Dealing with the death of a loved one is extremely painful, and different cultures have their own ways of grieving, some more unique than others.
One of the most unique methods of grieving that we have came across is the finger-cutting practice of the Dani tribe in Indonesia, which has traditionally been a fundamental part of the grieving process for women of the tribe, and only the women have their fingers cut.
The Dani tribe is based in a very remote part of the central highland area of the Papue province, only accessible by plane, and the tribe consists of an estimated 250,000 members.
When a loved one dies, the top section of one of a woman’s fingers is amputated, and they smear ashes and clay over their faces.
The process involves tying a string around the upper half of the woman’s finger for about 30 minutes to induce numbness. This reduces the pain from the amputation.
It is normally a close family member, a sibling or a parent, of woman who is assigned the responsibility of carrying out the procedure.
Once the top joint of the finger has been removed, the open would is cauterised. This stems the bleeding, prevents infection an forms new stony fingertips.
The amputated portion of the finger is then burned and buried in a special location.
The whole point of this is that it appeases and keeps the deceased person’s spirit away, as well as symbolizing the pain suffered due to the loss of a loved one.
The practice, called “Ikipalin” by the tribe, was banned a few years back after becoming increasingly outdated, so it’s typically the elderly women who you’ll see with mutilated fingertips.
They also have a similar ritual, in which mothers will bite off the tips off the fingers of their newborn female babies, believing this will guarantee a long life for their daughter.