Culture Life

TheAsaro Mudman: the story behind the dance

Men and women the world over fly in to PNG to see them perform. Who are these mystical dancers and why are they so intriguing?


The Asaro mudman dance is a rich ancestral story of a people from a remote village in the Eastern Highlands Province. It is disputed exactly where the story originates from, however, most will confirm it’s origins from an area in Eastern Highlands called Komunive.

The performance tells of a group of tribesman returning home from a hunting excursion, only to find their homes ransacked and their women taken by a nearby village. Their enemies were reputed throughout the district as fierce, unbeaten worriors. Even so, the men were determined to save their women folk and planned a dawn attack.

On their way there, in the darkness they become confused and went off course, fumbling and falling into a muddy pool of water. When they surfaced, they were covered in thick grey white mud. Upon seeing them and their slow disoriented gait , their enemy tribe became terrified, thinking that these were evil spirits coming to take their souls.  The mudmen stood at a distance calling in their own dialect to their women folk to run out and escape.   

When this dance was first performed in 1975, show goers at the Goroka Show fled in fear, terrified of the frightening dancers and their traditional dress. Today, the Asaro mudmen are a major tourist attraction for Papua New Guinea, drawing in thousands of international visitors annually.     

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