I traveled to Siberut, Indonesia last August and slept on the front porch of some of the most incredible people I've ever met- The Mentawai. During the trip I became good friends with the Shaman's that guided me through the rainforest- Bajak Lala, Toikot, Tai Jia Jia and Tarason. These medicine men acted as a bridge into their culture, introducing me to their families, friends and complex spiritual beliefs. I had to repay them some how...
Although the Shaman refuse to join any government villages established near them, one of the few modern conveniences they enjoy are fanny packs. It makes perfect sense- they can keep everything they need in there for their daily lives- medicinal plants gathered from the rainforest to heal clan members, bits of Sago palm to eat while on a monkey hunt, and of course tobacco- a favorite past time. All of this and they do not divert attention away from their traditional tattoos and look good with a loincloth made of red tree bark.
So when it came time for me to leave Siberut last year, I promised the Mentawai I would find a way to get them new fanny packs, it was the least I could do for all they had done for me. Their old packs they traded for had seen better days, and the cheap material didn’t last long in the damp climate. When I got home, I shipped some nice leather ones to my apartment from another kind of rainforest- Amazon.com
The Mentawai do not exactly have mail boxes. They live on a remote island, tucked away safely in the rainforest practicing their ancient traditions away from persecution. So, I put the fanny packs in a box along with some pictures, and mailed them to Ricky. Ricky was one of my guides and translators who lives in Padang, a large city in Sumatra. Ricky and I had also become good friends during the trip, so he was happy to take the arduous journey again to the remote clans, and deliver the goods.
To get to the house of Aman Tai Jia Jia (a shaman of the Atabai Clan) from Padang, you must hop on a 10 hour cargo boat across the ocean. When you reach the island Siberut, you have to take a dug-out river boat all day to the interior of the island and spend the night at Gejeng’s house, our other Mentawai guide. From Gejeng’s, you leave in the morning and trek 4-6 hours uphill and finally reach Aman Tai Jia Jia’s home, where he will most likely be sitting there with his kids telling stories, and greet you with a big smile of sharpened teeth.
Ricky just got back from Siberut, and delivered the goods. He sent me the following pictures from his point and shoot camera, and personal messages from the Mentawai Shamans.
Lala : “Masura Bagata Joey, Mecak Jene anai kahidup…hahaha…”
“Thank you Joey, Come back here again while I’m still alive…hahaha…”
Toikot : “Maeruk lek lopet na? Masura bagata. Ponia oni na..??? Oh Joey!!!” :
“Good Fanny Pack isn’t it? Thanks. How do you say his name..? Oh Joey!!!”
Ta jia Jia:“Joey, Masura bagata siripok ku tapi lopet na maigi ka aku, hahahahahha!”
“Joey, Thank you but this panny pack quite big for me, hahahahahha!”
Tarason: “Bak malupa ekeu Joey lek nu majanji, masura bagata oto toggok jene mecak”
“You didn’t forget your promise Joey, thank you and hope to see you again here.”
I’m sure I will see them again sooner than later.