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Indigenous Celebration Festival, Bali 2018

Last week we attended the Indigenous Celebration Festival in Ubud, on Bali Island. It was incredible – a testament to the united strength of Indigenous peoples and the unique and everlasting value of their cultures. We travelled with 8 Mentawai students and teachers from the YPSM cultural education program, and two ‘sipatitik’ tattoo artists – all from Siberut Island.

Suku Mentawai Education Foundation's cultural program students and teachers perform at the Indigenous Celebration Festival in Ubud, Bali
Suku Mentawai Education Foundation's cultural program students and teachers perform at the Indigenous Celebration Festival in Ubud, Bali

Whilst celebrating their own Indigeneity – through cultural performance, workshop and exhibition, the Mentawai team were also captivated and deeply inspired by the music, dance, song, story and pride of so many different Indigenous groups and cultures from across the Asia-Pacific. This truly was a sight to behold, for all of us. A short video:

Thank you so much to event organisers, David Metcalf and Shinta Emmanuela, for bringing this vision to life and enabling the Mentawai team to take part. Also, to Suku Suku Tatau and the international tattoo artists who helped bring the two Mentawai sipatitik to Bali.

Mentawai 'sipatitik' tattoo artist and his apprentice explain about their traditional tattoo culture at the Indigenous Celebration Festival in Ubud, Bali
Mentawai 'sipatitik' tattoo artists perform traditional handtapping at the Indigenous Celebration Festival in Ubud, Bali
Yayasan Pendidikan Suku Mentawai host a workshop about their cultural education program at the Indigenous Celebration Festival in Ubud, Bali

If you would like to know more about the Mentawai’s community-based initiative to prevent the loss of their Indigenous culture and knowledge, please follow along at iefprograms.org/programs or sukumentawai.org/en Thank you for your ongoing support and to all those who have made a donation. The impacts of this are profoundly positive. The future looks bright.

Student from the Suku Mentawai Education Foundation's cultural program performs a collaborative dance with children from other cultures at the Indigenous Celebration Festival in Ubud, Bali

YOUR FILM PURCHASE IS MAKING A POSITIVE DIFFERENCE

Again, thank you to everyone who has purchased the As Worlds Divide film over the past few months. The proceeds / donations received are already being utilised and bringing positive impact to Mentawai’s Indigenous community.

Suku Mentawai Education Foundation with a team of Mentawai students

Inspired by the level of support shown by people all around the world, the Suku Mentawai Education Foundation have been fortifying their program by further developing the curriculum material to be taught within their program. Their aim is to have the program’s cultural education booklet complete by June, 2018.

Suku Mentawai Education Foundation conducting research for their cultural-based curriculum

During November and December 2017, with support from Mentawai Government education departments, the team have been presenting their Indigenous education program at junior and senior schools throughout Siberut – discussing the importance of Mentawai culture and knowledge of their forest environment. The students are responding with great pride and enthusiasm and are keen to participate in the Suku Mentawai program as an extracurricular activity.

Suku Mentawai Education Foundation presenting their program to school students
Suku Mentawai Education Foundation presenting their program to school students
Suku Mentawai Education Foundation presenting their program to school students

The Foundation’s cultural education division have also begun identifying and training teachers for three program locations in Siberut’s southern districts, where the program is being commenced. Beyond this, they’ve also begun expanding their socialisation activities throughout schools in Siberut’s central regions. The aim is to begin Mentawai cultural and environmental classes here in July, 2018.

Suku Mentawai Education Foundation presenting their program to school students

The team at the Suku Mentawai Education Foundation are grateful for your support. Without your purchases / donations, their program would not be where it is today.

For further updates and to continue your support, go to www.iefprograms.org

Masurak bagatta

WAFSAC SPREADING ACROSS THE GLOBE

Thank you to everyone who has given support to our WAFSAC drive and the Mentawai’s cultural education program. With less than 1 week remaining to purchase your copy of the As Worlds Divide film, we thought we’d share with you how far and wide the voice of Mentawai is being heard.

As Worlds divide film and WAFSAC feature artwork on a Billboard at Flinders Street Station

Last week we launched a creative Billboard concept together with our wafsac PR sponsor, The Hallway, at one of Melbourne’s most iconic locations. A powerful statement displayed across JC Decaux’s ‘The Wall’ at Flinders Street Station.

