Tiele! Turis!. The social and ethnic impact of tourism in Siberut (Mentawai). (Laurens Bakker)


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1.1. Introduction and research problem.


This M.A. thesis is based on field research done in Indonesia from August until early December 1996. During classes that I took in the previous years I became interested in the island Siberut. Siberut is the largest of the Mentawai Island situated approximately a hundred kilometres to the south-west of Padang, the capital of the province of West Sumatra. It is approximately 4,480 square kilometres wide, covered with tropical rainforest, and rather hilly. Rain falls almost every day causing large parts of the island to be swampy which makes travelling through the jungle on foot quite difficult. The island is interwoven by many rivers which form the main infrastructure. It is populated by about 22,000 Mentawaians and about 2,000 Minangkabau from nearby Sumatra, and smaller numbers of other groups such as Batak and Niassans.

Two of my professors, who have also done research on Siberut, told me about the tourism that had recently started to develop. Some groups deep in the heartland of the island have become the focus of organized tours from Sumatra. Minangkabau tour guides pick up tourists in Bukittinggi and take them by ferry to Siberut where they travel for about a week before returning to Sumatra[1].

My main research subject was: what are the social and cultural impacts of tourism on Mentawaian society?

This problem was restructured into several research questions:



1.2. The traditional situation.


In the following chapters I will frequently refer to what I for want of a better word choose to call 'the traditional situation'. With the term traditional situation I refer to the 'classic' Mentawaian way of life. It is not my intention to imply that any group on Siberut still lives in the way they did several hundred years ago. Several groups try to hold on to their traditional way of life as best they can but every group has been influenced by outside forces in one way or another. A short description of the traditional situation will now follow[2].

The Mentawaians are divided in patrilineal groups, called uma. Each group consists of 15 to 50 members, divided into several

families. Marriage is virilocal and brides are found among other groups. Each group has its own territory which usually borders on one or more rivers. The group builds one large communal house near the river, also called uma, where the members gather for rituals and feasts. When no such occasions are taking place most of the families live in sapou: family houses where pigs and chickens are kept. Usually these are situated in the jungle at some distance from the uma.

Inter-uma rivalry is closely interwoven in society, although traditional forms of rivalry (headhunting and armed warfare) were abolished early this century. Group status can still be achieved through the height of bride prices that a group receives and through the height of fines paid to solve inter-group disputes. Both bride prices and fines are not fixed but subject to a long process of negotiation[3]. Payment is made in sago palms, pigs, and chickens, complemented with imported goods[4].

Sago, taro and bananas make up the staple food, supplemented with the meat of domesticated pigs and chickens and that of wild animals caught in the jungle. The jungle also provides a huge variety of edible or otherwise useful products.

Traditional clothing consists of a loincloth made out of treebark for men and a skirt made out of banana leaves for women. Both sexes wear intricate tattooed patterns all over their bodies and chisel their teeth into sharp points. The tattoos and pointed teeth are signs that one has reached maturity. The hair is worn long and tied in a knot at the back of the head.

Everybody performs all different tasks possible. Labour specialisation is absent. Only two special functions can be distinguished; the rimata and the kerei, both relating to the traditional belief. This belief, called arat sabulungan, divides the world in to a world of the physically present and a world of spirits[5]. Both share the same spaces, but are usually not aware of each others presence. Spirits include souls of the dead, nature spirits and the souls of living creatures. In Mentawaian cosmology living people area kind of 'two-in-one' entities. Every person has a soul that sits on his head: a simagere[6]. This soul wanders off continuously, for example when a person sleeps, thus causing dreams. The simagere does not need the body to survive, but the body does need the simagere. If it stays away too long the body will fall ill and eventually it will die. Therefore it is necessary to make sure the simagere enjoys being with its body. The body is decorated with flowers, jewels and tattoos, one is pleasant to other people and avoids sudden changes in daily life that may unsettle the simagere[7]. Spirits may attempt to influence one's simagere. Therefore it is essential not to cause their anger and show them respect. For example, skulls of animals eaten are given a special place in the house. The idea is that this honour will make the souls of the animals killed forget about the 'crime' of killing and forgive the people who ate their bodies. It is hoped that the souls of the dead animals will like the house so much that they will call upon living relatives to join them, which means more meat for the inhabitants of the house.

Kerei are needed to maintain a good relationship between the two spheres. They are best described as shamans. Kerei are able to communicate with spirits. They return stray souls that have left their bodies, drive away evil spirits, and have an extensive knowledge of herbal healing. Both men and women can become kerei although most kerei are male.

When needed, a great ceremony is held that lasts for weeks: the puliaijat. The purpose of the ritual is to restore the situation in its proper condition after some great change has come to pass[8]. Parts of the time the uma is completely closed to foreigners. At these rituals the rimata is needed. He is the one with the greatest knowledge on the proper conduct of rituals and leads such occasions[9].



1.3. Indonesian policies on Siberut.


At Independence in 1945 Siberut swiftly was integrated in the new Indonesian state[10]. Developments were deemed necessary in the fields of nutrition, health, housing, education, and a sense of 'Indonesianness' had to be brought about. Much attention was given to the conversion of the Mentawaians to an official religion[11]. Individual local government officials turned the civilization process into a matter of personal prestige thus causing the applied pressure to fluctuate between extremities at irregular intervals. Some Minangkabau, both traders and government officials, actively promoted the introduction of Islam. The Italian Catholic missionaries were joined by German Protestant missionaries who in turn introduced their faith. At the time, no official national policy towards groups such as the Mentawaians existed but several elements of the traditional Mentawaian culture hampered the development process and a provincial policy to do away with these was developed:


- Founding larger villages while undoing the closed uma structure.

- Abolishing the traditional religion, together with all its customs and associated objects.

- Changing the traditional systems of justice and bridesprice payment.

- Raising the level of development by among others the introduction of rice cultivation.

- Prohibiting 'primitive heathen customs': pointing one's teeth, wearing loincloths or leafskirts, having tattoos made or men growing long hair (Persoon, 1994:227-9).


A police force of over 60 officers was stationed at the island to enforce the government policies. Pressing the population to change as quickly as possible.

New villages were founded by ordering all uma to leave their old territory and join in the construction of new communal villages at easily accessible spots. In this way all 300 uma in South Siberut were combined into 30 villages. If an uma failed to obey this order their old houses were demolished by the police.

In the villages daily life was controlled by government officials who had to look after the enforcements of the prohibitions and the

successful developing of modern Indonesian life on Siberut. The villagers were allowed to visit their old houses because they were still depending on their sago palms and pigs for daily nutrition. In practice this control left much to be desired. At locations all over the island the traditional way of life was continued up to varying extends. Some groups even returned to their old uma permanently, but these were few.

At the same time the persecution of arat sabulungan started. Both by the government and the missionaries arat sabulungan was seen as an obstruction to any form of modernization. It formed the essence of the traditional way of life and therefore was the key to change. The main focus was on the kerei who were seen as informal leaders that undermined government rule. They were supposed to keep the population ignorant, scared and non-productive while enriching themselves through the fees they received for their services. If they could be abolished, the entire system of enormous feasts and long periods of 'extreme laziness' would collapse[12].

Arat sabulungan was officially forbidden in 1954. In that year every Mentawaian had to choose between Protestantism and Islam within three months. Arat sabulungan had to be destroyed if need be by the police[13]. Objects related to the religion were burned. Because of the importance of pigs in Mentawaian society many people chose to become Protestants.

Giving way to the pressure the old faith was denounced although often only nominally. Ceremonies were moved to the uma and sapou out of sight of the authorities. Infrequent attempts were made by the authorities to do away with this. Objects found relating to arat sabulungan were confiscated and burned while people that took part in ceremonies were punished. Depending on the level of persecution of the moment arat sabulungan rituals were carried out more or less openly.

Later, the Indonesian government developed a nationwide policy to modernize the 'backward' communities living within the state. These groups were classified as masyarakat terasing; 'isolated groups'[14]. This policy listed the following goals:


-Permanent settlements in sufficiently large social units.

-Increase in production capacity.

-Expansion of social life outside the family group.

-Enhancement of rational and dynamic mental capacities.

-Uprooting of the tribal world view and way of life.

-Development of norms similar to the rest of the country.

-Increased consciousness of state and nation.

-development of a monotheistic religious life.

(Persoon, 1998:290)


The Department of Social Affairs was responsible for bringing about the changes required. This was done through successive projects with a five year time span. The base of these projects was formed by resettlement villages; newly built villages where the area's inhabitants were assembled to facilitate contact and control. The resettlement project villages founded by the Department of Social Affairs were known as PKMT villages[15]. As soon as the villages were built and inhabited the introduction of the development program was started under the guidance of government officials.

On Siberut the PKMT projects started in 1971[16]. Villages were constructed by workers from Sumatra and consisted of one or two straight roads with uniform houses on either side at a set distance, a church, a mosque, a school, and a market building.

Every family was given agricultural tools, some seedlings and a supply of medicines. The success of the projects largely depended on the individual willingness of the Mentawaian villagers to cooperate. Most of these villages had a larger or smaller nucleus of permanent inhabitants. The other villagers mainly lived in their old houses in the jungle, occasionally returning to the village.

This situation was possible because the official local control intended was virtually non-existent. The officials left in charge of the villages lived in a difficult situation, being muslims and non-Mentawaian they were socially isolated in the villages. Many of the officials spent as little time as possible in their villages, preferring to stay in Muara Siberut or Padang.

Due to difficulties such as these it usually takes more than five years for the programs to reach their goals. If the goals are reached the department leaves the responsibility for the area to the local and regional government.

Meanwhile extensive logging projects had started. The logging industry in Indonesia is an economical sector of importance with companies all over the archipelago[17]. The primary rainforest covering Siberut soon attracted their attention and around 1973 the entire island had been given out in concessions. Most of the employees came from outside Siberut. Only few Mentawaian men worked in the logging industry[18].

Another development organisation, the OPKM[19], was started by the governor of West Sumatra in 1970. This organisation was deemed necessary for multiple reasons: the development of the population still needed much work, the progress of the logging needed to be secured and the military strategic position of the islands required swift modernization. As part of their activities eight other resettlement villages were built with money made by the logging[20]. The OPKM villages are outlined similar to the PKMT villages, and here an official was appointed for the further development of the community as well. In 1981 the OPKM was abolished again because its governmental structure proved to difficult to maintain.

From the seventies onward Siberut slowly became internationally known as documentaries and publications reached the Western audience[21]. The importance of Siberut as the resort of various endemic species of monkeys made the island unique even within the vast amounts of nature that abound on the Indonesian islands[22]. It was felt that Siberut's unique nature and culture made conservation desirable[23]. A small nature reserve of 6,500 ha was established in 1976. In 1980 a World Wildlife Fund project proposal "Saving Siberut: a Conservation Master Plan" was presented[24]. This plan aimed at conserving Siberut's nature and culture while opting alternative means of socio-economic development. One of the options mentioned was tourism (pp 102-7). The plan was discussed at a symposium in Padang in 1981 with government officials, scientists, and representatives of Siberut's population attending. Possible negative effects were acknowledged, as was the need for the indigenous people to partake in tourism and share in its revenues[25]. Siberut was even declared a Man and Biosphere reserve by UNESCO in the same year. The involvement of the World Wildlife Fund and international interest the nature reserve was extended to 132,900 ha in 1982. However, after international attention decreased the Indonesian department for Nature Conservation proved incapable of coping with the powerful logging companies and logging went on with little respect for the boundaries of the nature reserve. Other plans considered Siberut a good location for transmigration or for the establishment of oil palm plantations.

Tourism slowly started to develop, but lack of transport, bureaucratic formalities that had to be taken care of in Padang and the grim character of the government's presence on the island made it hard for tourists to experience the traditional Mentawaian culture they came looking for. Around 1987 tourism to Siberut changed considerably. Ferry departures took place on a regular base, while young Minangkabau entrepreneurs began to take tourists from Bukittinggi and Lake Toba to Siberut. This quickly became a success, as many tourists proved interested in a short tour. Rules for visiting the island became more supple. Visiting permits could be obtained in Muara Siberut and the police escort was abolished. Control of 'primitive customs' was lessened, as these were the main aspects that attracted tourists. Even though tourism developed mainly outside of government control -notwithstanding the extensive planning that took place- financial benefits and the international positive appreciation this policy earned the local government appeared sufficient to allow the situation to continue.

In 1992 president Suharto surprised the world by withdrawing all logging concessions and declaring roughly half the island a national park. Various alternative sources of economic revenues were suggested to replace the cancelled logging activities. Suggested sources include improved agroforestry and agriculture, improved animal husbandry, ecotourism, and handicraft production (Ministry of Forestry, 1995b:51-61). In 1992 the Asian Development Bank made a large loan available for biodiversity conservation in Indonesia. the Ministry of Forestry and the Asian Development Bank started a biodiversity project on Siberut and Flores, supported with additional funds from the Indonesian government. During 1994 teams of consultants came to the island to develop an integrated management plan for Siberut based on the Integrated Protected Area approach: linking conservation aims with local development needs through a process of participatory planning (see Ministry of Forestry, 1995b:3-8). Several activities were mentioned in the plan to upgrade tourism including the training of local guides, improving tourism facilities on the island, providing information about the island and the establishment of a conservation and development fund to ensure that the entire population would benefit from the tourism and not just the settlements that were regularly visited. In 1995 the project was implemented. An extensive complex of buildings in Maileppet make up the project centre. However, during my fieldwork in 1996 I did not notice any impact from the project.



1.4. Masyarakat terasing.


Within the Indonesian state live several groups that are described as 'suku terasing' or 'masyarakat terasing'[26], here translated as isolated communities[27]. As mentioned before the population of Siberut is regarded as such. In this paragraph this term and the national policies towards groups regarded as masyarakat terasing are discussed.

The Department of Social Affairs has issued several definitions of the term that all more or less come down to the same. Used here is the one cited by Koentjaraningrat (1993:9):


...[isolated communities are] communities that are isolated with limited capacities of communication with other communities that are more developed, the nature of which is that they are getting behind and staying behind in the process of developing life economically, politically, psychologically, culturally, religiously and ideologically...[28]


Persoon points out how the groups that are regarded as the combined masyarakat terasing are what are defined in most other countries as 'tribal societies'. This term is used for groups that live in the margins of the national society. They are economically, culturally, religiously and politically self sufficient and thus retain a certain amount of independence (Wertheim, 1993:21-2; Kloos, 1991:22-4; Persoon, 1994:2-5).

The isolation that is spoken of in Koentjaraningrat's definition should therefore not be understood as geographical isolation. Hardly any of the groups considered masyarakat terasing are still isolated from the rest of the world in this sense, although their habitat often takes the form of jungle, or rugged mountain terrain. Traders, government representatives, health workers, and tourists have reached the masyarakat terasing and frequent contact with the outside world is maintained. The isolation meant is isolation from the Indonesian cultural main, although isolated groups do not experience this as such. As a result of this isolation, the government argues, the groups in question are incapable of recognizing how primitive their way of life really is (Schefold, 1998:270).

The definition given and the criteria used cause the groups labelled masyarakat terasing to be culturally and ethnically diverse[29]. It has been tried to combine individually unique groups through mutual similarities into one big group, thus separating Indonesian society into two parts: a modern, and a not yet adapted part, instead of distinguishing between a multitude of culturally and ethnically diverse groupsin the not yet adapted group.

National identity is favoured by such a rudimentary division of society, but it hampers a truly precise difference. The current division allows for backward communities of modernized ethnic groups to adhere to the definition of masyarakat terasing as well, although the group as a whole may well be considered to be modern (Koentjaraningrat, 1993:11-2; Persoon, 1994:65-7).

To establish whether a group is an isolated community, government departments consider several criteria such as housing, food, health, education, clothing and religion. The Department of Social Affairs is responsible for the proper incorporation of these societies into the modern Indonesian society. A copy of the program used states four points:



The quality of life of the masyarakat terasing should be improved to such a degree that it is equal to the standard set by the majority of the Indonesian population. First attention is given to basic human needs as food, health, housing and education. This policy is introduced through the PKMT program noted in 1.3. The success of the methods used is however disputed. A publication of the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry argues that to allow for a successful introduction of the policy close assistance should be given to the people in question not only by the Department of Social Affairs but also by other sectors involved with the points of the policy (Ministry of Forestry,1995b:98-9). At least for Siberut this is not the case.



1.5. Location of the research.


My research was conducted on the Indonesian islands Sumatra and Siberut.

On Sumatra preliminary research was done in the cities of Padang and Bukittinggi. I returned to both cities in between stays on Siberut.

On the Mentawai islands my research was limited to South Siberut, due to the short time available and the practical fact that most tourists only visit the Rereiket area in South Siberut. In and around this area I visited several villages and settlements.

On Siberut I first went to Salappa, a village to the northeast of the Rereiket area. Salappa was built about ten years ago. The people inhabiting the region were ordered to abandon their houses and come to a resettlement village close to Muara Siberut. This met with much resistance and discontentment. They would be too far away from their sago and pigs to easily supply in daily nutrition. The villagers offered to build a village themselves on a spot near the river. This was allowed provided they would keep their pigs outside the village. There are about 30 houses built along two streets that cross each other in the middle of the village. The houses are mostly built according to Mentawaian architecture. The catholic missionaries have built a school and a church, whereas a mosque built by the government is in a state of disrepair.

