Aloita? in Mentawai, it means how do you do? Yes, i learned some Metawai language while i was traveling to West Sumatra and Mentawai archipelago last year. That day, on October 6th 2010, i visited primitive colony to see the daily life of Sikerei in Mentawai. Sikerei refers to people who became shaman (they didnt like to be called witch or people with black magic) in every family that lives in each territory in Mentawai. So, every family has a different sikerei. Sikerei or Mentawai Shaman doesnt do black magic to harm others, they gifted to heal and lead traditional ceremonies.
To reach the closest colony (from Muara Siberut as the main harbour in The Mentawai archipelago) we have to take a motor boat on Gereget river for 60 minutes or so. The trees and a few ‘Lalep’ or ‘Sapo’ (home residents) indulged our eyes along the way to our destinantion. Some Mentawai people were stop and looking at us on their pompong (traditional boat), when we passed.
private collection, this photo has been published on aci.detik.com
When we arrived, the Totulu family greeted us right away.The eldest member of this family was a Sikerei, that’s why we visited this family. Not everyone can be a sikerei. To become a sikerei, edification in deep forest have to be taken in about a month. Sikerei postulants have to find a master that ‘willing’ to teach them and prepare themselves by rising 100 chickens and pigs. In other words, it also takes lots of courage and means to be sikerei. After all, being gifted is not enough.
We met with the entire family and not every member can speak Minang or Bahasa. But most of them understood with the language that we used. We explained the reason why we came; getting to know about the Mentawai tribe and to see their traditional dances and songs that can’t be found in other place. To see their dances, it takes at least 2 sikereis. The dances should be performed in pair. In Totulu family, there’s only one man who is sikerei. So we had to wait quite long for them to pick the other. Because from each house to others were saperated by river and swamp. And its raining indeed.
while we were waiting, i looked around the house. the modern touch has been applied in this house. They cook with iron skillet and sleep with valance. Both are the same as the things we use in the city. in fact, some of them already use full clothes (they’re usually topless and use something like ‘koteka’), just like the comers. At the bottom of the house, functioned as a pigsty. While chickens uasually on the trees (its a bit wierd for me. chickens have wings but cant fly, yes? why they can be on the trees?). this is what i call unique.
Finally, the second sikerei arrived. While he smoke the cigarette that we brought, he’s preparing himself to dance (be silent and maybe praying, i dont know for sure). They can’t sing and dance as they want. The ceremony must be taken by slaughtering pig or chicken before, then have a supper togather.
The First dance began. They danced and sang at the same time. The song was very harmonious with nature. That dance was about bird called Egu who cant eat because rain fall down. The dance and song really fited with the sky that day, which been drizzled all the time. Such a perfect combination. The dance looked very simple, earthy but had a deep meaning. One of characteristic of the dance is drumming the feet on the floor, like tap dance but has a different beat.
Once completed, they are not directly do the second dance. They chit chated for a moment, while they’re finishing their cigarettes. In Mentawai, almost everyone smokes. Mothers, Teenagers, even of children . Not for long, Sikerei began to do the second dance, it’s about bird called Cad - Cad who drank water from flower’s pod alternately. Then followed by The third dance about the bird called Kemud who ate snakes and then divided and shared it with their children.
They danced based on what they see in everyday situations. And they live their life learning from nature. Moral can be drawn from the dances can be seen when we all ate our dinner. When one eats, the others also have to eat. The food should be as large, have the same size and taste for each. Even in a party, celebration and cermony, they eat in the same plate or container. No matter who they are, the head of the tribe or just a kid.
The values are exemplary and shloud be applied in our lives. Like them, we must always live in balance with nature. Guard it, and learn from it. Because many values that we can learn from nature. As Sikerei who learn from what they see in nature and teach it to others through dance and song.
me and nonadita with Sikerei and the Totulu