Welcome to the land of the Dani.
They’re famous for the “koteka” or penis gourd as translated into English.
Perhaps this old codger doesn’t need Viagra.
His name is Wikika Walela. So how can such an aged, 80-year-old man keep things so excited? Well, it’s a simple matter of physics. Notice the cord tied to the upper part of his gourd and extending around his waist. At the bottom end (not visible in this photo) is a small string tied through a tiny hole drilled through the base of his gourd, a string that’s then looped around his exposed testicles cinched tight. No way was his gourd going limp.
Hey, stature and modesty are important in this culture.
I left it to this old guy with the bone-pierced nose to strike me his most dramatic pose. I myself squatted to a testicular level for emphasis. He was a jovial chap and it took some coaxing to elicit an angry, warrior expression. Bingo. I had my first shot of the day. Voila!
Papua (formerly known as Irian Jaya) is the eastern-most province of Indonesia, a country that stretches 5000 miles across 13,000 islands that embrace more than 600 languages and numerous peoples of exotic tribal proclivities. Let us celebrate the difference.
I trekked to a distant tribal village only to discover mostly old men in residence when I had hoped younger, more virile types would be present. Nevertheless, I whipped out my three radio-controlled flash units when the old guys whipped out their most prized gourds.
This BTS image below shows the lighting setup. I used two side rim lights with the key flash in the center, all mounted on lightweight monopods. The guy on the left was my driver and the man holding the light in the center was my translator. I commandeered a penis-gourd-clad tribal warrior to hold the light on the right. If I hadn’t had a third monopod, I could have potentially clamped that light to his gourd. Hey, there’s always alternative clamping possibilities when you’re in the field searching possibilities.
For the techie lighting geeks out there, I set my three remote flash units at normal exposure ETTL and underexposed ambient light three stops, which created a more three dimensional effect to separate the subject from the background as seen in the image below. The side rim lights were each fitted with a tight grid while the face and chest and gourd light emanated from a Lumiquest Big Bounce specially fitted with double Canon 600 EX-RTs positioned at close range for softer effect. I had to overpower the sun to accomplish dramatic light at midday . . . not so difficult to achieve even with minimal gear.
Notice the rim light effect on the arms of this warrior, Nomologo.
What a gloriously formal neckpiece he wore made from tiny cowrie shells.
There were a few characterful old women in the village, too. This is Okolekhe below. She decorated herself with white dots, which I learned later were easily applied (just before I arrived) using a tube of toothpaste. Tribal drumbeats rumbling across nearby hills had announced my arrival. Okolekhe’s stylish punk hairstyle was actually a fiery ring of chicken feathers backlit by my hot rim lights. A dignified lady. Proud. Determined. Fearless.
Digits of her fingers had been voluntarily removed upon the death of loved ones.
But it was Abagarek below who giftted me one of the best facial expressions of the day.
Hey, in their lifetimes these old guys were once cannibals and not to be messed with. Not wanting to become a tasty morsel, I finished my shoot and decided it best not to linger around for meal time.
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