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It has been a rather eventful few months in Mentawai, as is typically the case. Seemingly, there are no fewer surprises now than there were when this journey began nearly seven years ago… perhaps just more meaningful ones.

I’ve posted a few recent photographs and included brief descriptions. You may be particularly interested in the ‘chance’ encounter we had with the dinas pendidikan kebudayan, the cultural education department, in Padang.

Exciting times ahead. For now, take care and have a merry christmas.

Went back to the coconut-farming village where I first began living in 2009. It has changed quite substantially. The beach space is now occupied by a large resort and my friends have all moved to other villages or further into the forest, which is where I found brothers Sam and Carlo. Thrilled.

Cultural ceremonies and celebrations – song, dance and feasts – are still prominent throughout the Sarereiket regions of Mentawai. Pictured here is Aman Alangi Kunen and Aman Teu Marereiket.

Mentawai’s traditional tattoo culture remains strong here too. For many, the only thing lacking is a member of the community still capable of administering this ancient art – a sipatiti.

My close friend Aman Masit Dere has been ill for a number of years now and, once again, he took a turn for the worse. These lapses are becoming more and more frequent.

Sikerei (shaman) perform natural healing ceremonies but he continues to deteriorate. Whilst he remains in good spirits, giving all to protect his clan, he is slowly dying.

Masit Dere had soon stopped eating and became critically ill, so we brought him and his wife to the hospital in Padang for treatment. It went as well as could be, given the circumstances. Most important we were able to get the entire (first) two-month tuberculosis medicine, which has not yet been available to him (in this quantity) back in the islands – significantly restricting his attempts to defeat the disease.

The trip to the hospital in Padang was in fact fortuitous in more ways than one. Knowing very little about the Indonesian health system and even less about its hospital procedures, we managed – through a series of timely events and guiding encounters – to not only obtain the necessary treatment but to also find ourselves being accommodated in a building (unbeknownst to us) occupied by the cultural education department (West Sumatra). Learning of this, I revealed details about our cultural education project in Mentawai, which lead to an invitation to meet with the head of department the following day.

We discussed at length the value of cultural education and the importance and benefit of maintaining connection to native heritage. He was particularly interested in hearing about our work and all the research and documentation we’ve gathered over the years – some of which I was able to show.

The outcome of this meeting is that they, together with the Mentawai branch, are eager to work with us in developing an extra-curricular cultural education program to be implemented throughout the Mentawai Islands; which, if we can get this right, has potential to impact – not just a small group of natives – but tens of thousands of children and their families. This is great.

Plenty of work ahead but definitely a positive step in the right direction. Thanks for reading and please continue your support.


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