Monday, March 17, 2008

Mentawai and Siberut: The Flower People and the Island of the Spirits

West of Sumatra, away from the main trade routes, Mentawai Islands seem ideal for maintaining a life style known in other places 10,000 years ago. The largest island of the group is Siberut, located at 10 hours of boat traveling from Sumatra. Siberut is 110 km (68 mi) long and 50 km (30 mi) wide.

Until the beginning of the 20th century, few people visited these islands. Today, the coastal tribes, which make trade with Sumatra, started to use iron. But in the inner jungle, the only access method is using the pirogue, ascending on small swift rivers. At the end of such a journey, you can find a Neolithic world.

In the jungle of Siberut live the "Flower People", a population of 1,000 individuals, divided in various clans, who live outside civilization and communicate only with their kin from other tribes, and this only in emergency situations. These people live in huts raised on poles and covered by palm leaves. The huts do not belong to a family, but to a clan made of 3 to 10 families. Under the huts, a lot of small, black pigs wander. They are omnipresent in the archipelago and are destined, before all, for sacrificial ceremonies and food.

The Siberut jungle is a Biosphere Reserve, and this protects the "Flower People" from the invasion of the modern world and its most ardent and tireless messengers, the tourists. These people have resisted for a long time, facing Dutch and Indonesian intrusion.

Full article by Stefan Anitei

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