Dani's Woman with Amputated Finger
"Ikipalin" the Finger-cutting tradition.
Papuans have different ways of showing their sorrow when their relatives die, mostly by shedding tears. However, the Dani, particularly its women, who live in the central highland area of Wamena, observe the ikipalin tradition as an indication of their grief due to their loss.
They believe that fingers symbolize harmony, unity and force within an individual and a family. The same is true of a family, which makes Dani people believe that by cutting off a finger, any misfortune in a family due to the death of one of its members can be eliminated.
Ikipalin is carried out with or without tools. Some do it by biting their finger joints until they’re severed; others by tying up the joints with string to stop the flow of blood and leave the living tissue to die; still others by means of knives and axes.
However the practice of finger cutting has grown increasingly outdated over the years, and was officially banned some years back. For this reason it is typically the older women who carry the burden of mutilated fingertips.