Salappa has a population of about 450; 150 adults and 300 young children. Most of the older children are missing because they are at school in Muara Siberut or Padang. They only return to Salappa during the holidays.

Salappa is visited by tourists about two times every month. Only a few guides go there. Although many people wear Western style clothes most older men and all kerei wear loincloths and many old people have tattoos. In the vicinity the groups now inhabiting the village still have their uma and many families have sapou.

The main source of income in Salappa is the sale of sago trees to a factory near Puro. The revenues are used to buy daily needs in Muara Siberut and to pay the school fee of the children that are in Muara Siberut or Padang.

From Salappa we went on to Tatebburuk. Tatebburuk is not a village but an area. Until 1983 the people here lived in uma and sapou spread through the area. In 1983 everybody was summoned to come to the newly built resettlement village Puro I. Most did, but some went only halfway, where they built a little village near the river. Some years later another resettlement village was built next to Puro I: Puro II. The village Tatebburuk was abandoned and everybody moved to Puro II. Life in Puro II proved hard without money and many people longed to return to their sapou and uma. Many of the inhabitants of Puro I and Puro II chose to spend as much time as possible back in Tatebburuk. Some have gone as far as to live there again almost permanently, only returning to fulfil their gotong royong duties[31].

Tatebburuk is on the route of tourists going to Salappa. Three houses in the area are visited by tourists who stay mostly just one day to continue to Salappa the next.

Built along the Siberut river Puro I and Puro II were the next villages I visited. Two resettlement villages of 100 identical, government built houses along a long straight footpath. The footpath leads to Muara Siberut, which is only half an hour on foot away. Since the difference between the two villages is strictly administrative they will be considered as one village called Puro (as it is in daily life) from this point onwards.

The villagers have different lifestyles. Here live people from Tatebburuk and the Rereiket area who are rarely in the village, and there are those who have become pious Christians, both Catholic and Protestant, and broke with tradition. These people work in Muara Siberut or in the sago factory making them economically independent from their former jungle homes. Some have completely sold off their sago palms to the factory. The recent toleration towards Mentawaian tradition has created a third group of inhabitants that is in between the first two groups. In Puro every form of Mentawaian culture is allowed by the kepala dusun[32]. Although it is rare to see men in loincloth many young men wear tattoos albeit not the traditional patterns but tattoos depicting more concrete images. Kerei are frequently called upon in case of illness and ceremonies are held. During my stay members of the Samarurok uma had started the construction of the first uma to be built in the village.

The resettlement houses are small measuring only five by six metres. The people that live here permanently have added new rooms to the back of their houses or have constructed new houses altogether, pulling down the resettlement houses first. Others, who are rarely there take little care of their houses. As such, the village is a mixture of large, inhabited houses and small empty ones.

The sago factory[33] makes Puro a busy place. People from the interior of the island come to the factory to sell sago and shop in Muara Siberut.

Schoolchildren make up a large part of the population. They go to any of the schools in Muara Siberut and rent the houses of those families that live in the jungle[34].

The villages are not very interesting for tourists. Consequently they are never visited by any although the Puroans see all tourist speedboats pass by over the river.

Nearby Muara Siberut is the biggest harbour village on the island. Around 1,000 people live here, mostly Minanangkabau fishermen and traders. No Mentawaians live in the village. Several small shops can be found in the village, as can a few restaurants, all governmental services for South Siberut, and all schools above the level of sekolah dusun[35]. It is an altogether different world from the rest of the island. Probably because the focus of the Minangkabau population is more on West Sumatra than on Siberut.

At the edge of the village, on the way to Puro, the Italian Catholic mission is located. The mission runs a hospital and a school complex. A German Protestant mission used to be situated near the Catholic one, but is now abandoned.

Muara Siberut is the place where all tourists arrive on the island, and where they leave again. Most tourists do not see more of the village than the restaurant where they await the ferry on the night of departure.

The Sakaliou area is like a different world from Muara Siberut. Theoretically it does not exist, its history is somewhat like Tatebburuk. Sakaliou is the name of the uma inhabiting the area. The group numbers 58 members divided over six extended families: five brothers and one uncle. Theoretically, the Sakaliou live in the resettlement village of Madobag, about an hour's walk away[36]. As soon as they dared they left again and returned to their old houses. they built one uma and five major sapou. Now all the group lives in the jungle, some families have left children in their houses in Madobag where they go to school. The Sakaliou are visited by tourists almost daily. Each house is visited by up to as much as three groups a week for the busiest household. The Sakaliou consider themselves and the Sakuddei the most traditional uma on the island.



1.6. Research methods used.


During the research I continuously worked together with an interpreter, Yulianus Saguluw[37]. A native Mentawaian who was born in Tatebburuk near the Rereiket area. Yulianus's company was very useful. He had been all over South Siberut and knew the places and people I wanted to visit well. Yulianus often worked as a 'local guide' for the Minangkabau tour guides, of which he knew many personally.

An interpreter was essential since many, especially the elder, Mentawaians do not speak Bahasa Indonesia. The groups in Rereiket that try to continue their traditional way of life often keep their children away from the schools in the villages. Here an interpreter proved invaluable[38].

Most information I collected through verbal communication, Both everyday conversation and interviewing. The favourite pastime of most Mentawaians is to sit on the porch of the house, smoke, if available drink coffee, but above all: talk! Every conceivable subject proved interesting to start a conversation. Being a foreigner yet able to speak Bahasa Indonesia was a big advantage; both on Siberut and in West Sumatra people were eager to engage me in conversation. Especially in the beginning I learned a lot by ordinary conversations. In Padang I talked to many people about Siberut, tourism, and tourism to Siberut. In this way I formed a theoretical base on the Minangkabau view of the matter. My first weeks on Siberut I repeated this, but now with mostly Mentawaian informants. Often, on Siberut, I used this method to ask questions without giving the impression that something as 'official' as an interview was going on.

The interviews that are printed in chapters four to six were all conducted in an 'official' way, by which I mean that the informants knew that I conducted an interview and for what purpose. Instead of recording everything I wrote down all sentences that were said in keywords, which I used to write out the entire interview directly after the session had finished. This method worked remarcably well. The necessity of interpretation ruled out the possibility of capturing the informant's exact words yet Yulianus' translations were sufficient precise to capture the exact meanings[39].

The second method I used was unstructured interviewing. I had a list of topics that I covered with every informant. Questions were phrased on the spot. I felt it would be a shame to miss out on information because I did not ask the right trigger question in a structured interview.

I needed people to open up. Western people are often seen as tourists and indirectly linked to the Minangkabau tourist guides. It is feared that if these guides find out that a Mentawaian complained about them to a tourist, that Mentawaian will be excluded from the tourist business. I needed to gain people's trust, firstly by making sure it was understood that I was not a tourist, secondly by explaining that I was not there to report to any Minangkabau guide.

The best way to gain people's trust proved to be through participant observation. I lived with Mentawaian families, shared their food, and sometimes helped out with the daily work. I tried to become as much as possible an ordinary member of the household although I miss the skills to be truly useful in most of the daily work done by Mentawaian men. I am a terrible hunter, far too noisy and too slow, but I sometimes chopped firewood, provided company when the chicken needed to be fed, or assisted in activities like playing domino or chess. While staying with the Sakaliou I helped in the construction of a new house. I took part in daily life as much as I could, witnessing ceremonies, deaths, helping out with illnesses and sharing in the spoils of successful hunts.

Next, I used the unorthodox method of covert observation on three occasions. Here I mean observing a group of people without letting them know that they were being observed. I had not planned on this, but it was unavoidable. Later I will return to this method in detail.

I started to collect everything I could find related to tourism on Siberut, both with regard to the Mentawaian vision and to the image shown by the Indonesian government. A method I used to bring an informal conversation to the subject of tourism was to show postcards that I bought in Padang and Bukittinggi that depicted Mentawaians in traditional dress and uma. Everybody would have an opinion about those and gladly discuss tourism.

Citra Mandiri in Padang keeps a record of all the newspaper articles published regarding the Mentawai Islands. I spent time doing literature research both at their office and at the library of the Universitas Andalas (UNAND).

Some informants clearly could offer more information than others and some situations proved so important that I gave them special attention. Of these I made case studies of which several will be discussed in the following chapters.



1.7. Division of the thesis.


After the introduction of Siberut in this chapter, the theoretical assumptions used regarding tourism and ethnicity are next discussed in chapter two. An attempt is made to explain tourism as a social phenomenon and to distinguish between different groups involved in the process, each group with its own specific role. This distinction of different groups is used throughout the following chapters to create an image that is as complete as possible.

Chapter three deals with the initial implementation of the different roles in tourism regarding the situation on Siberut. This is done from a historical point of view in which the development of social relations between the different groups is the main focus of attention. Images of the other groups are introduced using this historic context.

In chapters four to six all four groups distinguished in chapter two are separatedly discussed. Chapter four relates the role and views of the Mentawaian population regarding tourism. Explanations of tourism, benefits and losses are discussed, as are images of the self and of the other groups involved. No tourism survives without tourists: they are discussed in chapter five. Attention is given to their expectancies, experiences and impressions afterwards. A discussion of the type of tourist that visits Siberut concludes this chapter.

Tourist guides are the subject of chapter six. The opportunities of the profession and the image of guides in Minangkabau -and to a lesser extend, Indonesian- society. The organisation of guides in Bukittinggi and on Siberut is explained, as are the working conditions of the Siberut guides in general. Images considering Mentawaians and tourists are discussed, as is the image of Mentawai as found in Minangkabau society.

In line with the expanding view of the situation -from Siberut to west Sumatra- Siberut is discussed as a part of the Indonesian state in chapter seven. National policies regarding tourism and tribal societies are briefly explained, and the image of Siberut as a tourist destination as given in Indonesian media is explored. The control of "unity" over Indonesia's "diversity" is discussed regarding tourism. The implementation of alternative development plans for Siberut and possible consequences conclude this chapter.

Chapter eight consists of the final conclusions. Here findings and theoretical assumptions as discussed in chaper two are compared.





"Tiele, turis!![40]", upon arrival in a new Mentawaian village or house, we inevitably were greeted with these words, expressing amazement, joy and expectation all in one. A 'turis' in the Mentawaian context, is a white person, both male or female. Obviously, I was explained, white people are tourists. Why else would they be on Siberut?

This train of thought immediately words a frustration that many present day anthropologists have to deal with[41]. The times of undisturbed communities that had limited contact with the Western world before an anthropologist arrived to set up camp and write an ethnography are over. Nowadays an anthropologist striving to become accepted into a community first has to lose his immediately ascribed image as a tourist by patiently and frequently explaining his motives to newly met people. Tourists and anthropologists do however have one major similarity: a shared interest in 'the other'; places and cultures that are different from one's own society.

Only in the last decades of this century travelling became accessible to large groups of Western society due to increasing economic prosperity in most industrialized nations and an ever expanding infrastructure. The number of tourists is growing rapidly.

In the present day few places on earth indeed are not yet discovered as tourist destinations[42]. Huige (1995) wrote[43]:


While you are reading this, accountants from Amsterdam are crawling over weak rope bridges in Yucatan, mailmen from Aberdeen are floating on hang-gliders over Alaska, and nurses from Kansas are hurdling themselves into swirling rivers on Kalimantan.


Tourism has many faces and comes in many different varieties[44]. Here emphasis will be placed on the up and coming tourism to 'pristine' hard to reach, remote destinations. Tourist interest for unspoiled nature and unspoiled cultures is growing. Western (1993:7-8) considers this to be a logical development. Tourists from the industrialized and urbanized Western countries are looking for "the great frontier" between civilization and wilderness. Travels to far away destinations in search of this frontier are not new in Western culture, but have for a long time only been possible for an elite group. A hundred years ago people undertaking a safari in Africa where not likely to run into each other, whereas a friend of mine who works as a guide on photo safaris in Africa told me how often three or four jeeps filled with tourists are parked around one sleeping, bored lion.

As a consequence of such tourism fragile ecosystems become endangered or are even destroyed. From a conservationist's approach such tourism is considered a harmful development. Few countries are however in the position to declare part of their territories protected nature areas. Economic interests often outweigh conservation attempts. Ecotourism was developed as a reaction to the potential destructive dangers brought about by tourism. Western cites the definition given by The Ecotourism Society:


"Ecotourism is responsible travel to natural areas which conserves the environment and improves the welfare of local people[45]."


Specific focal points must receive attention in the development of ecotourism. Western mentions:

Following the slogan of "nature, use it or loose it" (Persoon, 1998a:317) ecotourism aims at a simultaneous combination of environmental protection and economical profit generation by developing tourism while keeping its impact as low as possible (Western: 8-10; Persoon, 1998a:317-9). As a consequence, the number of tourists admitted to an area is low and admittance fees are high. Low numbers cause an area to be experienced as exotic and pristine with a high 'great frontier' level, while high prices ensure profit. Many such destinations are located in development countries whose main interest is not conservation but economical development. Profit therefore is a main requirement.

The combination of environmental conservation and tourism remains subject to discussion: the initial idea might work yet constant quality needs to be maintained. Haywood's (1986) warnings how tourism areas tend to change for the worse over the years are a good example of the dangers that opponents of ecotourism foresee:


-Pristine beauty becomes soiled with tacky development.

-Highbrow tourists are replaced by lowbrow tourists.

-Residents initially enamoured with the industry become disenchanted.

-Eventually tourism with all its inherent promises self-destructs.[46]


Another kind of tourism that focuses on the authentic conditions at the final frontier is ethnotourism; tourism aimed at visiting societies that continue their traditional way of life as much as possible despite globalization or governmental attempts at modernization. Such groups often are ethnic minorities in a larger nation state. So-called 'tribal societies' qualify easily for ethnotourism. The point of ethnotourism is not so much that people put on a show to please an audience that afterwards returns home or goes to the beach. In ethnotourism the ethnicity of the group visited is the main purpose of the trip. It is tourism that needs the uniqueness of the culture visited to survive, and might in this way even be psychologically beneficial and protecting to the culture visited as such.

In my opinion successful ethnotourism needs the same conditions as ecotourism does: small numbers of visitors disrupt life as little as possible and high prices make what is only too often officially considered a backward community economically important to the state[47].

Ethnicity as a concept sprang to life when it became obvious that different cultural groups would not dissolve into one homogeneous blend. Schefold writes how:


"...the old 'melting pot' theory had proved wrong; many indications pointed to the fact that forms of social life which tended to be regarded as relics of an earlier age, and therefore as doomed to extinction, were capable of renewing and transforming themselves...this phenomenon...soon was to be labelled 'Ethnicity' (Schefold, 1988b:231)."


Brass (1985:17) proposes that ethnicity is a system of identification in which symbols are used by groups or communities to create internal cohesion and to distinguish the group from other ethnic groups. If we take his lead it follows that contact between differing ethnic groups is vital for ethnic identity. The aspects regarded as significant by a group can change according to the situation. Any form of interaction between different ethnic groups may cause changes of some kind in one or the other. Therefore ethnicity can not be explained by tradition only. Barth (1969:15) argues that the critical focus of investigation should not be on the "cultural stuff" defining the group, but on the ethnic boundary that encloses it. The ethnic boundary is the place where members of different cultures are confronted with each others systems, and where they are confronted with the contents of their own culture allowing for an objectivation of this culture and subjection of the culture to reflection, discussion, and conscious choice. Cultural identity and ethnicity are therefore seen as non-static, always changing and always contested manmade constructions that depend on a balance of impact of contact between various cultural groups on the one hand and tradition on the other[48]). This assumption is of great importance to this thesis as tourism and the reactions it causes may through this assumption be considered as belonging to certain cultures. Contact between Western tourists and the culture they visit is, especially on a frequent base, certainly a meeting of two or more ethnic groups. Therefore a process of mutual cultural influencing can be expected.

As such, attention should be given to the temporal dimension of tourism and the way in which it influences present day relationships[49]). Inter-ethnic relationships presently showing in tourism may have been in existence for a long time already. Trade relationships, traditional enemies, or colonial pasts may have had their consequences for present day tourism[50]).

In many ethnicity studies tourism stays ignored or is condemned as "bastardization and commoditization of previously authentic cultures", as Wood (1997:2) writes[51]). He goes on to conclude that within ethnicity studies tourist ethnicity is regarded as "phoney ethnicity", a show put on to demonstrate no longer existing rituals or present day ritual occasions taken out of context for a not understanding audience. It would however be too simplistic a representation of the situation to stop here. The discussions on tourism form around the nature of the activity and the consequences. Anthropologists are among the most fervent of critics and although a broad discussion of their criticism would lead us too far from the main topic, a comparison between anthropology and tourism offers an excellent opportunity to explore the nature of tourism. Anthropology is based on a genuine interest for 'the other', a way of life that the anthropologist wishes to understand, presumably by partaking in it, as completely as can be achieved by a cultural outsider. Tourists do not seek such an understanding of another culture. Their quest is a quest for the exotic where the exotic is excitingly unfamiliar and meant to stay as such on the risk of becoming tediously familiar. According to Boorstin (1963) tourists are looking for the confirmation of "myths and fantasies", images so to say, about the destination of their trip. These myths are created in Western countries and show an attractive, positive image of the destination. The image has to be uncomplicated yet show several traits that establish the uniqueness of the place. Boorstin calls these "pseudo experiences" that wrong the actual values of the culture visited. Selwyn (1992:30) goes as far as to warn for "Disneyfication" of places because of tourism. Lengkeek (1996:72-3) writes how in scientific discourse the idea has developed that tourism is based on a permanent state of euphoria caused by the confirmation of the myths brought from home. Tourists are looking at a culture with a "tourist gaze" (Urry, 1990), seeing not reality but an artificial image. Lengkeek warns for an oversimplification of the nature of tourism. He argues that for a full understanding the reason for the travelling should be properly understood. It follows that the reason for tourist travelling must be sought in a common 'cultural stuff' of the tourist group[52]). Turning our focus to the ethnic border separating the two groups some other observations can be made.

