Deep in the Baliem Valley of Indonesia’s Papua region, size really does matter. The Dani tribe, first discovered by air in 1938 and still isolated in the mountains today, are known for a particular appendage: the horim.
Made from a dried-out elongated gourd, this penis protector is much more than a simple sheath. Whether a long cylindrical peaking pipe or spectacularly curved seahorse shape, this uniquely Papuan add-on is a sign of prestige, respect, and seniority within the tribe.
In fact, the Dani’s male members (pun intended) have two horim – one for show and one for work. Their traditional existence on the land means that their more elaborate, longer phallocrypts get in the way when working closely with others. No one likes to cross horim.
It is no surprise that such an accessory exists in this patriarchal, polygamous society. Manhood in all its forms carries the responsibility of traditional authority within the tribe, and displaying such is expected. Smooth and mid-brown in tone, horim are carved out and gifted from father to son, a sign of respect for a growing boy. Many are customised as the years pass by; the more ornate ones carry small cowrie shells and decorative feathers.
Manhood in all its forms carries the responsibility of traditional authority within the tribe, and displaying such is expected.
Fastening a horim is not for the uninitiated: a short loop at the base sits very tightly around the scrotum, while the tip is held in place with a loop halfway up the chest. Carefully wiggled into place with a little adjustment here and a slight tuck there, the men are then off walking.
The days of the horim appear to be numbered, though. Generational change is succeeding where the Indonesian Government’s Operasi Koteka (Operation Penis Gourd) failed, replacing traditional attire with Western clothes. For the younger men, it’s cargos over calabash, garments over gourds. The exception is festivities where pride is as evident as the tribe they belong to.