Kamoro Tribe is a cultural group who lives along the 300 kilometers of coastal line on the south side of Papua, the easternmost part of Indonesia. Observing the language, we can see that The Kamoro is a relative of Asmat Tribe who lives on the east border of Kamoro land. The Asmat is famous of their arts.
The population of The Kamoro is around 18.000 individuals who spread through 40 villages. Around 1.500 Kamoro live in several transmigration sites in Timika city. The Kamoro speaks one common language but shares many different cultural characteristics among them. Kamoro land begins at Etna Bay on the west and ends at the territory of The Sempan, an relative tribe, who also participates in the Annual Kamoro Festival. Sempan’s territory is next to the border of The Asmat. These three groups make up a family who are using Kamoro – Asmat language and shares several cultural characteristics like Mbitoro (Kamoro) and Bisj (Asmat) which are huge wooden carvings that represent their ancestors.
Of the west side of Kamoro land, there is the Papua Central Mountain meeting the coastal area with mountain tops near Arafura Sea. Villages in this area are situated in the coastal area. Expanse of sago trees started at the topmost part of the land that got the impact of the tides. This condition provides food supply for The Kamoro who lives in the villages that are located more into the interior of the land. In the coastal villages, people are using long boats to reach the area where the sago trees are.
The first contact between The Kamoro with the outside world probably begins with their contact with merchants from western parts of Indonesia who are looking for massoy tree outer bark (widely used as Javanese traditional medicine), Cenderawasih feather, resin, and slaves. The currencies of the trading are metal objects, gongs and textiles. Major changes to the Kamoro happened in 1925 when The Dutch colonial erect a government post and Roman Catholic Mission in Kaokanao. Then there’s a control of power by which The Kamoro was forced or enticed to leave some of the aspects of their cultural lives like nose piercing. For the ease of control, they were persuaded to populate permanent villages where there are schools and housings for each of the family. Then there were converted from their animism into Roman Catholicism. But the infiltration of the modern aspects has also brought positive impacts.
Hidden behind the abundant and richest mangrove zone in the world, The Kamoro who lived a semi-nomadic live, moving around with their few belongings among sago trees (which starts at the farthest rural area of the tide zone) and fishing grounds near the shoreline that keep abundant fish population. In the midst of big pressures from the outside world, some of Kamoro people manage to keep their semi-nomadic way of living. There are so many reasons for them to go away from their villages for several days or even weeks. They leave their homes to have access upon a greater wealth of the land and opportunities to meet families and friends. Kamoro children love this activity because it means that they don’t have to go to school where they have to obey rules and do their chores.
The staple food of the Kamoro tribe is sago which made by taking down palm sago tree, open its trunk and dissolve pure sago/carbohydrate from cellulose fibers. While this is a hard work but it doesn’t take as much energy as the next process of making it edible.
The Kamoro is also hunt for food. They hunt wild boar, cassowary and cuscus. Sometimes they also hunt crocodiles, fish, mangrove salamanders, and birds for their meat and eggs.
The main role of Kamoro women is to ensure that there is enough food every meal time. Beside sago, their staple food, everyday day row their long boat to gather fire wood, shrimps and mollusks. They are also gathering various gastropods for consumption. There is also a large population of crustacean to catch, but their favorites are mangrove crabs for consumption or to be traded in the market.
The Kamoro are not farmers. Although they have been taught so many years, they are still taking a very small amount of vegetables for their consumption.
As it is in Africa, Oceania and among the Dayaks in Kalimantan, The Kamoro is also a great sculpture artist, who can produce wonderful statues, expressive artworks with simple lines made by simple tools. This is the kind of art that has given so many inspirations to modern artists, especially they are in Cubism. Pablo Picasso’s Les Demoiselles D’Avignon depicts women stature with two faces like African masks.