The 'mythical' image cultivated in the west has its consequences. Objective reciprocal contact between tourists and locals is hampered when tourists are living it up in their fantasy world[53]). Most tourists are limited in their abilities and desires to learn about the culture they visit; they stay a short time only, do not speak the language, are not necessarily willing to communicate, and do not know the codes of behaviour. It must however not be forgotten that for most tourists the holiday is meant for relaxation and not to live the lives of other societies.

If verbal communication is out, the only possible thing to do is to look at each other. Visual aspects are frequently used means to assert ethnic identity: aspects such as clothes, crafts, and the like, emphasize the uniqueness of a culture and allow for identification. Keyes and Van den Berghe (1984:340) call such aspects "ethnic markers". Tourism causes easily displayable and spectacular aspects of a culture to receive a lot of attention. Ethnic markers therefore are among the first traits of a culture that are used in tourism to create an image of the culture. Next, tourism may also pay attention to visual cultural aspects that is not in line with the position these aspects originally took within the framework of their culture. Although such aspects may play a minor role in their authentic context, they may focus prominently in the tourism image. I would suggested to regard this phenomenon as ethnic markers applied from the outside, in contrast to those from the inside by which I mean ethnic markers introduced by the culture itself.

Provided they are aesthetically pleasing and sufficiently representative to show the uniqueness of the culture visited, ethnic markers especially become much sought after souvenirs. Although other criteria of 'cultural pureness' are used then an anthropologist or art historian would require[54]). Tourism can become the source of a veritable industry of souvenirs[55]). Sometimes old handicrafts are rediscovered, other times they are newly invented. In Bali tourism brought new life to the wood carving trade, whereas stone carving in Zimbabwe was authenticated as ethnic culture when it proved profitable for tourism (Mamimine, 1997).

Appadurai (1986:13) talks about the "commodity situation" of objects: the situation in which their exchangeability for something else is their socially relevant feature. Here transactions between different cultural groups are not governed by any other standards and criteria of exchange than the price, meaning that the only inherent value agreed upon is the price paid for the object[56]). Any rules or practices regarding the object are left behind when it crosses the cultural boundary. As Appadurai proposes this theory for commodities I would like to suggest to take the theory a step further where tourism is concerned and propose a commodity situation not only for objects, but also for other displays of ethnicity that are likely to be in demand by tourists such as feasts, rituals, and dances. Examples of demonstrations where such occasions are taken out of context and performed solely for the sake of tourism can be found all over the world.

However, this is not a new thing. Eliade (1964:154) cites Donner who observed in the beginning of this century how Siberian shamans would demonstrate their rituals at the request of Russian officials. By leaving out certain essential magical attributes the shamans reduced the rituals to no more than "a parody principally intended to amuse the audience", thereby leaving the original rituals in their true context. It is justifiable to suggest that a demonstration given for tourist purposes is not the real thing, but real ceremonies may not be daily occurrences or tourists may not be welcome there.

Demonstrations can be a way to protect the authentic from outside interference; an adaptation of traditions in such a way as to allow them to survive in modern times. Referring to this phenomenon MacCannell (1973) speaks of "reconstructed ethnicity": a situation in which the cultural dialogue is closed and the interaction of tourists and hosts is divided into a frontstage and a backstage. In the front culture is staged for tourists. The desired ethnic images are presented to the visitors as if they were daily life. In many cases they are not. A culture evolves further and maintains living forms of authenticity not accessible to outsiders that are experienced In a private backstage. In time, the relentless quest for authenticity will drive tourists to discover the backstage and open it up, although what they may find might very well be a specially prepared new front region while the true back region is safely withdrawn behind this new wall. This process of 'cultural defence' in which visited groups live up to the images of expectancies received from a dominant other culture is known as transculturation (Pratt, 1992:7; Dahles, 1996:72).

Perhaps even people can be given a commodity situation. Keyes and Van den Berghe (1984:345) write that "in ethnic tourism, the native is not simply 'there' to serve the needs of the tourist; he is himself 'on show', a living spectacle to be scrutinized, photographed, tape recorded, interacted with in particular ways". Abbink (1995) argues that local people are objectified by tourists: tourists look at them, take their pictures, and run off with their 'loot' before anything can be demanded in return.

Commodification like this is not disturbing to the 'tourist experience', perhaps it is even essential. When money is paid for a product (a holiday) to be consumed this product must meet the standards required (adhere to the exotic image) to be satisfactory. Commodifying aspects of a culture to meet with institutionalized, expected images is a way to secure the customers satisfaction. If we take into consideration that reciprocity in exchange relations is in most societies part of the idea of proper human behaviour the one way exchange of culture for money as is found in tourism must prove inadequate. Tourists do not legitimize their presence through social interaction but, as Abbink (1995) wrote: "financially redeem the aggravation of the local population".

Are anthropologists doing any better? Hopefully they are. Successful research requires a good personal relationship with the informants and a thorough study of the culture and local situation, something obtained by participating in the daily life of the group that is being researched[57]). Secondly, most anthropologists do not have the money to simply 'buy' their presence as tourists do, so again they will have to find a way to legitimize their stay in a way appreciated by the people they wish to stay with. Seen in the light of commoditization overruling social behaviour the negative attitude of many social scientists towards the ascribed tourist image -and tourism in general- is not hard to understand.

This aspect of tourism earned it the image of a corrupting influence in much anthropological discourse.

We established that the balance of power between tourists and host societies is not an equal one. A third party involved remains to be discussed: the authorities of the state the groups visited live in. As with ecotourism, ethnotourism should be sufficiently profitable to allow the continuation of the situation. On the other hand, the situation can be a self-solving problem. Technologically unsophisticated ethnic minorities are often considered a problem slowing down modernization or economic growth. Tourism might offer a solution to both, or it might be a way for fourth parties to cut into the profit. Minorities as described above are not prepared to deal with tourism, let alone run a functioning tourism industry. Other groups, finding a role as tourist guides offer their services here. Toraja, living in Sulawesi's heartland, complain of coastal Buginese and Makassarese guides who 'steal' the arriving tourists even before they visit Toraja country, leaving Toraja guides without work (Adams, 1997).

The fourth group often are no members of the ethnic group that makes up their livelihood. As a consequence, their knowledge of the culture, and their interest in the culture are often inadequate. Especially since many jump at the opportunity for economical reasons only.

When social contact in tourism is so much economically and politically controlled the reactions of the hosts remains to be discussed. If tourism causes foreign groups to 'gaze at' ethnic minorities, holds power over them and destroys their rituals and traditions, then how do such minorities react to tourists or foreign groups in general? Considering that every ethnic group, or culture, defines itself and the other through a process of reflection, the words of Levi-Strauss (1973:329) may provide a useful addition:


"The notion of humanity, which includes without distinction of race or civilization all the forms of the human species, appeared very late and in a limited way....Mankind stops at the frontiers of the tribe, of the linguistic group, and sometimes even of the village, to the extend that a great many of the people called primitive call themselves by a name which means 'men'....thus implying that the other tribes....have no part in human virtues or even human nature."


Few cultures are in a position to send anthropologists around researching the 'true culture' of other, in their eyes exotic groups. Perhaps the tourist's false expectancies can be considered not unlike a first attempt at cultural definition of the other. Foster (1982) sees the exotic as a symbolic-interpretive element that enables a group through the assimilation of cultural difference to understand another group that they consider different from themselves. The dialectic understanding of comprehended diversity that results is however distorted and true assimilation limited since exotic in itself implies unfamiliar, instead of one's own.

Many examples are known of ways in which foreign cultures were incorporated when their presences became in need of explanation. The Dogon of West-Africa adopted the physical role of a frequently visiting anthropologist in their mask dances. They made an anthropologist-mask and a wooden camera. The anthropologist dancer circles the other dancers while pretending to take pictures.

Cuna shamans in Central America stress the otherness of the Western world by guiding the souls of their dead to a realm that is nothing but a modern city with houses, ships, and radios (Kramer, 1989:119-20).

A Mentawaian myth stating how the various groups of people in the world emerged from different polls of reed was quickly expanded with more polls when the Dutch and later the Japanese entered the island.

Again, similar to the tourist's case, it must be stressed that it would be wrong to expect host societies to develop theories on the structure and meaning of the culture of other groups as anthropologists do. Where anthropologists seek understanding most groups will focus on the otherness, the difference that is plainly seen when contact is established[58]).

A phenomenon based on social interaction between different groups cannot be described through the eyes of one party only. The view taken is largely decisive for the way in which a situation is experienced. It must be attempted to take into consideration the view of every party involved; to use these "multiple narratives" (Dahles, 1996a:70) trying to give a description that is both complete and valid. Difficult as this might seem, an attempt might prove worthwhile.



Concluding remarks.


The above leads to some assumptions that will be used to explore the situation on Siberut. First, we must identify the four groups involved in the process and explore their mutual relationships. By assuming that culture adapts itself to new situations and is not static it can be suggested that such relationships may have changed over the years or may be subject to change at the present. The same assumption implies that a culture is not a mere defenceless victim to be 'overrun' by tourists, but has means to adapt itself. Such means of adaptation and the influence of tourism must be defined. To do so, ethnic markers and the self-image of the culture must be explored.




In this chapter some of Siberut's history will be discussed. The focus lies on the contacts between Mentawaians and foreigners and -be it limited- on the early images formed of foreign groups. The Dutch colonial period, the following Japanese occupation and the tourism as it took place between Indonesia's independence and the start of present day tourism will be discussed. However, the discussion must stay brief as it is meant as background information for the understanding of the present day situation only.



3.1. Colonial history of the islands.


Although Indonesia has been colonized for hundreds of years the Mentawai Islands were virtually ignored for most of this period. Their existence was well known; they appear on old sea charts as the "Islands of Good Fortune[59]". As early as 1600 the Mentawai islands were visited by admiral Van Neck who landed to lay in fresh water supplies (Neumann, 1909:211). One of the earliest ethnographical accounts of the islands was written in 1799 by Crisp. Several early references to the islands can be found, but it was not until the end of the eighteenth century that travellers' reports started to appear.

Mentawaian colonial history is linked with that of Sumatra. Sumatra's west coast was ignored until 1714 when the British built their trading post Fort Marlborough, which was quickly followed by two more posts at Natal and Tapanuli[60] (Loeb, 1972:10-2). Between 1749 and 1757 the British attempted to establish pepper estates on the Mentawai islands but the attempt failed and the plans were abandoned (Bezemer, 1921:316).

In 1825 the British traded their possessions on Sumatra for Malacca, which was then occupied by the Dutch. Sumatra and its west coast islands became part of the Dutch East Indies.

Contact between the islands and Sumatra was mainly maintained by Minangkabau and Chinese traders. Sometimes trading disputes between these traders and Mentawaians resulted in bloody skirmishes and deaths have been reported on both sides. The Mentawaians quickly gained a fierce and warlike reputation among the population of West Sumatra, whereas they themselves considered the traders to be untrustworthy and bloodthirsty[61]. Contact with Dutch colonials was limited to navy boats that could infrequently be seen patrolling between the islands and that sometimes landed to take in supplies. Government influence was limited to incidental punitive expeditions after the pillaging of a trading vessel or the killing of a merchant. Structural governmental rule on Siberut was non-existent at the time.

In 1864 the decision was made by the Dutch to establish direct control over the islands, mostly out of fear of other colonial powers who might use the islands as a strategic foothold to the Dutch East Indies.

At the end of the nineteenth century the colonial government requested the assistance of missionary societies to 'civilize' the population. The request was honoured, and although slowly, missionary work took a start. The first missionary arrived in 1901 at North Pagai. Due to the troubles the population caused him his post was strengthened by a military force in 1905. Between 1907 and 1909 military posts on North and South Pagai brought these islands under Dutch rule. On Siberut and Sipora small military garrisons were stationed in 1905[62]. In 1911 the Mentawaian garrison moved to Muara Siberut which since then has remained the seat of local government.

The post's commanders did not have a concrete program to change daily life on the islands although they succeeded in abolishing traditional headhunting. In practice, a policy of non-interference was followed regarding religious and cultural matters, as long as these did not interfere with law and order. Some policy rules can however be distinguished:


- Continued suppression of headhunting.

- Establishing local rule by appointing village chiefs.

- Restricting traditional legal systems.

- Constructing roads and footpaths by means of compulsory labour.

- Stimulating missionary work and education.

- Protecting Chinese and Minangkabau traders.

- Moving the pigs out of the villages.

(Persoon, 1994:214)


At the same time Siberut became an open penal colony. The location was close to ideal with a large stretch of sea isolating the island from Sumatra and a hostile jungle inhabited by 'fearful savages' who would not accept runaways in their midst, thus excluding escape the other way. Around 1930 the colony was in full swing with about 250 convicts, all of them Indonesians, living in an encampment in Muara Siberut. The prisoners had to work on the construction of roads and harbour quays guarded by a garrison of 45 soldiers[63]. Other governmental personnel on the island consisted of a doctor, a military and a civil manager, and an administrator. Around the governmental centre a settlement of Sumatrans began to develop, many of them Minangkabau or Chinese who made a living as fishermen, farmers, or traders.

Contact between Mentawaians and the settlement at Muara Siberut was limited. Most Mentawaians only saw soldiers when they were visited by patrols or when they came to Muara Siberut to trade. Few attempts were made to establish a more frequent or intense contact. Older Mentawaians still remember the time when the Dutch lived in Muara Siberut[64]. They recall 'the good old days' when they got good prices while trading with the Chinese and Minangkabau traders, and when the Dutch doctors took good care of them when they needed help[65]. The tax system the Dutch introduced was less favoured although it was a vital link in trading. Taxes had to be paid in jungle products that had to be taken down to Muara Siberut, surplus was brought to be traded for goods that were taken back home. The Dutch rule was remembered as rather free, traditional clothing, tattoos, kerei and arat sabulungan were all allowed. The best remembered infringements upon Mentawaian life the Dutch garrison bothered with were the introduction of a new system of justice and the prohibition of war, killing and headhunting. Something the elder people remembered as a positive development. One old man told me:


"In the old days there were many 'people from outside[66]'; every uma controlled its own territory and if you went out of it you ran a big chance of being shot by other uma because they didn't know you. They thought you were a thief or that you came to kill somebody. Thus people often were shot by accident and then we would have raids against the uma who shot them. Sometimes traders got shot, but traders killed many Mentawaians as well. There often was a war between us Mentawaians and the traders. Dutch soldiers were shot by accident as well, but the Dutch never held vengeance-raids. They would use their justice system and only punish the people who shot the soldiers. If we were attacked by another uma we would go to the Dutch soldiers and they would punish that uma. After the Dutch came everybody could sleep at night without being afraid and we could travel around the island if we liked without being killed."



3.2. Early tourists.


At the beginning of this century traffic to the islands was limited to one monthly boat, bringing mail and supplies, and now and again taking a passenger who usually travelled on behalf of the government.

Although certainly not as frequently as nowadays, the Mentawai Islands were visited by people who could be described as tourists. These were mostly well-to-do travellers exploring the Indonesian islands or indeed South-East Asia. Even though travelling for pleasure was becoming an accepted pastime for the wealthy part of society, the Mentawai islands were seldom visited. Now as then the islands lay off the main travel route following the islands of Bali, Java and Sumatra lengthwise. The feared malaria, the still rather unknown Mentawaians with their ferocious reputation and the virtual isolation from the outside world made it a place most travellers shunned. Yet the beginning of the century had its explorers and adventurous travellers and some of the first tourist visits took place in this period. In 1912 Violet Clifton, an English lady who travelled through the Dutch East Indies together with her husband, wrote:


 "...A Fateful map spurred Talbot's desires towards the group of Mentawi Islands[67].

 The captain of the steamer, which once a month takes mails to the Military Comptroller, said, "You should not go; no traveller ever lands there, for the islands are under martial law. I have only taken there the Dutch Military Comptroller, Javanese soldiers, and Javanese convicts to cut down the jungle, and three German missionaries, of whom one died of blackwater fever, another was murdered by the men of Mentawi, and the third has not been there long. Lawless savages might kill you! You will be covered with sores!" Thus he admonished us..." (Clifton, 1927:106)


Van Beukering, who was a military doctor in Muara Siberut shortly before the Second World War wrote how one day he was visited by a group of Americans sailing through the archipelago. One of their number, a doctor, accepted his invitation to come ashore to have a look around. The others decided not to leave the ship but study the island with binoculars[68] for fear of catching tropical diseases (Van Beukering, 1978:31-3). Although the inhabitants were 'savage' and dangerous diseases were abundant a certain fascination for the islands and their inhabitants existed from the earliest contact onward. Unless encountered in a fight Mentawaians were described as peace-loving, gentle people. Early accounts of visits bear such titles as "Islands of Peace[69]", "On the Islands of Happiness[70]", or "With the amiable Savages[71]". In Padang, photographers sold pictures taken on Siberut to eager customers[72]. The rather dramatical description Violet Clifton gave of her first meeting with a Mentawaian gives a further impression of the attitude:


 "..Talbot and I walked down a track in the jungle. He suddenly felt ill, sick in fact, and asked me to go on alone for a little way. Presently I had a sensation of someone behind me, and turning round I found myself looking in the dark eyes of a Mentawi savage. He carried a knife wherewith to cut the roots of herbs he needed, and he was naked except for a loin cloth. He was tattooed with blue fantastic lines that ran from his body up over his face, and in his long hair he wore flowers and black strings, with here and there some beads tied round his head. Up and down my spine I felt a curious irritation, because I had seen the knife in his hand. I walked on some way muttering to myself the historical "tu trembles carcasse", and then sat down by the wayside to let the Mentawaian pass. As he did so we exchanged a frank stare and a faltering smile." (Clifton, 1927:107-8).



