Before They - Photography Project by Jimmy Nelson

Kalam

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Kalam
The eastern half of New Guinea gained full independence from Australia in 1975, when Papua New Guinea was born. The indigenous population is one of the most heterogeneous in the world. Traditionally, the different groups scattered across the highland plateau, live in small agrarian clans.
“Knowledge is only rumour until it is in the muscle”
The first visitors were impressed to find valleys of carefully planned gardens and irrigation ditches. The women of the indigenous groups are exceptional farmers. The men hunt and fight other tribes over land, pigs and women. Great effort is made to impress the enemy with terrifying masks, wigs and paint.

Indonesia + Papua New GuineaGo to journey ›
Artprint available

"We  wouldn't have acquired a fraction of the extraordinary images had we gone in the measured, sensible way."

- Jimmy Nelson

Rainbow over Simbai

2010

Nested high in the mountains Simbai is a village that is unreachable except by prop plane. It takes days walking through the bush through steep mud slick hills. With no roads, it is easy to get lost.  

This has kept the culture strong and rich and from assimilating to the rest of the world. Simbai really is like stepping into another world.

Indonesia + Papua New GuineaGo to journey ›

Kalam pierce their nose as initiation for young boys

2010

Simbai is the home of the Kalam tribe in the heart of the highlands of Madang. It is one of Papua New Guinea’s most secluded places where people still live a subsistence lifestyle in traditional villages scattered through pristine wilderness territory and untouched by Westernisation.

Indonesia + Papua New GuineaGo to journey ›
Artprint available

- Jimmy Nelson

Body decorations

2010

When it comes to body decorations, their bodies are heavily donned with “Bilas” (body ornaments) such as large Kina shells, Hornbill (Kokomo)
beak necklaces, cuscus fur, wild garden flowers and arm bands.

Pig fat provides the final shine.

Indonesia + Papua New GuineaGo to journey ›

- Jimmy Nelson

Bird feathers & kina shells

2010

The crowns of the head-dresses are decorated with bird feathers comprising those of the cockatoo, parrots, lorikeets and bird of paradise species.

Small round Kina shells are hooked on to and hang suspended from the hole in the nose while others insert King of Saxony bird of paradise feathers.

Indonesia + Papua New GuineaGo to journey ›
Artprint available

- Jimmy Nelson

Kalam men and boys

2010

The eastern half of New Guinea, the world’s second largest island, gained full independence from Australia in 1975, when the nation of Papua New Guinea was born. The indigenous population is one of the most heterogeneous in the world.

It is believed that the first Papua New Guineans migrated to the island over 45,000 years ago. Today, over three million people, approximately half of the total population, live in the highlands.

Indonesia + Papua New GuineaGo to journey ›

Life is simple in highland villages

2010

The highlanders live by hunting, done primarily by men, and by gathering plants and growing crops, done primarily by women. The men help clear 
the land, but the rest of the cultivation is the responsibility of the women.


The residents have plenty of good food, close-knit families and a great respect for the wonders of nature.

Indonesia + Papua New GuineaGo to journey ›

Nukunt village

2010

Once a year, the week-long cultural festival, which is normally hosted in the third week of September, features the initiation of young boys by nose piercing (“sutim nus” in tok pidgin). Young boys about 10 to 17 years old go into a “hausboi” (men’s house) to learn about initiation rites from village elders and get their noses pierced.