Where: Papua New Guinea, Pacific
What’s in store: Tribal strap on to cover a man’s modesty made from an orchid chord and decorated with tassels and shells
Bag a bargain: Highly decorative tourist versions made of modern textiles like tubes of toothpaste make a novel souvenir
In remote regions of Papua New Guinea, the tribes people still lead a simple, subsistence existence, using the stone tools in the same style they’ve used for centuries. In these tropical climes the men wear a garment (of sorts) known as a penis gourd or ‘horim‘, which is fashioned out of an orchid chord. The gourd, which is often decorated with tassels and shells, is fastened around the waist with bilum string and worn over the penis at a jaunty angle.
The gourd is not actually unique to Papua New Guinea – similar accessories have also been the fashion in parts of South America and Africa – but in parts of PNG they are still considered everyday dress and tribesmen may have several different ones which they’ll wear on special occasions and during ceremonies.
Nonetheless, in most parts of the country Western dress is considered more acceptable and in the 1970’s the Indonesian government proposed a ban on the wearing of skimpy, primitive gourds in the interests of public modesty. Their attempts were met with fierce opposition, and the gourd has become something of a symbol of defiance against the authorities. Even so, Western dress is required within the confines of government offices.
The penis gourd is made out of an orchid chord or other vegetable shell, which is weighted while growing to give it a peculiar elongated shape. They are usually decorated by local women, who’ll embroider them with twine, shells, seeds or tassels.
Bag a Bargain
Gourds are increasingly popular with tourists, and certainly make for a novel souvenir for the folks back home. They tend to prefer more ornate gourds – the larger the better – and a whole industry has grown up to cater to their preferences. Some people even fashion novelty gourds out of Western objects, such as tin cans, rubber tyres and old toothpaste tubes.
main image: By Billga at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1935317