This romantic image was almost opposite to the image held by missionaries in their attempts to 'civilize' the Mentawaians. Since their arrival missionaries were attempting to model Mentawaian society after European examples and convert the population to Protestantism. Much to their frustration, interest and gusto were low among the population. The ungrateful population seemed incapable to properly realize the superiority of the new civilization they were offered (Schefold, 1990:24). The long periods of leisure, the punen and puliaijat periods now earned the Mentawaians descriptions such as 'lazy, underdeveloped and stupid'. The missionaries added to this their pity for 'the distress of a poor people trapped in terror of evil' referring to the native arat sabulungan[73] (Schefold, 1990:111-3; Cannizzaro, 1964). At the time, the government still maintained their non-interference policy and the missionaries could not call upon the soldiers in Muara Siberut to back up their message.



3.3. The Japanese period and the war for independence.


When the threat of a war with Japan became serious the government centre at Muara Siberut was evacuated entirely by the Dutch colonial army.

The Japanese left a small garrison only, mainly to keep track of enemy naval activity in the area and to prevent the allied forces from forming a military bridgehead so close to Sumatra. The Japanese hardly ventured inland, staying in Muara Siberut and leaving the internal affairs to an intermediary they appointed[74]. No longer visited by patrols the heartland of the island quickly became isolated from outside control. Taxes were no longer paid and Muara Siberut was shunned. The inhabitants did, however, not openly return to their old traditions of headhunting and internal warfare, although some incidents took place. Mentawaian men from around Muara Siberut were trained by the Japanese to form some sort of local police force that could, if necessarily, be made a part of the military apparatus. In return they received some payment. An older man now living in Puro still remembered this:


"We were told that we had to help the Japanese to vanquish the Dutch and the English. Everybody had to help by doing gotong royong and we were to make sure that this (the gotong royong) really happened[75]. Nobody liked it. We had to make roads, do the work that the prisoners did before they left. We did not feel this was fair. They said they came to liberate us but they forced us to work for them. We got paid for it, but not much and everything became more expensive. Also, they told us that if the Dutch returned we would fight them together, only the Dutch and the Japanese had guns but we did not! We asked them to give us guns as well, but they did not. If the Dutch had returned we would all have run into the jungle instead of fight."


Some elder men living near Rogdog in the Rereiket-area far away from Muara Siberut also remembered that time, albeit a bit different:


"One day we heard that the Dutch had gone away. First we did not believe it, but then we heard that Indonesia was going to be independent. Also we heard that there was a war in Holland and that all the Dutch had gone home to fight. Then we heard the Japanese had arrived. We thought they would help Indonesia to become independent but instead they stayed in Muara Siberut like the Dutch before them. We went down one time to trade, but the prices had gone up a lot, everything was very expensive! Also they told us we had to come back to work. We were afraid they might shoot us if we did not so we returned and worked for five days. At the end we did not get anything! We went back to the jungle and never went to Muara Siberut again as long as the Japanese were staying there. One time a group of Japanese soldiers came walking through the jungle. We shot at them and we killed one, the rest ran away. We cut off the head of the soldier we killed. We are still famous for that![76]"


The same informants still remembered that they heard the news that the Japanese had left. Persoon mentions how people told him that the Japanese said they would return very soon, although they took all their movable materials with them (Persoon,1994:216). The Japanese period has not really had any permanent influence on life on Siberut, neither at Muara Siberut nor in the interior. The lack of control over the interior would have allowed for a return of forbidden customs, but this did not happen. Mostly it was a transition from colonial rule to life in an independent Indonesian republic.

For some time all was quiet. The connections between Mentawai and Sumatra were completely severed. After the surrender of the Japanese, English soldiers arrived in Sumatra, soon followed by Dutch troops to establish control again. In the meantime Sukarno had proclaimed the independent Republic of Indonesia on August 17, 1945 and armed forces had been formed to resist any attempts by the Dutch to return to power. British troops were in control over most of the city of Padang. Padang stayed a battleground where Dutch and Republican forces fought bloody battles until July 1947 when the Dutch gained total control over the city and its surroundings (Colombijn, 1994: 118-20). These conditions on Sumatra prevented any ship from leaving for the Mentawai islands and so the islands remained isolated. The Dutch never attempted to return and at Indonesian independence in 1950 Siberut became part of this new state.

When the Japanese had left the isolation of the islands was so complete that nothing was known about what was happening in the rest of Indonesia, neither did any supplies reach the island. In the Rereiket area the people differed in opinion about what would happen next. They speculated that either the Dutch would return, or indeed the Japanese, or that Indonesia's independence would finally take place. When ships started to arrive again they heard of the war going on. They did not really feel involved, neither did they feel themselves part of Indonesia. They just continued their life, now and again hearing news about the war. What happened next one informant explained thus:


"Indonesia became independent and the Mentawaian religion, clothing and tattoos became forbidden. It was like "Tabe Tuan!![77]" (he happily waves one hand in the air, as if waving goodbye) became "Indonesia Merdeka!![78]" (he gets up, takes a militairy pose and with a frightened face salutes). All of Indonesia became free, but Mentawai was forgotten."



3.4. The return of Western visitors.


Life on Siberut within the new Indonesian state became subject to guided transition to a new life of modernity. As the Mentawai islands were of strategical importance as an outpost to the rich island of Sumatra, it was vital that the 'primitive' Mentawaians would swiftly adapt to take their place in the new, modern, Indonesian society[79].

Missionaries had returned to Siberut. The Protestants were joined by the Catholics and both were supported by the Indonesian government. A rather different view developed regarding the traditional population. Cannizzaro, an Italian missionary, describes his first encounter with a small group of Mentawaians:


"I turned around, and this time there really was a group of Mentawaians that had came out of the tangle of the jungle. But what a sight they were! At night one could have dreamed of them! Tall men came first, bow and arrow ready to shoot, followed by boys who carried bamboo quivers with spare arrows. More to the back a few scared women clung together." (Cannizzaro, 1964:33)[80]


To show his peaceful intentions he offers them tobacco, which makes the Mentawaians scream with joy. Filled with grateful emotions the group turns to him smiling:


"At that moment the painful sensation of this meeting reached it's climax! By grinning two rows of horribly filed teeth were shown to me. And the thought of being considered from a purely gastronomical point of view, came over me again." (Cannizzaro, 1964:34-5)


For quite some time foreign tourists were not very welcome on the islands[81]. A retired police officer explained to me that it was feared that the presence of tourists might interfere with the measures taken by the state, since it would be just these aspects of Mentawaian culture that the government wanted to do away with that attracted tourists. Nor was it, he told me, certain how the Mentawaian population would react to tourists. Since in the past pillaging and murdering of foreigners was common practice the island could not be declared safe for tourists. Permits had to be obtained from several government offices in Padang before visiting Siberut. Arrival on the island without a permit meant immediate return to Sumatra. Visiting the island was however not forbidden, and some tourists succeeded in obtaining the permits necessary to travel on the islands. Siberut was the island where Mentawaian traditional culture had survived best, and tourists hoped to catch a glimpe of Mentawaian traditions. They were not allowed to travel inland by themselves, but had to take an escort of one or two armed soldiers or police officers with them. The official reason being for their own protection, the unofficial one to make sure where the tourist was going and what he was doing. It was forbidden to take pictures of people wearing traditional dress, or involved in traditional ceremonies. The police officers had to be paid a daily fee, and a guide had to be hired as well. The visiting tourist also had to pay for all provisions and fuel for the speedboat. The presence of the officers was often enough to make sure that contact with Mentawaians was limited and no illegal pictures were taken. As one older Mentawaian man from Salappa put it:


"As soon as we heard a speedboat coming on the river we ran into the jungle. The only people coming to us then were police officers who burned our things and beat up people that wore loincloths. Sometimes tourists came with them. That was entertaining, the officers would shout to us not to be afraid, for they would want the tourist to have a good impression of them. They would give cigarettes to the people. The funny thing is that they did not like it at all in the jungle so what they would do is cook huge amounts of their rice for us to eat. When their food was finished they had to return to Muara Siberut. We liked the free rice a lot and we did not want them to stay with us so we always ate everything. It was better when they went away again quickly."


The authorities gave different explanations about the presence of armed officers to the Mentawaian population and visiting tourists. tourists. The same informant told me:


"One day I asked one of the policemen why they always came with these

tourists if they did not like it. They could simply send the guide as well. Then he told me that they had to protect us from those tourists. Perhaps they were spies, planning for their country to take possession of Siberut, or maybe they came bringing hidden bombs. Now I do not believe that anymore, but at that time there were problems between Indonesia and Portugal so I did not know what to think of these tourists[82]."


A retired Minangkabau trader from Padang who had lived on Siberut added that after the PRRI uprising in 1958 all of Sumatra was under close watch, and so was Siberut. For several years all visitors to Siberut were accompanied by soldiers to make sure they would not try to start a new separatist movement.



3.5. Conclusion.


Although non-Mentawaians were known on Siberut for at least several centuries, they changed their faces and desires frequently. In a relatively short time a wide array of different foreigners presented themselves, each with its own special features. These varying interests prevented the development of an image of non-Mentawaians in general, but allowed for initial definitions of each group that inspired the attitudes towards the different groups. First were the Minangkabau and Chinese who came to trade and nothing else. They were considered cunning people who did not mind to swindle the Mentawaians. incidental raids and the ensuing avenging by the survivors gave rise to even more distrust. By comparison, the Dutch penal colony was appreciated. The presence of armed soldiers brought about the pacification of the island and other newly introduced legislative rules improved this situation further. Although the Dutch were the first to actively meddle in Mentawaian life they are now remembered with a kind of 'good old days' feeling. Mostly because of the limited scale of their meddling, secondly because of the alledged good prices that were paid at the time for the jungle products the Mentawaians traded. The Japanese period ended this time abruptly. Their presence was noticable only at the coast, but rumours about their conduct spread over the island. This period is felt as the start of an outside government actively regulating life on Siberut. After Indonesia's Independence Indonesian civil servants were the first to structurally attempt to change Mentawaian society with the consent of their government. For several decennia, influence from outside Siberut were aimed at reformation and cultural change. Government officials were feared and associated with violence. The impact they had on Mentawaian culture was considerable. When Western people returned as tourists they were 'outsiders' that did not demand cultural changes from Siberut's population but instead admired the traditions of Mentawaian culture. It made them a kind of allies against the 'intruding' Indonesian government. They also were generous with money and gifts, a thing the local civil servants were not. A positive attitude towards Western tourists was the result. These attitudes are lie at the base of the way in which today's inter-group relations are defined. In the following chapters these will be explored while taking the ethnic stereotypes found here as their starting point.




4.1. Some individual impressions.


Spread over the island, the ways of life nowadays differ considerably. Some uma still try to maintain their traditional way of life. They live close to one another in the Rereiket-area roughly in the middle of South Siberut[83]). This is where most of the tourists go. Between this area and Muara Siberut lie villages in several stages between adaptation to modernity and continuation of tradition. These villages as well get visited by tourists, but not as regularly as the Rereiket settlements.

Near Muara Siberut lie several resettlement villages where many aspects of tradition have been replaced by modernity. These villages are never visited by tourists.

Following are extracts from interviews with people from these different areas, both often and rarely visited by tourists. Salomo of the Sakaliou lives in the Rereiket area and owns one of the most frequently visited houses in the area.

Hieronymus lives in Salappa of the yield of his crops. Occasionally he sells some sago trees to pay his children's school fees.

Saruorok is a retired protestant vicar in the resettlement village Puro, close to Muara Siberut. He has broken with arat sabulungan and most Mentawaian traditions. He does not own a sapou or pigs but instead grows vegetables on a nearby field. He receives a small pension that enables him to buy what he cannot grow himself.

These three individuals were chosen for the richness of their information and their differing views. Each of them lives in another area and experiences tourism in a way unlike the other two. Each individual respondent gives a good example of how tourism is experienced in the area where he lives. In this way an attempt is made to explain the different roles of tourism in South Siberut.


4.1.1. Salomo of the uma Sakaliou about his house.


"My name is Salomo, I am 39 years old, and I have five children. Six months ago I have built a new house. We live in the house with five people; my wife and I and three of our children. One of our children is already married and has his own house and another one lives in Muara Siberut where he goes to school.

Already in the old house many tourists came to visit us, maybe already for ten years. The youngest of our children are really growing up with tourists around them. Our children are never afraid of white people, as are the children of other families.

Almost every week tourists come to visit, when it is not the rainy season, there can even be two or three groups of tourists a week. Usually the groups stay one or two nights before they move on. When tourists come to visit, my family and I go and sleep in our old house, not far from here. It is more quiet over there, and we can avoid problems in the night in this way.Our new house has been build with the money we made from tourism. In the old house a guide payed us RP 10,000 to stay for a night but in this new house they have to pay RP 20,000 every night. The house costed me a lot of money[84]) and it is of use to the guides as well. It is the biggest house in the area so it can accommodate very large groups of tourists and it is build completely traditional. We have no skulls of wild animals yet, because we did not have time to go and hunt. But since it is now the rainy season fewer tourists will come and we will have time again. We have decorated the walls with paintings and snakes to keep out the evil spirits. We have four hearths and a katsaila[85]) in the interior of the house. We did not built the house like that for the tourists however, I wanted to make sure my children would know Mentawaian customs. The house is not completely finished though, I am now making a walking bridge with a rail to the river to make it more easy for the tourists to reach the house because many tourists cannot walk in the jungle that well. Also, we have made a garden next to the house were we grow vegetables for ourselves and to sell to the tourists. Tourists do not like food without vegetables.

I like it when tourists come to visit. Why they come I do not really know. I think tourists come because they do not have something like Mentawai in Europe, they think it is special. I do not know what they find so special about it but I do understand, I have been to Bukittinggi several times and I enjoy going there because there is nothing like that on Siberut. Maybe I am like a tourist as well. It is nice to speak to tourists, they can tell me about things I do not yet know about, other places, other customs. Apart from money for staying in my house I also make money by selling them bows and arrows, tobacco-boxes and other things. When I go with them to catch fish or to grate sago and they want to make pictures they also have to pay. That is only fair, in their own countries they can sell these pictures again for a lot of money. If they take pictures when I am not working they do not have to pay, because then I do not have to do anything for it. It is normal to have them pay money for pictures or services. After all, we did not invite them and we do not know them so they have to behave politely. When tourists or guides are avaricious we do not like them and we do not want them to stay. When someone stays in my house but is impolite or avaricious I will tell him to leave. Once I already did so, a guide forbade his group to give us presents and he threw the food the tourists had left away instead of giving it to us. I told that guide to go away and never return. Later he returned and apologized and gave us many presents among which a gong and now he can come and visit my house again. Some guides do not want their tourists to give us presents, they are afraid we will ask for more and more but that is not true, we want the tourists to like it here. Now some guides tell tourists that we do not like presents but we have written on the table that we do[86]).

You must not think that without tourists the Mentawaian customs will be forgotten by the Sakaliou, that we would become modern as happened in many other parts of the island. We need to continue our customs, we need kerei; there is no doctor here and the hospital is far away, who would heal the sick without kerei?"


4.1.2. Hieronymus from Salappa about foreigners.


"Not so long ago there were four tourist guides that visited Salappa. Now there are only two left. The other two went to Sarereiket because it is better known to tourists. Tourists did not believe them when they said that Salappa was still very traditional and just as interesting to visit as Sarereiket. You see, tourists are suspicious. They only believe that a place is traditional when they have been told so by other tourists. Now very few tourists visit Salappa and very irregularly. The most you can do is visit your neighbours to chat. When tourists come to visit us we can chat with them. Tourists come to see a culture that is strange to them and we tell them about it. In exchange they tell us about their culture. We ask them questions or learn about rumours that we heard about their countries[87]). I would very much like to go and visit those countries but I do not have the money. I am 25 years old but I have four children who must go to school and that costs a lot of money. Also, it would be too far. It must take me about a year to travel to these countries. I cannot go by airplane like the tourists do because that is to expensive so I would have to travel by canoe and by foot.

Western people must be rich. I think everybody in your country lives in concrete houses and that there are few trees. It must look like Muara Siberut, only bigger and colder. I think Holland is a very big country, many tourists I have met came from Holland and they never knew each other.

Tourists always are nice people, they treat older people with respect, sometimes they bring gifts, tourists and Mentawaians eat together.

