Monday, August 30, 2010

Wooden House from Arfak Mountains

Below is the traditional wooden house of Arfak tribe. Local people call this house Rumah Kaki Seribu or a thousand-feet house. I took the picture of this house when I was on the way to Mokwam village with Rhett Butler founder of All the materials, except the roof, are taken from the nature or the rainforest. The metal corrugated roof has replaced the palm leaves due to its better resistance against heavy rain or damp weather. It is not surprising to see that this house looks different from the tropical house in Senopi. The next or second house in this blog post is not a traditional one. It was built by a contractor as part of a free housing project from Dinas Sosial or Social Agency of the local government of Manokwari regency.
The rumah kaki seribu which you see in this post is located around 1,500 meters above sea level. It means the climate of the region in general is always cool. When I spent two nights in Syiobri village that is located some 1,400 meters above sea level, I felt that it was very cold especially after 3 a.m. Perhaps this cold weather is the cause why the Arfak tribe does not create ventilation system or holes in their traditional wooden house of Kaki Seribu. This house has two doors but no windows. I cannot show you the interior of the house because I did not have the chance to enter it. When I took the photograph of the above house, the occupants were not there, perhaps they were working in the garden. Below is a similar house which has been constructed by Zeth Wonggor as a base camp for tourist located at around 2200 meters above sea level in the Arfak Mountains. Two Arfak boys in the photograph worked as birdman and porter.
My other analysis goes to the arrangement of walls. The walls are not made of thick wooden plank. We all know that wood is a good thermal insulation. Thin plank or bark is able to stop heat from flowing out of the house. If we look closely to the wall structure of the Kaki Seribu house, the main materials that compose walls are wooden sticks or beams and tree bark. The structure is enormously rigid. The cross joints of the wooden round beams which strengthen the wall arrangement are able to prevent the house from collapsing when big earthquake hit the region. Strong earthquakes (the last one was up to 7.6 scale richter) hit the bird's head region of West Papua nearly every year. I have never heard that during the earthquakes the traditional wooden houses of Kaki Seribu are destroyed. 
When I ask some of the local Papuans about the complicated wooden bars and barks on the walls of the Arfak tribe's house, they give various different answers. One interesting answer was that the cross-joints wooden bars assembly or construction are meant to stop suanggi from attacking the occupants of the house. The people in Arfak and many other areas in Papua are afraid of suanggi. Suanggi men are thought to have magical power to kill anybody. These wicked or satanic men are believed to be the cause behind most of the deaths in West Papua.Because the main purpose of this post is not for discussing the
The introduction of free housing project in Arfak Mountainous region will gradually reduce the number of kaki seribu wooden house. I think in the next ten years such houses will finally become extinct from their original birthplace.