“They are still strong to preserve the tradition and culture according to their beliefs. Their life as it is, living with nature and be manager of nature, despite the influences of modernization still exist, it's much less to change the order of their life.”
Mentawai Tribe lives in Mentawai island, West Sumatra province, Indonesia. The island of Mentawai consist SIberut, Sipora, Pagai Utara and Pagai Selatan, which is on off the west coast of Sumatra form. They cultivate sago, taro, vegetables, and some dry rice, and they also hunt and gather wild forest produce, including sacred medicine plants that are used in their curing ceremonies. Today a sizable percentage of Mentawaians are Christian, but vestiges of their former way of life are still extant in more parts of the islands.
As you go on a trip to the Mentawai islands, you will be offered a ecotourism atmosphere. You must being local to respect their culture and nature. About traditional house, their traditional dwelling are large houses (uma) raised uo to 1.5 metres from the ground and 10 metres high in total, and entered by a notched log ladder. On Siberut the houses hold between five and 10 families. Although an egalitarian society, the shamans (sikerei) were usually leaders of the uma community. These houses are becoming rare, although in places smaller piled houses may still be found. Increasingly common are single-family dwellings built directly on the ground.
The Mentawai people well-known with their decorative tattoos. Tattoos are made following a ceremony called punen lepa to wipe out any evil that might be incurred by blood being spilled on the earth and angering the earthquake god who might the show his displeasure. Tattoos also enable people to take their possessions into the afterlife, and allow the ancestors to recognize them. They also afford them protection from evil jungle spirits.
Tattoo designs differ from area to area, and a person’s community may be identified by their tattoos. Formerly, head-hunter wore special tattoos. Some designs are said to represent the Tree of Life or sago palm, which is their staple food source. Some shamans say they must have this design as there can be no death if one is part of Tree of Life. Other groups have designs representing the thorns of the rattan palm that are said to hook the soul to the body. Shoulder tattoos like rosettes or starbursts ensure that evil will bounce off the body. The mentawaians also have to keep their own souls happy or they will leave their bodies and sickness and death my ensue. One reason the soul may abandon the body is because it is not beautiful. Hence, they keep their bodies attractive by wearing flowers, beads and tattoos.
However, despite these precautions, the soul does sometimes wander when the harmonious balance is upset by a taboo being broken, or spirits being angered. A ceremony called pasaksak may be held to make amends with spirits of the jungle, or offended ancestors, whereby the offended spirits must be cooled down using medicinal plants and sacrifices. Contact with the spirit world can only be made through the meditation of the sikerei. It is he that knowns which medicinal plants must be used, he also knows which plants are poisonous.
Several shamans may oversee a curing ceremony and only they may use the ritual ornaments and dance the sacred dances. They hang aromatic plants in their hair and on their loincloths to make themselves attractive to guiding spirits, and through them evoke the power to cure. They begin dancing to the rhythm of phyton-skin drums, mimicking the jungle animals and birds with their souls united in order to make contact with the ancestral world and communicate with the spirits to divine the cause of sickness or imbalance and put it right.
Besides that, they also are famous with the spirits. The world of the Mentawaians abounds with different kinds of spirits. Life is bestowed by a spirit called Simagere, while Kere makes a person strong and powerful. Another spirit called Kira protects the house. But there are also evil spirits known as Sanitu that can cause trouble. There are numerous nature spirits such as those of the sky, earth and the ocean, and of the jungle. The most powerful spirit is the earthquake god. Traditionally, islander were animists, believing that people, animals and plants, and even inanimate objects have souls and one must take account of these before killing an animal or taking a plant from the jungle.
These understandings of the world have resulted in a pervasive belief that human and other souls must live in harmony with each other, and so people take only what they need from the wild and always seek permission of the spirits and souls first. Even the souls of sacrificial animals are first appeased by being gently spoken to. Game animals are the domesticated animals of the ancestor’s favour. The skulls of monkey and other animals they have killed are hung in the uma to please the spirit of the dead animals.
And for your information that the shamans are the cornerstones of Mentawai traditional life. Through them balance and harmony are maintained and their way of life remains peaceful and attractive. As you know, otherwise in Metawai tribe, they aren’t familiar with weaving. That’s why there is no commercial souvenirs which is can you take away. May be you can take the peacefullness from the Mentawai island J