With other foreigners Mentawaians do not eat together. The relations between Mentawaians and Batak or people from Nias usually are fine because we share the same faith and we could eat pork together but they often do not like the jungle so they do not visit. Javanese people are muslim so they cannot eat pork, but they are polite when they visit us. Most of the time we also have good relations with Minangkabau people but sometimes there are problems. Some Minangkabau do not like Mentawai or Mentawaian customs and they want us to become like them. They tell us we are primitive and eating pork is filthy, they do not show respect. Sometimes they do not want to pay when we bring them rattan[88]). When there is a fight on Siberut it is usually between such a trader and some Mentawaians whom he still has to pay. With tourists we never fight, although I heard it happened in Rereiket, but I do not know what that was about."


4.1.3. Saruorok from Puro and the sharing of tourists.


"I have never met tourists, I have seen them before of course but you are the first one I talk to. I think tourism is both good and not good for Siberut. It is good because the tourists pay the people with money and cigarettes and several people are employed by guiding the tourists or helping the guides. It is not good because Mentawaian culture is sold by the tourists. The proof can be found in Muara Siberut, there one can buy postcards with pictures of Mentawaians that were taken by tourists. The tourists sell these pictures and do not give money to the Mentawaians and that is not fair, it is the culture of the Mentawaians, not of the tourists !!

The tourists are not equally shared by the Mentawaians. If a guide has an agreement with a Mentawaian he only visits that house, so that Mentawaian gets all the tourists and is the only one who profits. There should be a system of rotation to make sure everybody profits instead of just a few people. Now people get jealous of each other and quarrel or throw sticks, in Rereiket people are fighting about who can accommodate the group and who can work as a porter!

I think tourists should be made to come here as well, it should be made obligatory by the government that guides also visit Puro. Here tourists can see that the Mentawaians are not only primitive people who live in the jungle. Maybe tourists do not like that as much but we also want to profit from their visits. Here they can see the school and the church and the sago factory. Perhaps, if tourists will never come to Puro, the people will start wearing loincloths again and go live in the jungle again."


It is apparent that tourism does not unite the Mentawaian population. Each individual respondent has his own views on what is best, and usually this means that tourists should visit the respondent's home. They all agree that tourism should be profitable and carried out in such a fashion that it is not disturbing or annoying for the people that are visited. Tourists are considered to behave decent enough, but guides -especially Minangkabau ones- are likely to be more interested in personal profit then Mentawaian well-being. In the following paragraphs these views and relationships are explored more deeply.



4.2. The blessings of tourism.


Tourism is known, theoretically and partly in practice, throughout the whole of Siberut's society and both men and women actively participate in this new business. The coming of tourism was welcomed on the island, for economical reasons, but mostly for social reasons. Life on Siberut can be monotonous and the arrival of a boat filled with tourists is a means of diversion. In general, tourists are interested in, and show respect for, Mentawaian culture. In return tourists are interesting to look at and to talk to. Mentawaians enjoy a conversation and can keep this up for long periods of time. When tourists (or anthropologists, for that matter) are willing to engage in conversation they are eagerly asked all kinds of questions about their home countries, personal lives and travels. Few tourists speak Indonesian and even fewer Mentawaians speak English. Therefore the guides are needed as interpreters. Some guides use this position to influence and regulate the discussion whereas others find faithful translations an investment in their reputation. When they become tired or are needed elsewhere the conversation is finished, and so many questions are left for the next group of tourists[89]). Thus, a friendly, albeit superficial daily contact exists between tourists and Mentawaians. Hieronymus mentioned that Mentawaians and tourists eat together, share the food[90]). This in contrast to the Minangkabau who -as devout muslims- abhor pork or any dish that might once have held the meat. With tourists such meals consist of sago only. The number of pigs owned by a household does not allow them to kill a pig every time the house is visited without depleting their livestock. Nor are tourists thought to like or to be able to digest most Mentawaian food. Why else would they go through the trouble of bringing their own food? Not to say that this 'insult to Mentawaian cuisine' is taken very gravely. When a group arrives at a house, usually by late afternoon, the hosting women prepare a meal from the supplies the group brought. Cooking is a woman's task and by preparing the food themselves they make sure sufficient food is available for both the tourists and the hosting family[91]).

The description above is what could be called the most ideal situation: both host and visitor enjoy their meeting while social contact between the two groups plays an important role. When visits become more frequent social interest in the tourist groups decreases, and economic profit becomes more important. Tourists arrive without announcing and although appreciated as a diversion, they put a lot of strain on their host family. Economical profit may well become the main reason for housing groups. Not to be underestimated in the favourable reception of tourism is the undisputable fact that Western tourists 'are rich'. Being able to travel all the way to Indonesia just proves this idea. Tourism has a ring to it of acquiring massive economical wealth. As yet, this largely remains a hope for the future. Financial benefits are small and individual, reserved to few people only. Those who profit mostly do so through the goods they receive. Guides bring some quantities of cigarettes, coffee and sugar to the households they visit[92]). The traditional custom of sharing food and tobacco amongst friends and relatives soon encompassed guides as well[93]). Passers-by, both in the jungle and in houses, ask guides for a cigarette or some coffee. Refusals easily damage a guide's reputation.

Simultaneously with the extension to guides, a custom developed to directly ask tourists for gifts; things they visibly carry with them that can be given away at the spot. Especially in the Rereiket-area people are used to ask tourists for gifts; jewelry, clothing, whatever tourists have with them is tried. The amount of asking in Rereiket is considered excessive by people from other parts of the island who call it rude and inhospitable behaviour[94]). It is not considered rude to politely refuse to give something away, as long as the refusal is made in a polite and friendly way. When asked about this asking, people laughingly called it 'main-main saja'; 'just playing'. Yet 'minta' is more then just a game. Tourists bring a wide range of sought after goods that are hard to come by on Siberut. Often people wear a pin in their necklaces, not because the find pins beautiful, but because pins are extremely useful in removing thorns that inevitably get stuck in one's flesh when in the jungle. Tourists bring pins, sometimes even tweezers, both highly prized goods. Other such goods are empty water bottles which are made into case-bottles, real case-bottles, small knives, swiss army-knives, shoes and medicines against every conceivable disease. Of particular popularity are watches, working or broken. No two working watches tell the same time yet this is of no importance as their value is that of a decorative status symbol. Nobody away from the harbours has any interest in the telling of time at all, which makes their quest for watches an interesting contradiction.

Cash profit is made by few. About six Mentawaian men have become assistants to Minangkabau guides. They decide which paths will be taken while in the jungle and provide alternative routes when necessary. Three others are fulltime tourist guides and bring groups from Padang or lake Toba. Apart from these professionals cash is received by house owners and porters: women and young men who seek out the tourist groups to carry their luggage from one house to another. Houses often visited by tourists enjoy a steady income by providing lodging, demonstrations and the sale of souvenirs[95]). Sometimes groups are divided according to gender. The men will go hunting in the jungle while the women acquaint themselves with traditional women's jobs like fishing.

Unlike food, money is not subject to ceremonial division among the uma. Nonetheless relatives receive a share if they ask for it. A house that is frequently visited sits in the centre of a web of persons and relations all benefitting by the money earned. A family in Puro, for example, daily spent several hours producing carved tobacco boxes. As no tourists visit Puro I wondered what they did with their products. It turned out they came from Rereiket and regularly took their boxes to a frequently visited sapou of their family near Rogdog. The owners of the sapou, in exchange for some of the money made, sold the boxes as souvenirs to tourists. In another case, people who hoped to make some money as carriers came together in a house near the river where tourist groups used to disembark and eat lunch. While waiting for the speedboats they smoked the cigarettes of the house owners, and drank their coffee. The house owners were not very happy about this, apart from the costs of the coffee and cigarettes their houses were always filled with people. They did however not have the heart to refuse them access, since they were either members of the same uma or neighbours and the house owners did not want to run the risk of heated arguments.

Members of the uma may ask for shares in money made, as can friends or neighbours. Considering one is to share what one owns they are likely to receive. As such, being involved in tourism gives people a certain esteem. On the other hand, it can cost more than it pays.

Not all of these tasks will be noted by the tourist in the group as many are attending tasks not expected to interest tourists.



4.3. The disadvantages of tourism.


Tourism 'happens' to Siberut. Sumatran entrepreneurs are firmly in control of virtually every aspect of the tourism. The strategic geographical position these entrepreneurs occupy makes it close to impossible to remove them from Siberut's tourism. A situation much to the frustration of many Mentawaians who feel they are not treated fairly: tourists pay well to visit Siberut, yet the money returns to Sumatra. Although frustrations are plenty nobody complains to the parties responsible. Guides would just depart to other houses and no government authority is trusted to make a difference. Conversations like the following show these feelings well[96]):


I: "So how should tourism be changed?"

informant: "We (the Mentawaians) should form a group (together) and take over tourism from the guides (from Bukittinggi). We must form an organisation to take care of this and then our own guides can take the tourists to Siberut."

I: "But several such Mentawaian organisations already exist![97])"

informant: "Yes, but they are no good! They only look after their own interests and they use all the development money they receive for themselves! We must form a new one that will truly help. We will start in this area and then continue all over Siberut."

I: "There are already Mentawaian guides, aren't there?"

informant: "Yes, but they only help the Minang guides. They cannot work for themselves because they cannot go to Bukittinggi to look for tourists. They pay the same prices as Minang guides do, so they keep a lot of money to themselves."

I: "So how can such changes be brought about?"

informant: "We should start by only letting Rereiket guides into Rereiket. Then the money they make will go to right people. The guides must be organized and make sure everybody benefits from the money they make. When it goes well we should take the next part of Siberut into the organization, and so on. And we must go to Sumatra to look for tourists ourselves."


The biggest obstacle in attempting to gain access to the tourism is the discord between various Mentawaian groups. On a geographical map Siberut is a whole, as a social stage it falls apart in numerous small groups. Mentawaian identity as such is not sufficient to unite the uma. Rivalry and differences between the uma were traditionally more emphasized than a common Mentawaian identity. Differences like Protestant or Catholic, modern or traditional, benefitting-from- tourism versus not- benefitting-from-tourism have been added over the past decades. As Saruorok points out, tourism's revenues are not equally distributed over the island. Whereas the Rereiket area draws tourists by the tens, none at all can be found in Puro and other such villages. People in those villages feel left out because they do not profit by the money and the goods tourism brings. Some feel the situation to be cynical: they followed the government's orders and changed their entire way of life, now the first signs of economic prosperity go to those people that refused to change.

As the visual aspects of traditions have largely disappeared in the process of modernization, the hope to attract tourism's attention to these villages seems quite futile. In Puro villagers argue that tourists should see how Siberut is developing. Not all islanders are "primitives without clothes who live in the jungle" as one Puroan puts it, there are also those who "combine modernity and the useful parts of their traditions[98])".

On the other hand, those 'primitives in the jungle', like the Sakaliou, feel that the 'modernists' have lost touch with their traditions and are no longer, culturally speaking, true Mentawaians. The Sakaliou told me how wise I was to come to them because there, and in very few other places, the real Mentawaian culture could be seen[99]).

Tourists themselves cause problems as may be concluded from the words of Salomo and Saruorok. To give an example, Salomo euphemistically mentioned 'problems in the night', referring to certain 'shameless' elements of tourist behaviour. Traditional Mentawaian dress is rather minimal, but the private parts in particular should be covered. Changing clothes with other people present is not done, although a traditional uma offers little privacy. Even when bathing one always must wear shorts or a sarong. Ignorant tourists frequently break these rules and surprise their hosts with more pale skin than they had expected, causing much embarrassment. Such behaviour should be corrected but this is difficult. Correcting individual tourists offers no long term solution and spoils the otherwise happy time they would spend with their host. The guide should prevent such problems, but direct complaints or criticism in the presence of his group will make him feel humiliated or angry. As an immediate problem it remains unsolved and will only be mentioned to the guide at a later, quieter time, or not at all. Some host families, like Salomo's, solve the problem by not being around their guests when these wake up or go to sleep. Any passer-by stumbling on a naked person is entitled to demand an indemnification for his embarrassment. Tourists are not held responsible for their behaviour since they apparently do not know any better. Guides are hardly confronted with any problems. As a consequence indemnification is demanded of the Mentawaian host. This situation is considered rather ambiguous by most, but has caused several quarrels.

Not knowing the terrain tourists trample vegetable gardens and walk through the houses and over sleeping maths with muddy boots. At night they noisily make love, embarrassing other people within hearing distance. In the daytime otherwise unnecessary demonstrations of traditional practices keep members of the household away from work in need of attention.

Too many tourists too often around seriously disrupts life. The Sakaliou value themselves highly as a tourist attraction and profit by the money and the goods it generates. On the other hand, few uma experience the negative side of tourism like they do. The constant demonstrations of ever the same traditional activities get very boring, as does the posing for photographs. "If I did not get paid, I would not do it any more" someone told me. Another Sakaliou once told me he sometimes felt as if he was living in a zoo[100]).

Other Rereiket uma refuse tourists permission to take photographs during ceremonies or even deny them access during these events. The unexpected flashes of camera's are found to be disturbing, and the presence of large groups of not understanding outsiders at 'their' ceremonies made these uma long for privacy. They miss out on some money and presents, but staged demonstrations of ceremonies easily make up for this loss. As their income from tourism is not threatened the reclaiming of privacy seemed an attractive possibility. As yet, it worked out fine. Tourists do not know the difference between staged and authentic and do not complain, neither do the guides as their main objective is content tourists. Inhabitants of Salappa called this situation a breach of hospitality that they would never perform, yet I feel that remark to be made more out of envious feelings regarding the steady stream of tourists to Rereiket then from a sense of disgrace to the image of Mentawai.



4.4. Tourists, relationships and sexuality.


A group leaving for the jungle is hidden from the eye of its society.

Until recently, Mentawaian girls went with groups as porters and cooks for the whole length of a trip. Sumatran guides regularly slept with these girls but refused to take responsibility or marry a girl if she became pregnant. Now marriageable girls only work under supervision of an elder relative, while women no longer accompany groups during the whole trip.

Travelling on Siberut is a physically tasking and uncomfortable affair. As a consequence most of the tourists are young and, possibly, single and attractive. Tropical rainforests are amongst the most romantic places in the world and new romances, between tourists or between tourists and guides, easily develop. For guides and Mentawaian assistants the possibility of sex or even a relationship with a foreign girl is attractive. Young Minangkabau have little chance of sex before marriage, and marriage is late: often at thirty or even later. A job where one takes Western girls, reputed for their easygoing sexual morals, to an isolated island is a nice alternative. Many guides and assistants hope someday to meet a beautiful, young, female tourist, fall in love, and leave with her for a better and richer life in Europe or America.

As far as I know four marriages have taken place between Western women and Mentawaian men[101]). The Mentawaian uma involved have agreed to the marriages, although it meant that their sons would leave for foreign countries far away.

Mentawaian women married to men who are involved in the tourism business frequently expressed dislike of tourism. They know that porters sometimes have affairs with female tourists. Single female tourists are reputed to seduce Mentawaian men. Monogamy is expected after marriage and adultery is punished. To hear through the grapevine that one's husband has had an affair with a tourist is painful and scary. It inspires fear that their husbands will leave for another country with their new loves and leave them to return to their families[102]).

I have not heard of relationships between male tourists and Mentawaian women. Such is not to be considered impossible as especially divorced women are rather independent in the choice of a new husband. Marriages between Mentawaian women and Minangkabau, Batak, or Niassan men take place sporadically.



4.5. Mentawaian perceptions of 'other' groups.


As may be concluded from the preceding chapters, Siberut's tourism concerns different ethnic groups. The Mentawaian population, Minangkabau guides and Western tourists are being extensively discussed in this thesis. The images that exist of these groups and, to a minor extent, images of other ethnic groups will be discussed here[103]). In daily life tourism is but one way in which inter-ethnic contact takes place. Western tourists, as an ethnic group are of minor importance whereas other groups that play a limited role in tourism play a dominant part in everyday social life[104]). Before the construction of permanent foreign settlements along Siberut's east coast the only non-Mentawaians that frequented the island were Chinese and Minangkabau traders from Sumatra. They visited the island irregularly with goods to trade for jungle products such as coconuts or rattan. They were known as sasareu; 'people from the horizon[105])'.

As the main social contact, trade relations are ambiguous in the reputation two parties form considering one another as direct profit through both selling and buying is the main concern of the two actors. In this case cultural differences between the groups involved were wide and the burdened nature of economical contact overshadowed potential beneficial pretensionless social interaction to a major extend. Incidental raids and their consequent retaliations gained the Mentawaians the reputation of being fierce and primitive people. When the first Minangkabau settled down on Siberut they did not try to adapt themselves socially to Mentawaian culture. Instead they created little enclaves of Minangkabau society in Muara Siberut and -later- Muara Sikabaluan and socially concentrated on Sumatra where most of them hoped one day to return. Siberut was not meant as a place for permanent settlement, its resources were considered an economic source to be exploited in the best merantau tradition. The first migrants were traders. Other professions such as farmers or fishermen soon followed. Others were transferred to the island in official positions, as teachers, policemen or civil servants. Most Minangkabau migrants, both voluntary and involuntary, originate from the Sumatran coastal towns Painan and Pariaman, the home ports of the merchant ships that visited Siberut in former days[106]).

The Minangkabau are considered to be good entrepreneurs who are helpful to each other. Concerning themselves, they are thought to feel as if their own cultural enclaves on the island are cultural bastions in the wilderness. Minangkabau are thought to be arrogant and even rude towards Mentawaians, they will try to cheat in barter and consider themselves superior in every way, no matter whether they are merchants, tourist guides, or civil servants[107]).

