili with a skull he says is from a khakhua says he has killed no fewer than 30 khakhua. Lepeadon says it was near the time of the last sago palm feast, when several hundred Korowai gathered to dance, eat vast quantities of sago palm maggots, trade goods, chant fertility songs and let the marriage-age youngsters eye one another. The floor creaks as I settle cross-legged onto it. Bailom says that the tribesmen knew we were coming because they had intercepted the porters as they passed near their treehouses. He has tried to return home, he says, but no one will take him. Seeing me shivering, Boas pulls my body against his for warmth. Year by year the young men and women will drift to Yaniruma and other settlements until only aging clan members are left in the treehouses. As their pirogue bumps against ours, one of the men growls that laleo are forbidden to enter their sacred river, and that my presence angers the spirits. Waiting for me at Jayapura, a city of , on the northern coast near the border with Papua New Guinea, is Kembaren, 46, a Sumatran who came to Papua seeking adventure 16 years ago. Most carry bows and arrows. The island of New Guinea, the second largest in the world after Greenland, is a mountainous, sparsely populated tropical landmass divided between two countries: And at that point Ginol's godly prophecy will reach its apocalyptic fulfillment, and thunder and earthquakes of a kind will destroy the old Korowai world forever.
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