Inside the Chimbu Tribe’s Skeletal Body Paint Ritual

August 22, 2017 - 7:00am

Featured in Ripley's Believe It or Not!

skeletal body paint

Shatter Your Senses: Sing Sing Skeletons

Ripley books are no stranger to unbelievable body painting, like that of Italian artist Johannes Stötter, but the curious camouflage featured in Shatter Your Senses! takes us off the grid!

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Living in a remote mountain region of Papua New Guinea, as much as 7,800 feet above sea level, little is known about the Chimbu tribe. Only first making contact with the Western world in 1934, they have largely remained a mystery—making their skeletal body paint even more fascinating.

Combined with dance, the paint jobs of Papua New Guinea’s Chimbu tribe were originally intended to intimidate enemies. Today, they are now part of an event called a “Sing Sing,” where nearby clans gather to celebrate the rituals and traditions of their cultures.

Despite the tribe’s relative obscurity, these cultural festivals have allowed us to take a peek into the mystique of the Chimbu skeletons:

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Chimbu skeleton dancers prepare themselves for a Sing Sing by painting bones and skulls on their bodies.

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Between 60 and 100 tribes contribute to the festivities, including those who take part as skeleton dancers.

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Taking their name from the Pidgin word for a music party, a Sing Sing is a festival or gathering of various clans, tribes or villages in Papua New Guinea with the aim of sharing indigenous tradition and culture.

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The Chimbu primarily speak Kuman—one of the over 800 languages of Papua New Guinea.

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Source: Inside the Chimbu Tribe’s Skeletal Body Paint Ritual