We’ve now had WAFSAC interviews air on Channel 7’s Sunrise, Channel 10’s The Project, Channel 9’s Today Show, and on national radio stations Triple J’s Hack and SBS Indonesia (in Indonesian language).

Feature articles have been published in a range of news medias from WHO magazine to Jakarta Post, Jakarta Globe, Mongabay Indonesia, and She Explores. We’ve also received a great deal of support from national and international surf medias such as Swellnet, Coastal Watch, Surfers Journal and via a host of key influencers. Not forgetting the incredible prize opportunities donated by Pitstop Hill Mentawai and Mentawai Ecotourism.

Suku Mentawai Education Foundation participate in the Mentawai Pesona Festival

All the while, utilising the funds raised through WAFSAC – your generous support, the Suku Mentawai Education Foundation have been actively expanding their team, organising a new office, scouting locations to host their program and continuing to formally introduce the program to the wider community and government officials. Read about this and more in their progress reports.

If you haven’t already purchased the As Worlds Divide film and/or are perhaps looking for a few Christmas stocking fillers, please download a copy today. The gift of a powerful documentary, attached to a very meaningful cause:

Watch a film, save a culture. #wafsac

WAFSAC HAS BEEN EXTENDED!

The ‘Watch a film, save a culture’ wafsac reached its 30th day last Monday. Whilst we’ve yet to reach our targets in terms of funds raised, we are extremely grateful and moved by the level of support you’ve given over the past month – particularly by how far the voice of Indigenous Mentawai has been carried across Australia and around the world. Thank you.

During this period, the Mentawai Cultural Education Foundation have been introducing the program throughout their community, which is immediately altering the way the children perceive their cultural knowledge and its value. Incredible to see how such a small change can have such a large impact. In much the same way, the Mentawai Foundation is drawing a great deal of strength and inspiration from seeing their culture and their initiative to protect it being supported by national and international media and people from all around the world.

Mentawai boys proudly participating in a cultural festival in Tuapeijat

Mentawai girl learning about the traditional culture and items worn by the Sikerei

Through raising this support and awareness over the past month a number of exciting opportunities have arisen. One in particular, involving The Hallway, a very innovative creative concept and support from JC Decaux, has now been confirmed to roll out later this month. What this means is that WAFSAC is BACK! Stay tuned for further updates, but for now please be aware that we’re extending our wafsac drive through until the end of November.

If you haven’t done so already – please jump on over to the www.iefprograms.org/wafsac page and grab a copy of the As Worlds Divide film. $10 to help Mentawai protect their future – a small price as opposed to the devastating loss of yet another unique Indigenous culture. Great prizes to be won too. Look here.

Masurak bagatta

WAFSAC AND WIN!

Dreaming of escaping the office to a secluded, tropical island and some of the best saltwater barrels in the world? Or perhaps in need of kicking off your shoes and experiencing one of the most biodiverse rich rainforests and cultures the planet has to offer?

In support of the Mentawai WAFSAC, our friends at Pitstop Hill Mentawai and the community-run Mentawai Ecotourism are offering you the chance to win one of two incredible travel experiences.

Win a free 11-day Mentawai surf trip staying at Pitstop Hill Mentawai

Purchase As Worlds Divide for AUD $10 via Paypal here, and simply enter promo code ‘PHM11’ or ‘JUNGLE7’ below the checkout to enter. 10 entries for every $10 contributed. Film available to stream or download so you can watch at any time.

Also, everyone who purchases As Worlds Divide during this 30-day campaign will receive a free 2-month subscription to Garage Entertainment and Madman’s Docplay movie platforms. Buy one film and get access to thousands more! You’ll also be entered into the draw to win a $500 gift card from Patagonia.

Win a free 11-day Mentawai surf trip staying at Pitstop Hill Mentawai

Use the slider at the PayPal checkout to nominate your price. Watch a film, save a culture, and WIN?! Makes sense. Click here. #wafsac today.

Thank you.

MENTAWAI COMMUNITY READY TO SAVE THEIR CULTURE

We are now just 1 week away from launching the global 30-day ‘Watch a Film, Save a Culture’ #wafsac. The As Worlds Divide film is now available for purchase (download) on the iefprograms.org/wafsac page and our presenting sponsors, Patagonia, Garage and Madman Entertainment are offering some incredible rewards for those who give their support.

