The images are the result of an expedition which, with a boat made from a wooden trunk, sailed up the Sepik river (Papua New Guinea) for days, aimed at documenting a still widespread ritual which takes place among the Kaningara tribe, who live along the banks of the Sepik River, is one of the most extreme examples of emulation of the animal world, with profound spiritual significance, that we know today. In the culture of the locals, the Sepik, man, and the crocodile share a special bond. The crocodile symbolizes strength, power and virility.
This rite, reserved for men, takes place inside an imposing hut which represents the center of the spiritual life of the village “house of the spirits”, in this case it was a collective scarification of 11 young people.
The ritual involves voluntary, and often quite deep, cuts, which in the end will be 400-450 along the chest, abdomen, shoulders and back, buttocks; generally carried out using, today, razor blades, in the past, using shells as a cutting tool, these; they are treated by moistening them with vegetable oils and ash, once healed, they will then produce a skin that to the touch and sight will resemble the back of crocodiles.
For the natives, cutting themselves in this way means experiencing tremendous pain, the overcoming of which represents the boy’s entry into the adult world.
It is therefore a rite of passage which, by confronting the subordinate with pain, fear and perhaps the risk of death from infection, proves his inner strength and his will to become an authentic son of the Sepik.
The scarified will remain inside the structure cared for and fed by relatives for approximately 30 days. Here, they will have to submit to very strict rules that limit their contact with the outside world and require them to learn the history of their people.
The rituals, which are held every 4 or 5 years, cost a lot to the poor local families, who however do not give up saving to be able to send their male children to the “spirit houses”: the pain is fleeting, belonging to a tribe and the strength of the true man, however, are valid forever.


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