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MENTAWAI TEETH SHARPENING RITUAL

It has been quite an extraordinary month here in Mentawai, and one particular reason for this was baring witness to a ritual I’d presumed had long been extinct: the sharpening, or chiseling of human teeth.

There are various theories pertaining to the actual purpose for this act and, depending on the region you make your enquiry, perhaps all have some element of truth. For example, here (in Sarereiket, Siberut), it appears they do consider this a form of beautification; with the term ‘makolou tubum’ used as a compliment to the new modification – insinuating that that person’s physical appearance is most fitting.

I’ve heard of more practical reasons too, such as the ease of breaking down solid foods to enable babies a means to digest, which also seems plausible.

Interestingly though, the purpose I found most commonly referred to during this particular event was that their sharpened teeth actually last much longer! An abstract alternative to the (costly) dental products and services available in the West, it seems.

Whatever the case, it was a truly fascinating procedure to observe and so I made a point of filming a few key moments, hoping to give you a sense of the experience. This can be viewed here:

Australian photojournalist Chris Hopkins was also present and has provided us a couple of his beautiful black-n-white ‘b-roll’ images to further enrich the post (featured above). His final selection and series of Indigenous Mentawai photos will be available to the public early next year during the lead up to the launch of our film, so keep an eye out.

In other news, we met with the head of Mentawai Government and select departments to present Suku Mentawai’s Cultural and Environmental Education Program (CEEP) and a responsible, ecotourism strategy to help them sustain it. The response was even greater than expected, making this film and your support even more crucial! Please read the latest update at sukumentawai.org/government-support

I’ve now returned to Australia and we’re busy building the film’s release strategy/campaign, which is coming together well. We plan to launch this campaign early next year, which is exciting, but there is a lot to do to achieve this and so I’ll leave it there for now. Thanks again.

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