This is not a request for you to sign a petition or help stop a powerful corporation from violating the rights of an Indigenous people and in doing so destroying their cultural identity. This is a very real and unique opportunity to empower a community to save their culture. The Mentawai have developed a solution to prevent the loss of their precious culture and knowledge and are now ready to deliver. All they require is for us to purchase their film and hear their story – to simply ‘watch a film, save a culture’.

Suku Mentawai Education Foundation gather together with the local community to support their cultural education program

Last Friday I travelled back to Mentawai for the inauguration of their Suku Mentawai Education Foundation. This is an important event to formally introduce the Foundation, their cultural education program, staff and strategy to Mentawai government, village leaders and the wider community.

Suku Mentawai Education Foundation gather together with the local community to support their cultural education program

The response from these officials and the community was incredibly inspiring. The Mentawai are well and truly in control of their initiative and extremely humbled that outsiders care about them and the future of their culture. Here is a short video of the event captured by the local Foundation’s staff:

If you’ve ever wished there were more you could do to prevent poverty amongst Indigenous peoples, #wafsac is that opportunity. A few clicks now and over the coming years you will see the difference you’ve made to the lives of many.

Thank you.

SUKU MENTAWAI LAUNCH ECOTOURISM

It has been a busy few months for As Worlds Divide, Indigenous Education Foundation (IEF) and the Suku Mentawai team. The implementation of their Cultural & Environmental Education Program (CEEP) is now underway and the Mentawai committee driven to ensuring its success. One important factor and indicator of their program’s success is sustainability – how the Mentawai team will operate and expand their program independently when IEF steps away in years to come.

The team at Yayasan Pendidikan Suku Mentawai discuss strategy in Siberut

Mentawai’s fastest growing industry is tourism, contributing to a very large portion of their economy. Through this, Suku Mentawai see a viable avenue to generate the funding and support they require to sustain their CEEP. In addition, they also see a great opportunity to govern the impact that forest tourism is having on their Indigenous community, culture and the health of their land.

The outcome of this is Mentawai Ecotourism – a system designed and run by the people whom it affects the most. Ecotourism Manager, August Tonggiat, said: “At the forefront of this new model is respect and transparency. We want tourists to know exactly where their money is going and what impact they are having.”

Australian tourist receiving custom face paint from Mentawai Sikerei during ceremony

The Mentawai have put a great deal of thought and consideration into developing a formula that protects their culture and forest, and shares benefit across the community. Tonggiat said, “We feel we have found the right balance for all. We are working together with tourists to ensure they have the best experience, but at the same time they are contributing toward our capacity for cultural and sustainable community development. This is an enormous improvement on the current system.”

Suku Mentawai have launched their own Mentawai Ecotourism system, details at www.mentawaiecotourism.com

If you are planning to visit Mentawai for trekking or to experience the beautiful rainforest and Indigenous Arat Sabulungan culture, please consider using their Mentawai Ecotourism. The website is now live. Please take a moment to browse, share and follow their updates via Facebook and Instagram. We wish them all the best.

In other news, #WAFSAC – Watch a Film, Save a Culture will be launching globally this October – for 30 DAYS ONLY. Plenty of big announcements over the coming weeks. Join our #wafsac community by registering your details at www.iefprograms.org/wafsac This is very exciting.

WHAT IS #WAFSAC?

Four months ago we premiered our documentary As Worlds Divide at Federation Square, Melbourne, and in collaboration with the Indigenous Education Foundation (IEF) launched the #wafsac – ‘watch a film, save a culture’ fundraising drive. We’ve since held public screening events in Torquay, Redfern, Bondi, Avalon, Newcastle, Forster, Sawtell, Byron, Casuarina, Burleigh Heads, Northcote and Mallorca – raising more than $43,455 for the Suku Mentawai program. Thank you.

I’d like to write a little about this #wafsac drive and exactly how it works, as we are receiving an increasing amount of public interest as to how or where to see the film.

One option is to wait until we organise a public screening within your neighbourhood, but an alternative – and what many do not realise – is that it is possible to stream the film within your home, office or club – right away!


All the necessary information about hosting a screening is available at iefprograms.org/wafsac. It’s so simple. All we need from you is a date, time and location. From there, we’ll send a pre-designed invitation to share with friends or family, or to add to your event page. Then on the day of your screening we’ll send you a private link to stream! *Keep in mind that these events can be as big or small as you like – ALL are greatly appreciated.