When those Minangkabau in government service are considered, the suspicions are augmented. They are thought to wilfully keep the Mentawaian population backward by frustrating Mentawaian enterprises and education. Furthermore they are said to embezzle money meant for the development of Siberut, and to carry out only those development plans by which they benefit themselves[108]). This distrust of officials does not concern the government in general. Indonesia's multitude of ethnic groups is ruled by a national government centralized on Java. 'Java', or more precise 'Jakarta' is to much of the state equal to an inaccessible place where nationwide political decisions are made. 'Java' overrules the local government branches on the other islands, giving rise to a feeling of outside control by the Javanese. On Siberut negative feelings of outside rule are focused on the West-Sumatran government. The national government and the former president Suharto are considered to be more relaxed towards Siberut and Mentawaian identity in general. In the first place, the logging concessions were withdrawn by presidential decree. This gave Suharto the reputation to favour Mentawaian culture, unlike the local Minangkabau officials. Suharto's reputation was strengthened when kerei were invited to perform in Jakarta. An occasion where Suharto is said to have attended. Upon return the kerei claimed to have been consulted by Suharto himself. Apart from personal fame for those kerei, Suharto's apparent acknowledgement of their powers gave a great boost to Mentawaian cultural confidence[109]).

A few Javanese only live on Siberut, although the transmigration plans that regularly are published in the media could change this situation

dramatically. The local Javanese live among the Mentawaian population as teachers and shop owners. They have adapted to life on Siberut and are considered to be polite and friendly people.

Batak and Niassans are not as numerous as the Minangkabau. Perhaps they would form cultural enclaves as well if there were greater numbers, but now they mingle well with the Mentawaian population. Many of the schoolteachers, clergymen, and shop owners in the villages are Batak or Niassans. When Sumatra is considered socially, the three groups are 'united in difference'; all three groups are -at least nominally- Christians in a predominantly Muslim society, and share an appreciation for pork. Politically none of the three groups have much power. Their homelands border on those of two of the most fanatic Muslim groups in Indonesia (the Minangkabau and the Acehnese), and in every group Islam is making inroads. Travelling is quickly gaining popularity among young Indonesians. International travelling is too expensive for most, but regional and national tourism are good seconds. Young Batak and Niassan men come to Siberut as tourists. They travel on Sumatra and in Bukittinggi befriend guides and accompany them to Siberut. There they befriend Mentawaians and visit their uma.

Together with the Minangkabau Chinese settled as traders or entrepreneurs[110]). They too have the reputation of being untrustworthy in business, and exploiting the local population in their enterprises[111]). In South-Siberut the main industry is a sago factory near Puro. It is owned by a Chinese Indonesian who is accused by the Mentawaian population of paying meagre wages and mixing the flour with sand. The Chinese reputation of exploitation is greatly strengthened by Singaporean and Taiwanese fishing ships that fish around the islands. These ships are said to fish illegally, using dynamite, thus killing all the fish in the sea without concern for the Mentawaians.

Although they have not set foot on the island for a long time, Japanese share the same reputation because they also fish around the islands. Japanese altogether have a certain reputation of 'distantness' which can be taken literally as well as figuratively. During the Japanese occupation of Siberut they almost ignored the population outside Muara Siberut. A few times Japanese tourists visited Siberut. Perhaps these were people shy and quiet by nature, because their presence did not alter the image of distantness: they did not speak a lot, just quietly observed what happened.

The first Western people to seek continuous contact were missionaries. Some of them wrote about their experiences and left us their impressions of the population and life on the island[112]) . Unfortunately, the Mentawaian population of that time did not leave artifacts or written documents relating to their impressions and experiences with these missionaries[113]). At the time the missionaries arrived little must have been known about Western people. It must have been clear that they had basic human needs and limitations; they had to eat, could fall ill, and would die. Contact, both peaceful and violent, with Dutch colonial military forces must have brought about these notions. A certain image of these people and assumptions concerning their way of life must have developed. Whether the essence, the being of Western people was considered similar to that of Mentawaians is hard to say. Missionaries denied the power of kerei and arat sabulungan, which apparently held no influence on them. They adhered to other faiths, and were actively attempting to convince the Mentawaian population to follow their lead to a new religion and twentieth century modern life. Apart from verbal persuasion, medical and economical assistance were valuable expedients in gaining inroads to Mentawaian society. Traditional life was considered backward and primitive and arat sabulungan was sternly condemned as superstition.

Other Western people took a different stance. Social scientists arriving as from the seventies onwards, did not attempt to change Mentawaian culture but focused their attention on tradition and the way it was preserved. Such attention was almost opposite to the purposes of the missionary work. Researchers stayed amongst the Mentawaians for months or even years at a time, and became deeply involved in daily life. They are well remembered, both out of friendship and because of the gifts and medicines they brought. International attention that followed this research was certainly part of the reason for today's governmental tolerance and tourism policy. Following increased tolerance and their calling Catholic missionaries adopted certain properties of arat sabulungan into their services in an attempt to smoothen the proposed transition[114]). By fitting such properties into Catholicism similarities between the two faiths rather than differences were stretched.

The small numbers of missionaries and researchers and their different approaches towards the population hampered the formation of an image as generalizing as existed for other groups. The almost continuous presence of yet another category of Western people that contemporary tourism brings about is however changing this situation. When tourists first arrived they were initially thought to be like scientists, since, like scientists, they were greatly interested in Mentawaian culture and displayed no desires to change or modernize it. By now, 'turis' has become a category of Western visitor with a pattern of behaviour that sets them apart from scientists and missionaries[115]). Tourists stay for short periods of time only, they come in groups accompanied by a foreign guide, they do not 'spontaneously' bring gifts. They are not looking for the levels of social involvement the other two categories desire. Their interest lies mainly with the interesting and fun side of Mentawaian society[116]).

Tourist presence did however cause an increased elaboration of the general image as existed of Westerners. Tourists are drawn to the spectacular ceremonies performed by kerei. They show interest and respect for kerei, although they do not have any of their own. During my stay the question was raised whether tourists had a simagere like the Mentawaians have. Since I did not know myself, we started to discuss the matter and soon a large group of kerei and other people busied themselves with the matter. Some proof of a possible simagere in a tourist was suggested by the next door neighbour. Every Mentawaian house has its own protecting spirit, which strikes the simagere of someone who does not behave respectfully while inside the house. A person struck feels very sick and has to go outside where he will immediately feel better. Several times, our neighbour said, it had happened that tourists frightened the protecting spirit of the house or made him angry. Suddenly they felt very sick and had to leave the house, upon which they quickly felt better.

A few weeks later further indications were found when a tourist was drowned in a river. Two days later her ghost was reported to have been seen near the spot, and several other reports followed[117]).

More proof was given by kerei. Some of them had treated sick tourists. In the worst case these recuperated sufficiently to return to Muara Siberut, while some had been completely cured. Kerei, it seemed, were therefore able to communicate with the simagere of Western tourists. It was however concluded that a tourist's simagere is different from a Mentawaian one. Tourists pay no attention to their simagere whatsoever whereas a Mentawaian simagere, when ill-treated, is very quickly to leave and is unwilling to return. A 'tourist simagere' seems to be more 'easy-going' in these matters. Another kind of simagere seemed plausible, after all, tourists and Mentawaians differ physically as well.

Finally, the Mentawaian perception of Mentawaians will be given some more attention. As discussed above, there is no such thing as a universal Mentawaian identity on Siberut. Apart from different levels of adaptation and the unequal attention of tourism the individual uma identities are valued higher than a possible Mentawaian identity[118]). In the south of the island I was frequently warned not to go to the north (which I had hoped to do as a holiday) because I would certainly be robbed and possibly killed. The population of one of the northern villages has the reputation in the south of being solely composed of black magicians. Therefore this village is never visited and its inhabitants are shunned and feared.



4.6. Tourism as a concept and images of foreign countries.


Like 'cultural anthropologist' or 'missionary', 'tourist' is a notion that is foreign to a lot of societies that are the exact focuses of the people described by these words. As a consequence it is important to discuss the definition of a tourist as it is understood in a society when researching tourism.

While asking around on Siberut, it quickly became clear that the definition depended on the reason why tourists are thought to come; as this reason is not clear no single definition exists. The first one pictures tourists as 'entrepreneurs in disguise'. It was suspected that pictures taken of traditional Mentawaian life were in great demand in Western countries and would sell expensively. Tourists' visits therefore are an economical investment that will pay off upon their return home[119]).

A second opinion has it that tourists consider present day Mentawaian culture and the jungle similar to the past of their own countries. Now they come to Siberut to see a way of life of which they themselves have no knowledge left, possibly even to learn from it[120]).

The idea that tourists visit just for the fun of it is an up and coming notion that appeals to many Mentawaians as well. Many like to travel around on their island and frequently visit relatives in other areas. Money is hardly needed when travelling like this as social relationships provide one with the necessary food and shelter. Indeed, the lack of such safety ensuring social ties outside Siberut is what keeps many young people from making a trip to Padang. Ruling opinion has it that the

attitude of the Minangkabau inhabitants of Padang towards Mentawaian visitors is neither friendly nor hospitable[121]). Like the Minangkabau traders in Muara Siberut they will try to squeeze the last bit of money from Mentawaians, even if they come as visitors. For various reasons many Mentawaians have been to Padang. Here follows a description of life in the city as given by a man from Madobag:


"You will need a lot of money because you have to pay for everything; food, a place to sleep, the bus, even going to the toilet costs money. It is no good to go there when you do not have friends to help you because if you do not have any money you have no food and you will die on the street. Nobody will help you because nobody knows you. So many people live in the cities that they do not know each other."


A great interest in Western countries and Western life was expressed by so many young and old people that I wondered about their image of these places. Socially, it turned out to be similar to that of Padang. As, however, most tourists appeared to be friendly people the idea of a trip to these countries appeals to many, provided they have friends to ensure their well-being during the stay. Only a vague notion exists of where these countries are situated geographically. They are thought to be located to the north of Siberut, somewhere near Sumatra.

Hieronymus gives a good example of how many younger Mentawaians perceive the Western countries: cold, very big, with large populations living in concrete houses. There are few trees or little jungle because most space is taken by large cities. Once the land was probably covered by jungle as well, but it has been cut down and the wood was sold or used for fires to keep warm. Nowadays, fires are no longer necessary because concrete houses are warm enough. Nobody eats sago because there is rice in abundance.



4.7. Tourism and how to survive it: the case of Rereiket.


Especially in the Rereiket area tourism has become so prominent in daily life that a way of handling tourism has developed that allows privacy and guarantees profit. To ensure privacy some people spend the night in another house, others make sure they are out during the day. Unless they are part of the activities that a tourist group undertakes, few people like to follow a group around all day. The activities deployed and tourists' reactions to them are already known to most Rereiket inhabitants. Tourists visit expecting to see dancing kerei dressed in loincloths, and are disappointed if they do not. However, a ceremony cannot be held without sufficient reason. If reason is lacking the kerei risk the anger of the spirits that are called upon. As tourists are an appreciated source of economic wealth, a widespread notion to support tourism developed in the area. As a result, every single ceremony was visited by tourists. Although not specifically noticeable to outsiders ceremonies are not in the least place meant for re-establishing solidarity among the individual members of the uma, both the living and the dead. Most tourists behaved respectfully enough during these occasions but the presence of ignorant outsiders became too much a breach of privacy. As a result many uma in Rereiket declared their ceremonies no longer accessible for tourists. Instead of the real thing, they perform demonstrations. These come in a wide variety of possibilities, ranging from the some individual dances and songs to almost complete copies of a puliaijat ceremony. Depending on the tourist's desires and the money they wish to spend. Amakerei -a kerei from salappa- made up a price list and arrived at the sum of RP 157,700 for a puliaijat demonstration[122]). Amakerei described the event as follows:


"In a demonstration we first kill the pig and prepare it, sometimes the chickens as well. Then we eat together. It is not possible to skip the communal meal because it would be to big a break from the ceremony and that might be dangerous. It is not required for the people attending to wear flowers in their hair and it is not necessary for the hosting Mentawaian to give the visiting kerei a gift, because they already get paid. Nor is it necessary for the tourists to bring a gift for the kerei. We do not call any spirits because that would certainly cause trouble. Everybody can take part in the singing, drumming and dancing that follows, it is not necessary to follow the rules. In the end we kill the chickens and show how we look for the results of the ceremony.[123])"


At a later stage I discussed this demonstration with two kerei from Rereiket. They agreed that it was a good demonstration. They gave me the corresponding scheme for the original ritual activities that underlie the demonstration[124]).


"A pig must be killed and eaten together with everybody that will attend the ceremony. The ancestral spirits and Pageta Sabbou must be called to come and share the food. The spirits must know and understand that everybody present is part of the group and in this way we can show them. Usually chickens must be killed at the end of the ceremony, but sometimes people kill them as part of the meal as well, that is not strange. Everybody must wear flowers to show that they are part of the ritual, both to the spirits and to outsiders. Then Pageta Sabbou and the ancestor spirits are called upon and the kerei will dance. If tourists visit a real ceremony they have to bring a gift for the kerei. A gift for the kerei really is a gift for Pageta Sabbou and so he will know that the tourists are good people and part of the group. If not, he will think they are intruders and be angry. Then people will be ill. What did they tell you to bring as a gift? Yes, coffee and cigarettes are good.

It is alright for tourists to join in the dancing and drumming I suppose, I expect the spirits will like to see tourists dance. But we must take care, tourists must really try to follow the moves and not laugh while dancing. You can never laugh when you are dancing for the spirits, you must show respect. You must show respect when you are drumming as well, and you have to be able to maintain the rhythm. Wrong drumming is very disturbing.

It is alright for tourists to take photographs of dancing kerei, they will consider it a compliment. It does not really matter that much what tourists do, they can fall asleep if they like, as long as they do not disturb the dancers.

At the end we will kill the chickens to see if we succeeded. In a demonstration that is not really necessary. Sometimes if we are hungry we kill the chickens at the beginning or halfway through the night."


A similar process has been used regarding some other properties of Mentawaian culture that attracted too much attention to be presented in their original form.

The need for bows and arrows is explained not only as a means for hunting, but for self defense as well. The inhabitants of a newly build uma told me they would use their bows to defend their dwelling if the police would try to destroy it. Indeed, Mentawaians living in Padang are seldom troubled by burglars because they are reputed to have brought their bows to the city[125]).

The bow is an essential possession of every adult male. About 180 cm long and from durable hardwood they can be found with a quiver of arrows hanging from the rafters or the walls in many houses. According to arat sabulungan everything has a spirit, and so has a bow. If one makes a bow it is important to respect certain taboos and to decorate the bow beautifully, else the bow will 'not feel itself to be a bow' and not be useable. A bow has to be treated with respect, for example one cannot step over it when it lies on the ground but has to walk around it.

Arrows come in a magnificent variety of heads, meant for different kinds of game[126]). The shaping of arrowheads out of hardwood is a precise and time consuming job. Almost all arrows are treated with lethal poison.

Bows have acquired great popularity as souvenirs. At first, bows and arrows were willingly sold for prices between RP 20,000 and RP 50,000. The making of new sets however took a lot of time so prices rose while the number and variety of arrows included diminished. These days, a bow with a quiver and around ten identical arrows fetches anything from RP 100,000 to RP 150,000. A bow without arrows will cost about RP 20,000. In the past authentic usable bows were sold to anybody wishing to buy them. Nowadays most of the souvenir bows are either technically bad specimens or especially made for the purpose, without the taboos needed to create a real bow. Those are not regarded as real bows, but as mere copies. In houses frequently visited one or two of such bows with quivers hang on the porch. The bows used by the men of the house are hung inside the house, out of sight, as these are not for sale. Sometimes a small supply of such 'tourist bows' is kept hanging inside the house as well.

Rereiket is without a doubt the area that profits most economically. A steady flow of cigarettes, coffee, and tea is going to the area through the visiting groups. The incoming money allows for purchases that are difficult to make for people who live in other parts of the islands. Many such purchases concern objects that express status next to their initial use. Large woks -used to cook entire pigs- are such valued objects, as are certain kinds of bells and beads used by kerei. Large amounts of such goods have been brought to Rereiket by guides, tourists, researchers, film crews and others, causing 'inflation' of these traditional goods and the emerging of new kinds of goods that were sufficiently 'scarce' to be acceptable as status symbols. As such, outboard motors to be used with canoes or chainsaws to facilitate the procession of sago trees quickly became desired goods. Due to high prices and the comparatively recent availability few of these two have been bought as yet. At present many people are saving money to buy either[127]).

Another new way of exhibiting economic prosperity is very much alive among the uma Sakaliou, near Madobag, in Rereiket[128]). The interest shown in Mentawaian culture, and the relaxation of governmental control were reasons for several uma in Rereiket, Simatalu and Sagulubbe to construct new uma. For example, the Saguluw in Tatebburuk constructed a new uma that was significantly larger than their old one; firstly because the group itself had grown considerably, secondly because it meant they could lodge many more tourists. The uma Samarurok started the construction of a communal house right in the middle of Puro; not to lodge tourists but because they had no uma whatsoever and many of their people now live in Puro. The huge number of tourist groups has brought an accumulation of wealth to the Sakaliou. After they have received an abundance of machetes, woks, glass beads, lamps and other products they now only accept payment in money, used for daily necessities and for building houses. The uma Sakaliou

consists of six families: five brothers and one uncle. The families were divided over one uma and several sapou. All of the houses are frequented by tourist groups, so every family has an income through tourism. In early 1996 one brother used his savings to build a large, beautifully decorated sapou of about 20 metres for himself and his family[129]). It had to be a large building "in order to accommodate tourists", so he told me[130]). In the summer of that year another brother, Salomo, built a sapou for his family, about 40 metres long and larger and more decorated then the first brother's house. During my stay with the Sakaliou another brother -Tarazon- was building a house larger than any of the houses built before, measuring roughly 50 metres in length[131]). Tarazon and his family used to live in the uma of the Sakaliou, but the building was getting old while its leaking roof was already beyond repair.

