Cloths of civilisation: kain timur in the Bird's Head of West Papua

Jaap Timmer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


This article presents a diachronic perspective on the exchange of cloths (kain timur) and the transformations in their importance over time with social and political changes in the Bird's Head region of the province of West Papua. Providing insight into the transformations in kain timur exchange sheds light on the history of the region, long characterised by influences from other islands in Eastern Indonesia while simultaneously displaying distinctly Papuan cultural and linguistic features. The exchange of kain timur has evolved amid colonial and post-colonial influences such as missionisation, government administration, education, migration, and the exploitation of resources. The most prominent current meaning of the exchange of kain timur is the safeguarding of the moral community in regard to marriage practices and married life. As material objects kain timur are considered authentic cultural products that mark local identity. In contrast to other Melanesian art forms kain timur has to date attracted little attention from art collectors, anthropologists, and tourists.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)383-401
Number of pages19
JournalAsia Pacific Journal of Anthropology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2011


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