Papua NOW


December 4 is celebrated as World Noken Day. This date commemorates the designation of Noken Papua as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. Papua’s Noken has been listed on UNESCO’s cultural heritage list since 2012.

According to the Cultural Heritage of the Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture, Noken is a Papuan handicraft which is considered a heritage of intangible culture. Noken Papua is used to fill, store, and carry various goods.

In addition to celebrating Noken as a UNESCO world heritage established on December 4, 2012, the existence of World Noken Day which is commemorated every December 4 is an effort to raise awareness about Noken.

Because Noken’s existence is threatened, efforts are needed to preserve it. To find out more about Noken as a UNESCO intangible cultural heritage that needs urgent protection, check out the following facts:

As reported by UNESCO’s official website, Papuan Noken has been recorded on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding since 2012.

“Please note that Indonesia has nominated the multifunctional Noken woven bag, a handicraft of the Papuan people to be included in the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Security,” according to a UNESCO statement.

Papuan Noken was designated as a UNESCO intangible cultural heritage based on the decision of the Intergovernmental Committee (7.COM b.3). According to UNESCO, is a knotted or woven bag that is bound and produced by hand from wood fibre or leaves by the Papuan community in Indonesia.

Papua’s Noken variety and their uses

Noken is used to carry plantation produce, catch from the sea or lake, firewood, babies or small animals as well as to shop and store goods at home. Noken can also be worn, often for traditional celebrations, or given as a peace offering.

The method of making Noken varies by community, but in general, branches, trunks or bark of certain small trees or bushes are cut, heated over a fire and soaked in water. The remaining wood fibres are dried and then spun to make strong yarn or rope, which is sometimes dyed with natural dyes. These threads are tied by hand to make mesh bags of various patterns and sizes. This process requires high manual skills, precision and artistic sense, and takes several months to master. However, the number of people who make and use Noken is decreasing.

The urgent need for protection

Factors that threaten the survival of Noken include lack of awareness, weakening of traditional transmission, reduced number of craftsmen, competition with factory-made bags, difficulty obtaining traditional raw materials easily and quickly, and shifting Noken cultural values.

Therefore, the proposed security measures include research and inventory, preparation of teaching materials for inclusion as local content in formal and non-formal education, group training in making Noken, revitalization of its function in the community, and promotion of Noken by local governments.

In addition, various communities in Papua also need to be widely involved in providing related information and education. This is because the various forms of Noken in Papua are one of the markers of local identity that give them a sense of shared heritage.