Bizarre, inconvenient and expensive, huge, feather and flower-decked wigs are still worn by about half the 50, 000 Huli warriors in the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea – often with faces painted in yellow, red, blue, white and black.
The Daily Wig is brown and mushroom shaped, while the Ceremonial Wig is red or black, with raised sides, and uses compacted hair, thus needing twice as much hair as the Daily wig. Both wigs are supported by bamboo frames and decorated with feathers from birds of paradise, eagles, parrots, and cassowaries, as well as daisies, hibiscus, possum, cat fur or colourful candy papers, according to the owner’s taste and wallet.
The wigs are made from the wearer’s own hair preferably, but using a relative’s hair or buying a complete wig on the open market is possible though spiritually unsound, not to mention expensive. A Daily wig, unadorned, costs $200 – about four times the average monthly wage for the few Hulis in employment. Since most Hulis are subsistence farmers spare cash for wigs is hard to come by, yet without the magic and instruction of a professional Hair Trainer, men cannot grow sufficient hair, of sufficient quality, in the right shape, to satisfy traditional wig requirements.