7The Asaro Mudmen

The men from PNG’s eastern highlands are known for their eerie clay masks. The grey headpieces can weigh up to 10kg and are decorated with pigs’ teeth and shells. To complete the intentionally ghoulish costume, the men extend their fingers with bamboo, creating a Freddie-Krueger-style claw.  

They re-enact an Asaro legend in which a small group of Asaro tribesmen and women scare away a bigger tribe by dressing up in such costumes and doing the dance they now often recreate. The larger tribe, believed that they were the dead come back to life – a sure-fire way to scare away superstitious Highland tribesmen. If you visit an Asaro village they will be happy to reenact the whole dance – with fire, chanting and clicking of those eerie claws.”