The use of traditionally crafted bags called noken in the place of disposable plastic bags is being promoted in Papua Province, Indonesia.
Since the Indonesian government’s February decision to enforce a mandatory charge for plastic bags used by shoppers in stores, consumers have been bringing their own shopping bags or reusing old plastic bags. Noken, which has been a part of daily life in Papuan tradition with many uses, is now being highlighted as an excellent alternative to disposable plastic bags.
This drive in Papua Province is expected to not just contribute to environmental conservation by reducing the number of plastic bags consumed in Indonesia, which currently stands at 9.8 billion per year, but also contribute to the revitalization of traditional crafts. Each community in Papua Province has its own unique type of noken, giving the traditional craft great symbolic meaning.
Noken (Noken multifunctional knotted or woven bag, handcraft of the people of Papua) was inscribed on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding in 2012. The bag, made by weaving tree fibers or leaves, is a traditional handcraft of ethnic communities of Papua and West Papua. It is widely used in their daily lives for multiple purposes, from holding objects to carrying babies.
Large nokens are used to carry agricultural produce, fish caught, firewood, small animals, and babies. They are also used in the home to hold or store goods. Small nokens are used to carry personal items such as areca nuts, food, and books.
Nokens can also be used to cover the head or body or used as accessories on traditional attire worn during festivals and rituals such as proposals, weddings, and coming-of-age ceremonies. Refer to the UNESCO website or the Online Archive of ICHCAP for more detailed information about noken.