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The Mentawai of the Mentawai Islands

Listed under Traditional Cultures in Indonesia.

  • Photo of The Mentawai of the Mentawai Islands
  • Photo of The Mentawai of the Mentawai Islands
  • Photo of The Mentawai of the Mentawai Islands
Photo of The Mentawai of the Mentawai Islands
Photo by flickr user Ahron de Leeuw
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This indigenous group are hunter gatherers living in the Mentawai archipelago, off the West coast of Sumatra. Clothing here is made from bark-cloth and hunting done with poison-tipped arrows, with traditional methods of hunting and living that have lasted and prevailed in this humid and wild environment. The Mentawai have embraced ecotourism, forming the Mentawai Cultural Ecotourism Association or MCEA. This organisation aims to maintain and renew a respect and understanding of Mentawai culture, for outsiders as well as the Mentawai themselves.

The Mentawai Islands have become a hugely popular surfing Mecca, with the season running from April to October. There are several tours to the remote and unspoilt beaches on the islands. Many trips start on Siberut, the largest island, where the jungle has been made a national park.

The Mentawai give tours of the jungle and allow observations of their Shamanistic rituals, where the spirits are called upon to re-establish harmony wherever it is lacking. Mentawai culture has many taboos that must be observed by tourists; your local guide should prevent you from breaking any code of conduct. Arrange your visit with a responsible tour operator and help preserve both the Mentawai culture and the unique environment.

Written by  Amber Due.

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