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Papau New Guinea

Dr. Padjia

A boar’s tusk adorns the nose of Dr. Padjia, a medicine man from Papua New Guinea’s Tagari Valley.
Photograph by Bob Krist

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We visited villages, saw dances and mock archery battles. In the nearby Tagari Valley, we met a medicine man named Dr. Padjia, who greeted us at the gateway to his garden. The doctor’s dark bearded face was painted red and black, the great inverted bowl of his human-hair wig sprouting bird-of-paradise plumes. His eyes were bloodshot and rheumy. The boar’s tusks through his nose were slightly askew. Genie Potter [one of the trip’s participants] of Kentucky, offered her hand, and Padjia took it.

Tribal Dance

Papuans dance in a sing-sing. These regional gatherings were begun in the 1960s as a means to avert clan warfare.
Photograph by Bob Krist

“Hello!” she said. “I’m Genie Potter. I’m so happy to meet you.” Ms. Potter’s manners were impeccable, as always, in greeting these betusked, half-naked New Guinea men.

We toured the garden, passing the biers in which Dr. Padjia, as a kind of advertisement, displayed the skeletons of his mother and father. For a fee of 40 kina, Dr. Padjia treated one of us, Rose, for short-term memory loss. “You’ll get better, and the 40 kina will certainly help me,” the old scoundrel joked in pidgin.

Excerpted from “Face to Face in New Guinea” by Kenneth Brower. Read the complete article in the March 2000 issue of TRAVELER.

This month the Tourism Forum asks: What are the best ways to ensure that indigenous tourism does the most good and the least harm? What good and bad examples have you seen? Post your thoughts.

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