In addition to raising important funding and awareness, these screenings are also helping us build a global community of #wafsac Personal Film Ambassadors (PFA’s) – people who care about the rights of Indigenous people and who want to see this program and campaign succeed. This community is now over 700 strong and we feel we can grow to a few thousand by the time we launch our 30-day global push later this year.


Being a tiny team of volunteers, and focusing a great deal of time and resources on helping progress the program activities in Mentawai, we’ve only managed the 12 public screenings thus far. However, to give you a sense of the spirit of this #wafsac drive and generous support of our audiences, in addition to our own community events, 43 screenings across 9 different countries have since taken place. Through this, you’ve collectively raised another $8,481 for the Mentawai program – bringing the total to almost $52,000. Amazing.



So… if you’d like to watch our film, share it with others, or join our growing community, please check out the 3 simple steps at iefprograms.org/wafsac or contact us here. Alternatively, keep an eye out for a public screening event near you… with just one simple action we can help save a precious culture – #wafsac

Masurak bagatta

THE MENTAWAI SPIRIT

Although impossible to convey here the depths of what an indigenous people lose when displaced from their land and culture, I’d like to share with you a few observations alongside a series of photographs captured by friend and photographer, Chris Hopkins.

The aesthetic contrast between the resettled and non-resettled peoples in Mentawai was what first grabbed my attention – in particular, the state of the environment they lived in and the way they cared for and interacted with it.

The Sikerei (shaman) had explained to me how sacred the land was to them and that they decorated themselves with leaves, flowers, colours, tattoos etc. to entice good, happy spirits to remain in and around their bodies; which, whilst awfully enchanting, did seem a rather fanciful motive to beautify oneself. Where were these spirits and what did they look like?

After many years living between both resettled and non-resettled indigenous Mentawai people, I gradually came to recognise those from the remote forest regions by the way they held themselves – their relaxed persona, cheeky grin, warm look in their eyes, and often VERY lengthy handshakes. The ‘spirit’ in these people was very much alive. Whereas, comparatively, for those who’d lost touch with their culture, land, and in many ways their identity, the glow – at best – was fading away.

These spirits acknowledged by indigenous Mentawai – be your interpretation metaphoric or otherwise – permeate throughout these tribes-people, their culture and the surrounding forests, as though they are the forest, and the forest them. Beyond aesthetics, it now appears to me that the leaves, flowers and other forest totems they adorn themselves with is not at all a fanciful notion, but in fact a recognition of their health, wellbeing and wholeness that is only apparent because of this relationship. Their connection to indigenous culture and the land is what shields them from poverty, and their right to teach and learn about it should never be repressed.

Further information about the Mentawai and their initiative to prevent the devastating loss of their culture and spirit at the following link – Indigenous Education Foundation (IEF).

AS WORLDS DIVIDE FILM LAUNCH AND #WAFSAC CAMPAIGN

Thank you to everyone who attended the As Worlds Divide film premiere event last Friday, the 24th of March. The level of support and generosity for Suku Mentawai and the ‘watch a film, save a culture’ #wafsac campaign was truly inspiring. Together, we raised $20,000 for their cultural and environmental-based indigenous education program (CEEP).


We’d also like to extend our thanks to the Indigenous Education Foundation (IEF) and their team of volunteers for their support in making it such a wonderful evening. This was highlighted by their commitment to bring the stars of the film, Director of Suku Mentawai’s CEEP, Esmat Wandra Sakulok, and Manager, August Tonggiat, out from the Mentawai Islands. A real privilege and honour to have them at the launch and here in Australia.


Moving forward and the #wafsac campaign is now underway, with 27 individuals already offering to host their own screening of the film in their home, office or club. Through this, we’ve raised an additional $4,500 in donations and expanded our team of project ambassadors to over 250 members.

Our hope and aim is to build this community to 5000 in time for the global premiere and launch of our 30-day online campaign later this year. For more information about upcoming screenings and how you can be involved in this exciting initiative, visit: www.iefprograms.org/wafsac



Once again, thank you to our key partners, event sponsors and also to photojournalist, Chris Hopkins, who is donating all profits from the sales of his Mentawai portrait series (exhibited on the night) to Mentawai’s CEEP. A limited number of these prints are still available online at www.iefprograms.org/photography


Further announcements to come, but in the meantime please enjoy a selection of photographs taken at the event by Matt Hannon, Lewi Haskins, and Juzzy Kane. Huge thanks to all involved.














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