Noken multifunctional knotted or woven bag, handcraft of the people of Papua

Inscribed in 2012 (7.COM) on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding

Country(ies): Indonesia



Noken multifunctional knotted or woven bag, handcraft of the people of Papua

Noken is a knotted net or woven bag handmade from wood fibre or leaves by communities in Papua and West Papua Provinces of Indonesia. Men and women use it for carrying plantation produce, catch from the sea or lake, firewood, babies or small animals as well as for shopping and for storing things in the home. Noken may also be worn, often for traditional festivities, or given as peace offerings. The method of making Noken varies between communities, but in general, branches, stems or bark of certain small trees or shrubs are cut, heated over a fire and soaked in water. The remaining wood fibre is dried then spun to make a strong thread or string, which is sometimes coloured using natural dyes. This string is knotted by hand to make net bags of various patterns and sizes. The process requires great manual skill, care and artistic sense, and takes several months to master. The number of people making and using Noken is diminishing, however. Factors threatening its survival include lack of awareness, weakening of traditional transmission, decreasing numbers of craftspeople, competition from factory-made bags, problems in easily and quickly obtaining traditional raw materials, and shifts in the cultural values of Noken.


Decision 7.COM 8.3

The Committee (…) decides that [this element] satisfies the criteria for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding, as follows:

  • U1: The diverse forms of Noken among the many ethnicities of Papua and West Papua Provinces are markers of local identities that give them a sense of shared heritage; the versatile ways in which the bag is crafted and used demonstrate the cultural diversity of the provinces;
  • U2: The traditional know-how related to the Noken is in need of urgent safeguarding because of risks of a gap in transmission to younger generations, competition from modern and imported products, and the scarcity of traditional materials that are being replaced by synthetic materials;
  • U3: The proposed safeguarding measures include research and inventorying, preparation of teaching materials to be included as local content in formal and nonformal education, group training in making Noken, revitalization of its functions within the community, and promotion of Noken by local governments;
  • U4: Different communities in Papua and West Papua Provinces were widely involved in providing information for the nomination and validating it before submission; evidence is provided of their free, prior and informed consent;
  • U5: Noken was inventoried with the involvement of the community by the Office for Safeguarding of History and Traditional Values of Papua and registered in the national inventory system of the Directorate General for Cultural Values, Arts and Film, that is regularly updated.

Inscribes Noken multifunctional knotted or woven bag, handcraft of the people of Papua on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding;
Notes with appreciation that the intention of the cultural authorities in Indonesia to include the practitioners has been carefully and thoroughly followed up throughout the nomination process, notably through broad consultation with a large number of practitioners living in different locations, using a set of questionnaires whose results are quantified;
Encourages the State Party to take care that safeguarding measures, particularly those aimed at revitalizing the craft of Noken, remain within the context of its social functions and cultural meanings;
Further encourages the State Party to respond specifically to the threats relating to the scarcity of materials and to seek to strengthen the capacities of Noken practitioners.



© 2011 Centre for Research and Development of Culture

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