Once Upon a Time with Tattoos Men
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Once Upon a Time with Tattoos Men

Padang : Indonesia | Mar 22, 2012 at 9:01 AM PDT
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Gate of Matotonan village

In the dense of tropical forest, there are still isolated tribes with full of tattoos for the symbol of sacred belief.





The houses are thatched wooden lined up in the heart of the village. Dogs roam free, small children bathing naked glory in the water tank.

On the house's ladder a man wore loinclothes smiled kindly. Look at the blackened lips pinching cigarettes from young banana leaves Include Usual roll of tobacco as he says, "Anaileoita" which means "How are you?"

This is the first impression that will be encountered when visiting the village Matotonan, South Siberut, Mentawai.

How to get there? There is a little town with port, where this is the only "modern" town in Siberut. In this place, we can hire boat and sailing accross the river for 7-8 hours in about 60 kilometres away.

There are two kinds of water transportation. first, a machine boat. Using this one, we could go much faster as long as the river does not dry. If such condition, we must go down and lift the boat when it reaches a shallow basin.

The other one, small canoe called "pompong". This is the better one. Smaller and it can still drive in any conditions. The problem is we should sit for hours in it, because the width of 6 PK engine boat is only about 60 cm width. If we move too much, the balance can be lost, pompong was overturned and "Splash!" Welcome to the river.

Most of the inhabitants Matotonan - as the city furthest upstream - have received the influence of modernization. The walkways are paved. Electricity did not come in, anyway some residents have television, refrigerator, and satellite dish. They use diesel as an energy source.

Several other houses still maintain its authenticity. Thatched wooden houses on stilts and lighted kerosene. Usually a family who lives here are elderly, or persons who are called Sikerei.

Sikerei word meaning healer or shaman. It has something to do with the genuine belief of indigenous Mentawai, namely Sabulungan (Sa = a set, bulung = leaf). The original belief that has existed since the Neolitikhum era in Indonesia (1500 BC - 500 BC). They believe spirits live in every kind of things. Including leaves, for example.

They believe in three principal spirits who own this universe: Tai Kabagat Koat (Holy Sea), Tai Ka Leleu (Spirit of the woods and mountains), and Tai Ka Manua (Spirit of the sky).

However, we can see mosques and churches here. Many residents who embrace the two religions. Traditions and indigenous beliefs are also still held firm.

In every traditional marriage called putalimogat, coconut, chicken and pork are always included, since all were subject to during the ceremony. The most interesting is how to kill a chicken by twisted its neck. While the pork is cut using a spear.

Sikerei handles the life



The existence of the indigenous Mentawai Sikerei have a very dominant role. This shaman Always present in every event custom. Be a healer of the sick, making tattoo, and so forth.

Sagoilok Rinaldi (32), village chief says a person can be Matotonan Sikerei in several ways. One was due to a long illness but suddenly cured after a spiritual dream. That is, to receive blessings beyond the reach of logic or a sixth sense (sibalungania). Based on that dream, then ask the candidate Sikerei to be recognized as an indigenous leader Sikerei. Other causes, can also arise because of a desire or feel compelled.

Sikerei also believed to have knowledge of the supernatural. If someone wants to chop wood to make boats, he should have to obtain permission from Sikerei. The goal is to move the spirit to another place.

There are interesting from their hunting activities. When they return home, they always put tree branches and leaves to the back kabbit (loincloth). Meaning, a permit application to the guardian spirits of the forest because it has taken the contents of the forest. As well as a gratitude for the generosity of Tai Ka Leleu, can bring fortune to go home for the whole house.

Unfortunately, the original house (uma) is very rare in Matotonan. Uma is a rectangle with the front porch. Inhabited by 5 to 10 families of the descendants of the father (patrilineal). Now there are more laleps (a house for one family) consisting of husband, wife and children.

Cultural collapse is also visible as most of the population under 40 years old do not want to be tattooed. Various reasons could be the cause. Through field observations, many of those who feel shame and low self-esteem when they have made contact with the estuary and city residents. Is this a sign of cultural shock? Where did the pride of generations of indigenous Mentawai with their origins?

"One way we can do by entering the field of study departments (Mentawai culture) into the school. Children are taught early elementary introduction to the culture and their origins," said Rinaldi of the village chief who also being a teacher of these subjects.

Perhaps there are many more to be done to save the indigenous Mentawai tribe from extinction. In the book "Mentawai on the Crossroads", Drs. Ady Rosa M. Sn wrote 6 steps that must be acted upon immediately. To be sure, the development must be addressed in the Mentawai wise through inculturation and acculturation. Willing to accept Sabulungan and also raise the degree of Sikerei as respectable social status, is expected to earn back the pride of young generation in the history of the ancestors.

Hopefully, many years to come when we look back to the villages in Siberut, we can still see the Sikerei sits in front of the house with a smile and say: Anaileoita!

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Mentawai's House
Credits: Tirtoandayanto Mulyono Rustamadjie
SandiPrastanto is based in Depok, Jawa Barat, Indonesia, and is a Stringer on Allvoices.
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