These men rub their bodies with mud to defend themselves from other tribes
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The ‘mud men’ tribe live near Goroka, along the upper reaches of the Asaro river. Their strange means of defence is to turn into spirits and frighten off their enemies.
For this, they make these masks of mud which, with their grotesque, exaggerated features.
Once they have finished their masks, the warriors daub their bodies with mud, which they will later dye grey with another, more liquid, type of mud.
They also decorate their waists with ferns which, spread with mud, take on an ethereal appearance, making the ghostly figures look even more convincing.
According to the legend, these methods of invoking the gods began a long time in the past. The Asaro were being hunted by the most numerous of their enemies. Then, one of the ancients, a man called Pukiro Pode,
had a dream in which he saw the image of grey, terrifying spirits. That same night they made the first masks of mud. The men attached bamboo canes to their fingers, like long fingernails, and daubed their bodies with mud.
Shortly before sunrise, in the shadows of the forest, the mud ghosts approached the enemy lines, with slow, sinuous movements. When they saw them, their enemies fled, terrified, and the Asaro were saved.
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