Mentawai - Educational Genocide
The Mentawai islands, western Sumatra, Indonesia are home
to a little known indigenous tribe of hunters and gatherers
of animist faith.
They live under the lore of Arat Sabulangan: a complex
belief system that gives reverence to the spirit of their
ancestors and all that is natural. A government program
introduced in the 1950’s integrating tribal groups into one
of the nations recognised religions, and modernity has
decimated the Mentawai.
The assimilation has seen the tribes moved into purpose
built villages and forcibly removed from their lands.
Families now receive financial incentives if their children
are taught in westernised schools, there are bans on
traditional dress within the settlements and the appeal of
modernity to the younger generation has led to a
disconnection between the generations and a lack of
identification with traditional customs and culture.
This in turn has created physical and mental health issues
associated with abject poverty.
In the Sarareiket region of Siberut island, a small band
of Sikerei (medicine men) have resisted integration and
continue to live a traditional life, hoping to educate the
younger generation in the ways of their ancestors so the
lore of Arat Sabulangan is not lost forever.
Photographed for and as part of the ‘As Worlds Divide’
feature documentary and alongside NGO - Indigenous