Mentawai tribes, ancient tribes which are Isolated from Sumatra Island Indonesia

Mentawai tribes are a group of people who live and settle in the Mentawai islands of West Sumatra. Until now Mentawai cultures relatively still original, because they are  isolated from the mainland of Sumatra and have not been influenced by other cultures.

 

Mentawai men displaying a traditional greeting.
Source : http://www.geheugenvannederland.nl
Author : Christiaan Benjamin Nieuwenhuis
Public domain

 

Mentawai Islands are located in West Sumatra, composed from the island of Siberut, Sipora, North Pagai and South Pagai. Siberut Island is the largest but less in the population compare with the three other islands. Communication and transport problem caused Siberut Island mildly retarded in development. Mentawai Islands which separated from the mainland of Sumatra are estimated since 500,000 years ago in the Pleistocene age by rising sea levels. Since then the islands are isolated.

Siberut is becoming increasingly popular as an area to visit the ancient cultures. It is well known for its virgin rainforest, inhabited by a number of animal species which is not found anywhere else in the world, among them rare monkey species. Beautiful coral reefs are found offshore.

Siberut is only a relative small island and has the internal variation in language, culture in life style and in recourses are substantial. There is no clear indication of when man first arrived on Siberut, but anthropologist suggest that the bataks of the north Sumatra that is first settled on the island several years ago. In many ways, the people of  Siberut are the most ancient people among people  in Indonesia.

Most of traditional Mentawai people live in the inland, along the banks of the river in the upstream. The main food is Sago, which grows in the swamps of nature and also create their own swamp by retaining water in the root networks, when they want to plant on the flat land, but  every time they cut down the sago tree to be processed into food, they will replace it with a new sago trees. Fish, shrimp and pork are the most common source of protein that they eat.

From the first, Mentawai tribes always apply to live integrated with nature. Destroy nature and hunt wild is believed to bring disaster for the life of the Mentawai tribes.

Simplicity of life the Mentawai tribes can be seen from the way they dress. In general, clothes of  them still traditional. Mentawai men still wearing “kabit” which cover lower body, made of wood skin,  while the upper body was left naked without wearing a piece of cloth.

Another case with the women, to cover the lower body, they dangle a banana leaf midrib to form like a skirt. While for the the upper body, they knit up palm leaf shaped like a shirt. If there Mentawai tribes who wear fabric glove or clothes, there were only a few people.

 

Mentawai people (Wikipedia)

 

The Tribes in Mentawai islands are also famous because of their tattoo and they called it Titi. Titi is one part of artistic expression and the symbolic status of the Mentawai tribes.

Previously tattoos was popular among adult men and women of Mentawai. This time only a small Mentawai tribes which were tattooed. Some of them can be found in the interior of the island of Siberut.

Needles that are used are made from animal bone or sharpened wood  and would hit it into the body so that it will create the lines that are the main tattoo motive of Mentawai tribe. Colorants that is used comes from charcoal which is stuck on crock. Usually in making tattoos is started from hands, arms, legs and body. For several days, the newly tattooed skin will swell and bleed.

Reputedly, Mentawai tattoos are included the oldest tattoo art in the world, even older than the Egyptian tattoos.

 

Mentawai people

 

Mentawai Tribe Tatoos

 

Mentawai Tattoo Revival

 

 

Mentawai Islands Regency – Indonesia


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