How far would you go to prove you are a man? Boys as young as 11 in a Papua New Guinean tribe risk their lives to take part in a
generations-old ritual that pays tribute to the crocodile which leaves them with scale-like skin similar to the water-lurking reptile.
The male members of the Chambri tribe – who live 721km north-west of Port Moresby near Chambri Lake – undergo this painful initiation to transition from being a boy to a man.
It involves the boys having their skin cut a number of times and then healing which leaves marks that resemble those of crocodile scales.
According to Papua New Guinean legend, humans evolved from crocodiles that became land-dwelling when they emerged from the Sepik
River – which runs alongside Chambri Lake, NT News reported.
To pay tribute to the creatures from which they evolved, the boys of the tribe are taken to a spirit house and kept there for six weeks before
the initiation process happens.
Then tribal leaders make deep, 2cm-long incisions across the bodies of young males – ranging from ages 11 to 30 in some cases, according to National Geographic.
This excruciating process – which occasionally ends in death – is meant to demonstrate discipline, focus and dedication, and the only way
the boys are allowed to numb the pain is by munching on a plant with healing qualities.
It is believed that if they can withstand the pain it will make them stronger in later life.
After this, the boys then stretch out in front of a fire so smoke can blow into the deep nicks, while clay and tree oil is inserted into the
lesions to help them maintain their raised scale shape.
When this is complete, a celebration takes place where the boy’s don headdresses and jewellery.
The Chambri tribe spreads over three villages – Indingai, Kilimbit and Wombum – and is made up of hunters and gatherers.
Their main food sources come from the shallow lake which bears the same name as the tribe which is filled with fish and sago – a starch
plant, according to US anthropologist Gilbert H. Herdt.
Some boys in Palembei village, eastern Sepik, also undergo the same ritual.