Peng wigs and headdresses

Personal adornment was of great importance during the pig ceremonial of Konggol. The peng or 'judges' wigs' were made only for the large massed dances of the Konggol. Bird of Paradise plumes were also used in abundance in headdresses. Marie Reay wrote of their magnificence in The Kuma: Freedom and Conformity in the New Guinea Highlands(1959):


"Paradise plumes spray from their headdresses like tawny and golden fountains; iridescent pearlshell gleams from throat and waist; here and there, someone may be wearing a brilliant crimson or lemon wig. The most splendid and elaborate of the decorations are worn for the massed dances during the Pig Ceremonial; the gaudy 'judges' wigs', for example, are made only at this time, and up to a dozen plumes selected for their freshness and sheen may wave from a single wig."(pp.140-141)


Marie Reay noted that in addition to the ritual nature of the adornment, the wearers of these intricately made ornaments also hoped to make themselves attractive. Marie Reay noted that "attractiveness, with its consequent prestige, is the explicit aim of men wearing the ceremonial 'judges' wigs'." Not only did they believe the wigs added to their personal attractiveness, the wearing of the wigs also connoted the wealth of the wearer. This prestige was further limited to a small pool of individuals, as few people were allowed to wear a peng wig. Normally, the right to wear a peng wig was based on male primogeniture, from father to first-born son. However, a wife could win the right to wear a peng wig in the Konggol pig ceremonial for her eldest unmarried daughter if she reared many pigs to be slaughtered at the Konggol, at which point her husband, in recognition of her labour, could delegate the right to wear the wig to the daughter. Such was the case for the peng wig in Marie Reay donated to the ANU School of Archaeology and Anthropology, pictured below. It was worn by Kome the daughter of Meian, who later gave it to Marie Reay.

Despite the prestige of wearing a peng wig, they were immensely uncomfortable, made from "an unyielding bamboo frame." Marie Reay noted that her informants told her that formerly the wearer did not remove the wig from the start of the ceremonies until the day of the pig-killing, which could be several months. The unfortunate wearers used a decorated head-rest or peng page to prop the wig up while they wore it while resting. However, by the time of Marie Reay's first fieldwork in the region (1953-1955), the wig had been modified to be able to be removed, and what formerly had been a head-rest, now functioned as a hat-rack. The peng page was painted with geometric designs similar to the geru boards.