Mentawai-Land of the Sikerei: a portrait of the philosophy of human and natural balance

by Arif Rudiana September. 04, 2017 1363 views

Recently, we traveled to the western tip of sumatra island, to an archipelago located in the Indonesian Ocean, the Mentawai Islands. We visited the Siberut island, on the SIberut there are tribes that still retain customs, rituals and indigenous cultures for hundreds of years. Mentawai tribe. The purpose of this trip is to try to feel the experience of living with the tribe, looking at their daily life.

The trip to siberut island is not an ordinary trip, after landing in Padang, the capital of West Sumatera, we have to cross the ferocious oceanic waves of Indonesia Ocean for approximately 4.5 hours by speed boat, if using a regular crossing boat takes 10 hours. From the Muara Siberut, we have to board a Mentwai traditional boat it called pompong, ride pompong for 2 hours along the river Silaoinan, then just arrived at the Rorogod, in the heart of wilderness Siberut island. To get to where the tribe lives, we still have to walk in a forest that is almost 90% mud and swamp, travel for 1-2 hours through mud and swamp, high humidity, dense forest. Finally we arrived to the destination house.

The longhouse of the Mentawai tribe is also called uma, is the center of all the activities of a family, in one uma there are several families who live and are led by a shaman or elders called Sikerei. One of the special of this Sikerei is their tattoo, Mentawai tattoo is one of the oldest tattoo art in the world.

Uma, mentawai longhouse,  is the center of all activities, generally they build uma close to the river and their main source of food is sago, now they use lighting with kerosene. the structure of the uma is made on the ground where the bottom is used for raising pigs or chic

Uma, mentawai longhouse, is the center of all activities, generally they build uma close to the river and their main source of food is sago, now they use lighting with kerosene. the structure of the uma is made on the ground where the bottom is used for raising pigs or chic

a group of tribal families are gathering in a hut before the activity in the forest

a group of tribal families are gathering in a hut before the activity in the forest

Sikerei Aman Tagogo. Sikerei is someone who has the sepernatural ability, communicating with god, healing ability besides that the most important thing is to keep the balance with nature, considering the life of the person is very dependent of the virtue of nature

Sikerei Aman Tagogo. Sikerei is someone who has the sepernatural ability, communicating with god, healing ability besides that the most important thing is to keep the balance with nature, considering the life of the person is very dependent of the virtue of nature

Sikerei Aman Pange (83yo). once become a sikerei then a lifetime will devote himself as sikerei

Sikerei Aman Pange (83yo). once become a sikerei then a lifetime will devote himself as sikerei

Sikerei Aman Bogorogoi. A sikerei can be identified from a tattoo (sipatiti) on his body, the process of making this tattoo is one of the most painful in the course of being a sikerei

Sikerei Aman Bogorogoi. A sikerei can be identified from a tattoo (sipatiti) on his body, the process of making this tattoo is one of the most painful in the course of being a sikerei

Aman Jano, Mentawai tribes use traditional clothing called kabit. Kabit is made from simple processed tree bark.

Aman Jano, Mentawai tribes use traditional clothing called kabit. Kabit is made from simple processed tree bark.

Mentawaian, get their daily needs by hunting, they hunt wild boar, monkeys, birds and others. they hunt using poisoned arrows, poison arrow activity is their regular activity, and is usually done ahead of the hunting season

Mentawaian, get their daily needs by hunting, they hunt wild boar, monkeys, birds and others. they hunt using poisoned arrows, poison arrow activity is their regular activity, and is usually done ahead of the hunting season

Generally when the sikerei hunt, their wives (baboi) search for food sources by catching the river (manino), they take fish, shrimp crab, eel and others. They catch fish with a tool called leggei, they use a banana leaf skirt

Generally when the sikerei hunt, their wives (baboi) search for food sources by catching the river (manino), they take fish, shrimp crab, eel and others. They catch fish with a tool called leggei, they use a banana leaf skirt

Basically in the tribe mentawai there is no concept such as breakfast, lunch or dinner. They will eat whenever they feel hungry, they will find food when they want to eat, they never store food, they never leave food, they eat as needed

Basically in the tribe mentawai there is no concept such as breakfast, lunch or dinner. They will eat whenever they feel hungry, they will find food when they want to eat, they never store food, they never leave food, they eat as needed

They hang skeletons of animals hunted in their umas. That way they thank the animal spirits that they have lived their families.

They hang skeletons of animals hunted in their umas. That way they thank the animal spirits that they have lived their families.

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Jay Boggess 2 months, 1 week ago

WOW! fascinating info on these people. Wonderful camera work!

2 months, 1 week ago Edited
Arif Rudiana Replied to Jay Boggess 1 month, 1 week ago

Thanks Jay, I am very happy to share with you

1 month, 1 week ago Edited
Ken Gordon 2 months, 1 week ago

Hey Arif...it's Ken...do you remember me...?  I have been away for a while...but found I missed my camera...lol...
Anyhow...what a great set of new photo's...Thank you for sharing....Wonderful....

2 months, 1 week ago Edited
Arif Rudiana Replied to Ken Gordon 1 month, 1 week ago

Of course I remember, it's been a long time not heard your news, it's time for  you to touch your camera again.

1 month, 1 week ago Edited
Bill Baird 2 months, 1 week ago

Great photos !

2 months, 1 week ago Edited
Arif Rudiana Replied to Bill Baird 1 month, 1 week ago

Thanks Bill

1 month, 1 week ago Edited
Antonio Gil 2 months, 2 weeks ago

This is an amazing place. Thank you so much for sharing all that info with us. The pictures are very good.

2 months, 2 weeks ago Edited
Arif Rudiana Replied to Antonio Gil 1 month, 1 week ago

Thanks my friend, glad you like my pictures..

1 month, 1 week ago Edited
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