Relations between the different brothers were deteriorating. Usually a person building a new house could call on his uma to come and assist him. Whenever any of the brothers did so everyone would find an excuse and none would come. Tarazon was not building a new uma, he said, just a sapou for himself and his family. People from other uma in the vicinity expect the Sakaliou to split up sometime in the near future.

The Sakaliou themselves maintain that the main reason for the huge houses is to show Mentawaian culture to those around them and to make sure their children know what their culture is about. Apart from the Sakuddei they consider themselves the only uma that has stayed completely true to the traditional way of life. The visiting tourists are considered proof of this: since so many of them come to Rereiket and the Sakaliou it is obvious to them that they are special even among all the Mentawaian uma. Those groups that have adapted to Indonesian society to some degree are no longer 'true Mentawaians' in the eyes of the Sakaliou. Consequently it is up to them to show the world what Mentawaian culture is.



4.8. Mentawaian identity; differing visions.


As I have tried to make clear, Siberut is a cultural stage where various essentially different groups meet. The cultural identity of the Mentawaian population as seen by themselves is as important here as are the images they made up of other ethnic groups. As was suggested in the preceding paragraph and the introduction it is however hard to speak of a Mentawaian identity as such; both because of the traditional internal division of the population in a multitude of rivalling uma, and because of the different ways of life that came to be through the extensive changes brought about by development programmes and missionary influence.

A great difference between both tourists and Minangkabau on Siberut and Mentawaians is that the former are minorities and not in their own home territories. Diversity therefore does not show as easily among these groups as it would in respectively Europe or West Sumatra.

Perhaps, I thought, an indication of Mentawaian identity can be found among Mentawaian minorities on Sumatra. One day I walked through the centre of Padang with Yulianus, my Mentawaian guide. Yulianus was dressed inconspicuous in sandals, trousers, a t-shirt and a baseball cap. Only upon studying his face more close one could see he was not a native Sumatran. The few tattoos he had were covered by his shirt. We spoke in Bahasa Indonesia about postal rates worldwide when we passed a group of men leaning on a fence. They eyed us with interest and suddenly one addressed Yulianus in Mentawaian. It turned out they were labourers in a factory who came from Sipora. They noticed Yulianus was a Mentawaian because he whore a small necklace of coloured glass beads of which a few centimetres were visible above the collar of his shirt. These men were part of a small Mentawaian community that lives in Padang. Many of the members of this community have broken with the traditional lifestyle of Siberut and adopted the style of urban Minangkabau, with the difference that the Mentawaians are Christians. At private gatherings however, they fall back to the relaxed social manners of Siberut, men and women talking, joking, and flirting together. These urban Mentawaians consider their Christian faith, descent, and life in a foreign city to make up their shared identity. Most of them have no intention to return to their island of origin and in daily life they attempt to blend into city life without attracting attention.

Obviously, the sense of ethnic identity described here is largely based on present day interaction with other ethnic groups and not so much on a set of traditional Mentawaian values. Even so, it comprises a different image of Mentawain identity then follows from discussions held on Siberut.

The findings in Padang helped me on the way to research Mentawaian ethnic identity on Siberut. It is not a useful thing in any given population (except, perhaps, if one researches anthropologists) to directly ask anybody to kindly tell you all about his feelings regarding the ethnic identity of the group he belongs to, since the words simply have no meaning to a great part of the world's population. Instead I asked the question: what are the important special points of Mentawaian culture? In an attempt to allow respondents to interpret the question as freely as possible, and to find if any answers would come up with all the different groups of Mentawaians. In part, this proved the case. Some other interesting answers were given not by everyone yet sufficiently often to include them in the list. Basically, the main differences in answers can be explained either by the respondent's religion or by the respondent's sexe. No ordinal values were used as given answers were preferred to the ordering of a determined list of possibilities. The order of discussion therefore is arbitrary rather then implying different levels of importance.

First a division must be noted based on respondents' religions. Those Mentawaians that completely converted to either Christianity or Islam held considerably less defined visions of Mentawaian identity then those Mentawaians that retained their traditional believes. These people considered arat sabulungan considered a central point of Mentawaian identity. This is not surprising considering the role religions play in the daily life of their adherents. Literally arat sabulungan was mentioned only two times, mostly different aspects of arat sabulungan that are overtly present in daily life got mentioned.

Foodstuffs make up an essential part of the answers given. Sago is considered an elementary part of Mentawaian life, not only because it is the main food of every meal but also because the full grown palms owned by every adult male represent an important part of his personal capital resources[132]). Pigs and chickens are mentioned and similar arguments used, although the animals' indispensableness for ceremonial purposes makes them even more indispensable. The specific manner of consumption, the aforementioned 'eating together', is deemed as special and important as the food itself. Eating together, the same food out of one large communal dish, expresses the unity between individuals whereas eating alone -not sharing the food one possesses with others- implies greediness and possibly a bad character in general. Apart from such negative connotations the generosity of the host is quite important for his reputation on the island altogether.

Kerei were mentioned not only by traditional groups in the island's heartland but people from Puro and similar villages as well; places where the influence of missionaries and civil servants has pervaded to a much greater extend. Whereas those that adhered to sabulugan saw kerei as necessary for maintaining contact between men and the spirits all around, some small groups that had almost completely converted to Christianity find a more direct use for the kereis' knowledge. These Christian Mentawaians value the practical medical role of the kerei. Medical facilities are scarce away from Muara Siberut and the healing of physical wounds is practised by kerei side by side with the retrieving of stray spirits. Kerei could be used as a kind of first aid assistants, although their role should not be more then an interim position until sufficient official medical facilities are available. Some devout Christians did not recognise the medical value of kerei either, and saw no use in them at all.

According to arat sabulungan adherents from various settlements common doctors are never able to fully replace kerei since common doctors do not involve the spirits in the healing process. Suggestions by me that perhaps the combination of a doctor and his religion would be sufficient were not taken seriously. Whatever religion a doctor adheres to, he will be unable to replace the spiritual process executed by kerei. No foreign religion involves the spirits so no replacement for arat sabulungan is acceptable.

A direct and irrevocable cultural declaration are the traditional patterns tattooed over the entire body. Tattoos are used within arat sabulungan to enhance the beauty of one's body, in order to make the body more attractive to the simagere. Both men and women consider tattoos as important to an individual's well-being and as a sign of pride. A view not shared by those who have converted to a new religion. These Mentawaians hold a view somewhat like the government view of tattoos; considering them ugly mutilations inflicted by superstitious, backward people only.

Over the years, the number of people that decided to get tattooed decreased steadily. Apart from those that live in traditional uma in the heartland of the island few young people nowadays have the traditional patterns tattooed on their body. Young men do so more often then women.

However, tattoos remain popular among young men. Many have their name or friends' names tattooed on the inside of their forearm, others have pictures on their arms or chest similar in style to tattoos all over the world.

Like tattoos, necklaces made of coloured glass beads or flowers worn in the hair were traditionally used to enhance one's bodily beauty. These as well are considered to be uniquely Mentawaian and worn by many individuals except again by truly converted Christian or Muslim families.

Such families mentioned cultural artifacts rather then traditional practices. Bows and poisoned arrows, spears, machetes and tobacco boxes were items deemed essential to define identity. Although these families seized to take part in arat sabulungan related practices they maintained traditional modes of existence. For hunting the arms mentioned above are indispensable, as are certain types of fish traps, canoes or even woven baskets that also were mentioned.

Individuals that retained closer ties to arat sabulungan mentioned far less artifacts. Again arms were mentioned frequently, but valued differently as it was often stressed that arms are not merely for hunting but for war and personal protection as well, should it prove necessary. Tobacco boxes were mentioned a lot as well, as were loincloths. Together the combinations of tattoos, adornments, bow and quiver, a tobacco box tied to the front of one's loincloth and a machete held in one hand make up a typical picture of a Mentawaian man in full traditional gear. A picture that is still frequently met among the uma away from the coast[133]). The traditional female attirement of leaveskirts was never mentioned, although women frequently mentioned tattoos, machetes, glass bead necklaces and flowers. Once I asked a group of women wether they did not consider the old leaf skirts as typical Mentawaian because it puzzled me that they mentioned loincloths for men but no specific clothing for themselves. They burst into laughter. One old woman told me that I was right that such skirts used to be worn and in fact she remembered them well. She also remembered the uncomfortable fit and rough materials that would grow really itchy when sitting down. The cloth used to make skirts now was stronger and softer and worn in the same way but more comfortable. If I did not believe her, she continued, I should try the difference myself. The ensuing laughter appeared uncontrollable.

Even though many different Mentawaian groups live -or lived- in resettlement homes build by the government hardly any individual I spoke with found these houses comfortable or even befitting of humans[134]). Upon deliverance they consist of two separated small rooms and a porch, all covered by a roof. Rather cramped to the taste of their inhabitants who are used to their spacious sapou and uma.

Frequently these traditional dwellings were mentioned. For the reasons given above, and for their practical and social use. An uma as a building represents the unity of the group of people that inhabit it, it is a tangible statement and proof of their unity as a group. Resettlement houses are meant for nuclear families which necessitate the division of an uma over several individual houses. Resettlement villages can frequently be divided into several blocks, each block inhabited by one uma. The lack of the building makes it harder for a group to demonstrate their unity to other Mentawaian groups and -properly speaking- to the entire outside world. In a more practical manner uma are locations where the entire group can gather for ceremonial practices or meetings. The lack of the building poses serious problems and possibly a weakening of the ties between the different nuclear families.

Sapou are similar to resettlement houses in that they are meant to house only a part of the group, usually an extended family or a nuclear family. Sapou are indispensable in the process of food accumulation. The pigs owned by the family roam around the house, their chickens roam around, in, under, and on top of the house, the house is constructed in the direct vicinity of the sago palms owned by the male head of the family and the women have their vegetable and fruit gardens nearby. Christians, Muslims and arat sabulungan adherents found sapou important for this farm-like function. Some Christians that worked in Muara Siberut had given up theirs because they did not have the time to go there and their income was sufficient to live comfortably. To arat sabulungan adherents sapou offer the privacy required for ceremonies relating to the family alone. At times, when the pressure to abandon all traditions related to arat sabulungan was high, ceremonies took place in secret in remote sapou.

As a list of values the different points are diverse and relating to different aspects of daily life. My intention in compiling this list was to get insight in how Mentawaians consider their own cultural identity to come to view in their daily life. In chapter seven the list will be discussed again, this time within the greater context of Indonesian society.



4.9. Conclusion.


Tourism brings about a broader sense for the outside world in that it implies a more intense and diverse contact then existed ever before. Tourism is mainly appreciated as it brings money, goods, and admiration for Mentawaian culture to the island. Negative influences are acknowledged: neighbours try to profit from one's visiting tourists and the guides are after the women of the house. Various new influences must be incorporated in everyday life.

The onset of tourism has brought about a welcome diversion. Groups of tourists bring stories and products from the world outside Siberut. As a result the Mentawaian image of the world is expanding and the own place within this world is being reconsidered. Tourists' admirance for Mentawaian culture boosted ethnic self-assuredness to a major extend. Within Siberut's society Mentawaian identity is being redefined. The changes of the past decades have diversified Mentawaian society and this sudden admiration from the outside world sharpened differences even further.





5.1. 'Savage Others' and tempting offers.


Throughout history Western thought and philosophy distinguished between (Western) civilization and savage others. Basically, savage meant primitive, not civilized, with implications of a violent, untrustworthy nature and a superstitious faith. As such, savageness was considered an inferior state of being. Later a second -more romantic- interpretation developed; that of the noble savage. The noble savage lives in the natural state of mankind, happy, and in harmony with the nature surrounding him. Such people have no laws to regulate daily life because they do the right things naturally. Consequently they are free of all the cultural constraints of civilized society: a condition that -at times- provokes the envy of civilization itself[135]). Both definitions have been stimulating to Western imagination and still are. Classical novels and modern films alike depict 'savages' both as noble children of nature and as dangerous fiends[136]).

The word savage has become somewhat obsolete in modern language because of its negative and rude connotation. Its popular descriptive usage has been replaced by words such as primitive (also rather negative) or the more neutral traditional. Only few peoples that inhabit the present day world could be regarded as resembling anything like the former notions of the savage, and their number is dwindling[137]). Over the last years popular interest in such groups has augmented. Documentary series showing the lives of these groups can almost daily be watched on television[138]). New Age movements and other spiritual groups are taking a growing interest in convictions as they are found amongst 'primitive groups'.

Tourism, as a worldwide phenomenon, discovered these groups as well. Holiday trips to the Dani in Irian Jaya, Kubu in Sumatra, Amazonian Indian tribes in Brazil or Bushmen in the Kalahari are advertised in the holiday supplements of most major newspapers. Such groups prove a valued destination tourists want to visit before it will be 'too late' and such groups will have gone, or because they want to see 'life in it's purest form' and experience the contrast with their modern lifestyles.

When walking down the Jalan A. Yani -Bukittinggi's main street- one sees souvenir shops, travel agencies, restaurants and guesthouses with names like "The Bamboo House Homestay", "Rendezvous Coffeeshop", and "Nirwana" on the left and right. This is the street where Bukittinggi's tourism industry is concentrated. The small outside terraces are filled with Western people from early morning until closing time. Many of the places have a large frame hanging next to their entrance, filled with pictures and sometimes adorned with colourfully drawn flowers. Upon closer inspection these pictures show tattooed inhabitants of the Rereiket area -many of them kerei- smiling to the camera while engaged in ceremonies, sago processing, or smoking. Other pictures show tourists in the jungle, wading through rivers or embarking in speedboats. Short, catchy captions describe the depicted Mentawaians as "friendly, primitive people who have not changed their stone age culture for thousands of years", while they live "isolated in the muddy jungle full of bugs". In short an image of pristine primitivism and exotic culture is presented. For most tourists this is the first introduction to Siberut.

When sitting down in one of the restaurants it is likely that a young man will come to the table and introduce himself as a guide specialized in trips to Siberut, as a close friend of such a guide, or as a native Mentawaian about to return home. He will enthusiastically relate about the exciting trips he made and the great experiences that await any tourist that decides to come along. To prove his words he will show his comment book, filled with favourable comments written by other, preceding tourists. He will offer his expertise as he is planning to leave shortly and is putting a group together right now. For around $150,- a tour of a week can be booked. A day or so is still left to think the offer over before the guide has to depart. Some additional information is available in most of the hostels in the form of a copied collection of chapters on Siberut collected from various travel books and a few scientific publications. A few hostels made further investments and procured some coffeetable books[139]). Most of the travel books offer but meagre information that is often incomplete or even wrong[140]). Tourists tend to stick to the information provided by the hostel owners and guides. An image that is constructed before the trip and that is of great influence during the trip itself.



5.2. Expectancies beforehand.


A feeling of discovering a very special and fragile secret is experienced by many tourists upon discovering the existence of Siberut. The small amount of information available in most guide books contributes to this feeling of personal discovery, and makes it even more exiting to visit a society which is depicted as not having changed its ways for hundreds of years. Combined with the information received in Bukittinggi an image of the island is created and expectancies are generated of what is to come. These images will be the next topic discussed[141]).

Siberut is an island, both geographically and socially, isolated from modernizing developments such as schools, media or frequent contacts with non-indigenous people. Therefore the population still keeps up its traditional way of life. Guides will do the best they can to convince potential clients of the uniqueness of the experience they are about to have: uniqueness partly due to the inaccessibility of the island which makes the assistance of a guide indispensable. Travel books as well stress the necessity of a guide and most suggest to simply join a group in Bukittinggi. In Bukittinggi Siberut is presented as a kind of relic from the past. Modern influences are left out of the picture and concrete examples of modernity avoided while on the island. At times a tattooed Mentawaian from Rereiket is invited to spend some days in Bukittinggi to tell tourists about Mentawaian culture (and serve as a live advertisement). Guidebooks stress how major outside influences only started decades ago and how much they have changed the island, but next they list the Rereiket villages most visited as places where tradition is maintained and the real Mentawaian life can still be seen.

Pictures and stories give the impression that the island is covered with thick tropical rainforest without roads, making travelling difficult and only possible by boat or on foot.

Part of the pristine image is formed by the thick jungle covering the island. The former logging sites have been covered anew by vegetation or gardens. To the untrained eye the difference between primary rainforest and the lower, new vegetation is not noticeable. The green background showing in every picture available suffice to bring the idea across without words. Guide books frequently mention the four endemic species of monkeys that live in the jungle. Few live guides or returned tourists do so as the monkeys are very difficult to spot and rarely met.

Stories in books and from other travellers or guides mainly stress the difficulty of travelling through such vegetation. The costs of hiring a boat are high, discouraging individual travellers. On the other hand the lack of roads and easy transportation adds to the image of primitivity and purity of the area.

Mentawaians are described by guides as friendly, generous people who expect you to be likewise. No tourist leaves the island without at least one small braided bracelet around a wrist. Such bracelets are made by Mentawaian young men, sometimes for payment but more often because they enjoy the company of tourists. For the same reason tourists are invited into the houses for tea or coffee or sago. The presence of tourists is a pleasant diversion that many people enjoy and try to take part in. Offering hospitality proves a good way to show one's intentions. The first sentence of the description of this aspect of the image actually is a euphemistical description of the aforementioned asking or minta that I heard a guide give to his group. Whereas most guides warn against bringing jewelry and advise to buy sufficient cigarettes upon departure, travel books see the matter differently. The Lonely Planet Guide -a very popular book amongst backpackers- describes it as such:


"The demand for gifts has become a constant hassle. Most islanders already seem to think that white people are rich fools who will willingly part with anything asked of them. It's wise to give things only to people who have helped." (Delahurty and others, 1995:573)


A few lines in a book do however not counterbalance the words of a guide that stands before one in the flesh. In a way, the warnings of minta give the image of friendly flower people a little exciting side, it adds to the dangerous and primitive aspect of the trip.

While in Bukittinggi, the impression is given that guides and Mentawaians respect each other and enjoy working together. As tourists hope to make the most of their trip, it is essential for them to have an experienced guide who is known, and liked by the Mentawaians. Therefore every guide presents himself as an expert on Mentawaian culture with many close friends on the island. Some Minanagkabau guides even introduce themselves as Mentawaians to strengthen their credibility.

So many pictures relate to kerei or ceremonies that the impression is given of spiritual life on Siberut as rich and open to outsiders.

Pictures and stories show ceremonies as one of the highlights of a visit to Siberut. The frequency of such pictures gives the impression that these "magician's parties" are daily occurrences[142]). To some Siberut quickly gains a spiritual attraction not unlike some renowned destinations in India. These tourists hope to find some spiritual guidance in Mentawaian tradition and to learn new insights from the kerei.

In general expectancies are high and fuelled by the exciting stories heard in Bukittinggi. Romantic as the image is, it remains to be tested against the experiences of the forthcoming trip. Following are some accounts of these experiences as returning tourists told me upon their return from the heartland. The stories are of a wide variety, as I attempted to generate an image of the way in which the journey is experienced that is as complete as possible.


5.3.1. Maaike about Mentawaian villages, travelling in the jungle and guides.


Siberut, July 26 1996[143])

And we thought Raorao[144]) was primitive! This morning we left the guesthouse in Muara Siberut. In a canoe with an outboard engine we left for Rokdok, but Rokdok can only be reached when the water level is sufficiently high. Lately there has not been enough rain so we could not get there by boat. We travelled in the canoe for one and a half hours (got a wooden behind because of the small seats) and arrived at a small village. From the canoe we scaled a wall of mud and saw the first pigs chasing each other...only the pigs are not thin, all else is, people, dogs, chickens and cats. The entire village population stood already waiting for us. Shook hands with many people, followed by short embraces and said "Alalowita, Maaike" very often (Hello, my name is Maaike)[145]). From there we waded through the mud for a further half hour to get to Rokdok. Beautiful impressions during the arrival. A motley group of people dressed in a jumble of pieces of fabric. Dunhill T-shirts and loincloths. Some people without tattoos, others covered from head to toes. Small women full of wrinkles, with drooping breasts, who miss their front teeth and continuously smoke enormous self made cigarettes. Men who come to embrace you and ask your name, and then laugh loudly. Small boys who gargling try to reproduce our Dutch...The walk through the jungle we just had was very adventurous. Balancing on top of tree trunks which are laid over mud trails, balancing with slippery, muddy feet on tree trunks laid over small rivers. Marga fell in the slush when the stick that Iwan and Edi used as support broke in two. It was not that terrible because not a minute later we had to jump into a river fully dressed. Well, a river, more like a stream 30 centimetres deep. Enough to leave you sopping in your shoes for the rest of the day. We will probably continue by canoe tomorrow since it is raining very heavily now, or else we will walk through the jungle which I am very much looking forward to, I hope there will not be enough rain.



Siberut, July 28 1996

I woke at six o'clock because of the chickens, dogs and screaming pigs. While the people around me put away their mosquito nets I finally found a comfortable position to sleep. We had a lousy breakfast; a piece of toast with cheese, four dry crackers, an egg and a cup of tea while we were expected to walk for three and a half hours....We said goodbye to the people and left....The jungle was terrible. We were promised a good and easily passable path. It might be a little muddy because of the rain, perfectly understandable, but how they can call a path that leads through a stream for five kilometres, five kilometres through tree trunk covered quicksand, over a couple of slippery hills and over a lot of dilapidated tree trunk bridges easy to walk for tourists is beyond me. I am perplexed. Edi is the chief guide and he thinks it is hard work although he makes Iwan do all the work and does not do a thing himself! Edi is very stupid! He does not understand anything about Western tourists, he answers "maybe" to every question, only thinks of walking behind the group to make sure that nobody gets lost when you ask him to, he starts to look for water only when you ask him to, he does not do anything until you ask him to. We were made all sorts of promises and now they do not provide water or food during the walk, they did not even bring medicines!....It seems these people have no idea what they are doing. They do not know when the return ferry leaves for Padang (we are not even sure when we will return), we do not know where we will sleep, how we will sleep, we do not know our program and it seems we did not bring enough food for the whole of the trip.


5.3.2. Fishing in the rain and the fabrication of loincloths.


My name is Kyte, my age 26. After finishing my studies in psychology I decided to go and see the world. I worked for about a year to get the money and left England about a year ago. That year I spent mainly in Australia. After Australia I came to Bali and from Bali I travelled to Lake Toba by public transport. There I heard about Siberut, I became interested and so I joined a group in Bukittinggi.

In Australia I was very much impressed by the Aboriginal culture. These people live very much in harmony with their surroundings in a way they have kept up for thousands of years. I am extremely fascinated by shamanism all over the world and it was great to hear about the Aboriginal religion. I hoped very much to see some of the shamans here perform rituals but no luck so far.

The jungle is extremely beautiful and what I can see from the culture is very fascinating. The only problem is the boredom. Every day we do one or two things and the rest of the time we are just sitting around playing cards. Most of the things we do are interesting but seem very pointless. For example, we went fishing today -I did not partake, I am a vegetarian- and nobody caught anything. When we finished we heard it was not the season to fish because there is far to much rain and the waterlevel of the river is much to high. After that we made loincloths out of tree bark. I quitted pretty quick because it was very straining work but some other guy took my place. I watched them work from the side. Again it was interesting to see but the result did not look like loincloths. In Bukittinggi I saw a photograph of a fat German wearing loincloth, it was a terrible sight. His belly was bulging all over, he almost absorbed it.

Respect for this culture is really lacking. Our guide knows little about it. He is not even polite to the people and what he pays them is a joke. I really wonder about the money. There are six guys in the group, everyone paid $150 for the trip. So he got $900, No way he is spending it all on this trip. There is a lot returning home with this guy.

When he is away the Mentawaians really start talking to us. We do not understand each other but some interaction takes place. When he returns he stops it immediately. I told him not to and he said they only wanted to ask for cigarettes. I do not believe that.

 I want to return here on my own, I want to get my legs tattooed but I cannot do that now with all this jungle walking, infections may be very nasty here. Maybe in three months or so.


5.3.3. Caught in a flood.


Well, we just arrived in a village when it started to pour and it just did not stop any more[146]). At first we did not notice, it was getting dark and we were all exhausted from the day's walk. We had some dinner and went to sleep. In the morning it was still raining. Awang, our guide, was baking chocolate pancakes in the kitchen and halfway he started to use two pans instead of one to make sure that everyone had breakfast before the house flooded. The kitchen was built a little lower than the rest of the house and he finished just two minutes before the hearth flooded. We quickly ate the pancakes and then jumped into two large canoes. We had a terrible time, we were rowing through the flooded jungle and from the trees overhead all kinds of spiders and beetles dropped down on us, probably looking for a dry spot as well. We stayed at another house for two days, unable to do anything much. We had to get back to the harbour on foot. It was not to bad, except for the end, when we were close to the harbour we were wading through the water and mud up to our waists. I am very impressed by the way Awang has everything going. He has got his houses, his food, at every point of the trip everything was waiting for us when we arrived. Even a flood like this does not stop him. It is a pity our trip fell into the water like this, but on the other hand it really has been a unique experience. Life here is still very raw, very natural and all the people seem to be so friendly and free of stress, so very different from those big cities.


5.3.4. Healing a sick tourist.


The house where we slept after dad was carried away belonged to Yosef's parents and his father is a beginning medicine man[147]). That night two other medicine men who lived nearby would come over to visit to dance, sing, and heal. Only they did not have anyone to heal yet. Dad just happened to be a suitable candidate. We were allowed to witness a complete healing ceremony. First the evil spirits were driven out. Oh no, first dad had to sleep a little while longer while the medicine men were trying to tune their spirits through chanting. After that dad had to bare his upper body, and he was rubbed and massaged with juice and pulp made from some green leaves. Then the evil spirits where driven out with branches and twigs. Up to three times. Dad's condition must have been pretty bad. He was given a piece of new good spirit, to receive this he had to eat a little fish and a piece of sago. Then the medicine men still had to dance. It was marvellous! They danced completely concentrated, rhythmically imperturbable. Then all of a sudden there was a break, from one moment to the other they burst into uncontrollable laughter. Five minutes later they were concentrated again. At the end of the dancing another piece of food was given to dad. Chicken liver with sago was offered to everybody in the group. Everybody refused and all of a sudden the entire ceremony was over. We wondered wether they could not continue because of our refusal but it seemed that the offering was the last part of the ceremony and we had not offended them. Finally we all went to sleep. Everybody was already worn out by the jungle trek earlier that day, but that ceremony just went on and on. I Slept like a log on the hard floor, while the medicine men sang through the night.


5.3.5. A speedboat full of tourists.


On Friday and Saturday all the newly arrived groups reach Rereiket. Today I met the first group[148]). They came over the river by speedboat and started talking amongst each other when they saw me. The boat stopped and Ed (the guide) entered the house to agitatedly ask the two old men I had been talking to who I was and why I was there. He asked whether there were any more tourists around and if they did not know that he would arrive today. Apparently the answer satisfied him and he called to the group to come in. Before entering the house the first tourists started to take off their wet and muddy shoes. Ed shouted "never mind about the shoes" and walked across the porch and into the house with his muddy boots. The first tourist that entered was directly 'kidnapped' by my companions. One took him by the arm and put him on the bench between the two of them. They started talking and laughing to him, stroking the (thick) hair on his arms and legs while fumbling with his sleeves and asking for cigarettes. He took it all rather surprisedly. He did not speak, just looked astonished at what happened to him. From the rest of the group some took off their shoes and then sat themselves in the farthest corner opposite the two old men -others made a direct run for it-, looking wide eyed at their friend, and curious at me in between. Ed emerged from inside the house and his assistant distributed banana leaf packets of rice and fish to the group for lunch. He ignored our side of the porch. Ed distributed some cigarettes amongst the six Mentawaians on the porch. There were eight tourists in all, five men and three women. They greeted me while coming in but we had not spoken as yet since I preferred just to sit and observe what happened. As the action died down I introduced myself and told them what I was doing, It's amazing how enthusiastically Western tourists always react to this research. Ed did not leave my side while I talked to 'his' tourists, sometimes interrupting questions or answering in my place. There were two Frenchmen in the group and as they spoke poor English I switched to French. Ed got terribly pissed off at being excluded from our conversation, although we did not speak about him he seemed worried not to be able to listen in. Later he and I talked in Indonesian amongst the tourists, but this did not bother him. After lunch Ed fetched a bundle of walking sticks from inside the house and distributed them amongst the group. They got up, said goodbye and left. Two of the girls started to clear away the rubbish of their lunch but Ed told them he had arranged for Maurus (the house owner) to clean. They left and Maurus swept the plastic bags and banana leaves out of the house. Then he sent his son to fetch water and wash away the mud and sambal spilled on the floor. I asked how much Ed had paid him for the use of his porch and the sticks. "Nothing", he told me, "he thinks that using the porch is no big deal and the jungle is full of sticks. He will bring back the ones left when he leaves, but I have to cut replacements when needed." I wondered why he agreed to this. He said that in the past he had worked as a cook for Ed, and because of that Ed and he were still friends and Ed could use his house. Fifteen minutes later he held a long monologue on the annoyance of guides like Ed, and Ed's bad sides in particular. I think Ed should be happy that to Maurus their finished boss-employee relationship is such a rigid value.


Together, these stories provide a wide array of experiences, thoughts and opinions. Most express amazement of this foreign and exotic place. In the next paragraph the impressions will be discussed at length.



5.4. Impressions afterwards.


In between trips to the heartland I spent time in Muara Siberut, the main harbour of south Siberut and the centre of government services. Three evenings a week the ferry to Padang left from here and groups of tourists would return on it. Usually the groups arrived in Muara Siberut in the afternoon and awaited the ferry in a local restaurant, chatting or playing cards. Often I went over to ask them about their impressions and the course of their trip.

It is hardly impossible to fail to notice that influences from outside Siberut had made much greater inroads into Mentawaian culture than had been expected before leaving. Parts of the island had changed into unobtrusive villages as they can be seen throughout Indonesia. Concrete houses can be seen on the riverbanks up to one hour away from the harbour. Mentawaians met on the river wear mostly Western style clothing while young people rarely have visible traditional tattoos. Further away from the harbour these visible influences grow less while tradition shows prominently, yet modernity has found a permanent place in the life on Siberut[149]). The frequent connections by ferry and the presence of a large group of non-Mentawaians show how much Siberut is a part of Indonesian society. It is soon discovered that traditional life is only continued in part of the island[150]). The size of this part is, however, misunderstood. Especially for visiting tourists a variety of traditional activities is undertaken in the days of their visit. It swiftly shows that part of these activities are not so much necessities of the moment as demonstrations for tourist purposes. Some tourists are disappointed when they discover that part of this traditional life is staged, but the short time they visit does not allow them to wait for the occurrence of such an activity out of necessity.

The reality of the conditions of travelling, especially the mud, is a shock to many. Pictures or stories cannot properly prepare someone unfamiliar with such conditions for what is to come. The first days the rough terrain is enjoyed, but after a few days fatigue and irritation get the better of most. The mud, thorns, insects and especially mosquitos -Siberut is home to several varieties that seem to work in shifts as to make sure that no moment of the day is without them- make one week of trekking long enough for most. Some, however, quickly become fascinated by the beauty of the natural environment and life in the jungle. They stay with a family while their group moves on, or return later for a longer stay without a guide. Not many tourists 'go native', but these are the tourists enjoyed most by the Mentawaians. Without a dominant guide but with a lot of time there is the opportunity to truly establish contact between the two groups.

Modern travel stories regarding Siberut are beginning to appear as well (see Bos, 1990; Hulst, 1995; Zikken, 1981). These as well stress the exoticness of experience although all the three writers mentioned above pay attention to the influence of modernity as well. The internet also provides a number of travel accounts, written by tourists upon their return. These as well emphasize the exotic and unique experience the trip was to them. The following is part of such a text found on the internet:


"Finally we get to our destination: a fallen sago tree. Poto's wife is already there chopping the tree into sections. Poto heaves a huge piece of wood onto my back and holds it there while his wife ties it in place with a long piece of bark. "It's to heavy," I think, "The bark is digging in my arm. I'll never make it back through the jungle with this load." But off we go, Poto still nimble and swift with his huge chunk of wood. I feel a surge of energy, I realize that this is what I came here for. I've got a tree tied to my back with bark, hiking through the jungle in bare feet with a real tribal shaman as my guide. I fantasize that I too am a Mentawai, living my whole life in the jungle, knowing every plant and animal and how to use it, living off the land with just my own two hands. I find myself starting to glide across the fallen trees along with poto. poto smiles at me and now starts to point out various plants to me. I don't know what he is saying but I start to imagine that my newfound walking skills have won Poto's admiration enough that he wants to teach me more. As I'm thinking this, poto's wife catches up to us with her own piece of tree tied to her. She passes us like we were standing still and disappears ahead of us."[151])

The infamous Mentawaian monkeys are seen very rarely. If seen, it is mostly inside a cooking pot or slung over the shoulder of a hunter. Although some tourists try very hard, it is extremely difficult for an untrained observer to discover a monkey somewhere in the many trees, or to distinguish the specific cries from the variety of sounds that the jungle produces.

Depending on the area where the tourists went, minta is felt as an annoyance. As said above Mentawaians see no problem in asking tourists for whatever they may possess. They try and wait for what happens. Tourists swiftly feel insecure because of such behaviour. They want to participate without giving offence yet without giving away all their possessions either. Mentawaians can be very persistent in their requests for a certain gift, asking for it every time they and the present owner meet, and so give a feeling of rather conditioned hospitality and friendship. Such a business-like materialistic orientation does not conform to the image of a gentle people who live in a natural state isolated from the materialist life that goes on in the outside world. Apart from the area visited, the impact of minta depends on the guide. Some guides watch their groups like sheepdogs, discouraging any Mentawaian who would like to ask for something, or make contact in general. Others do not bother with such 'group protection' and keep to themselves while allowing for every kind of interaction[152]). While still in Bukittinggi the only factor that sets guides apart is their personality only as they offer otherwise largely uniform trips. Upon return tourist opinions about their guides imply a diversity within the group of guides almost as large as the group has members. Roughly, three categories of guides are distinguished by tourists. The first category is set apart by its quality, and comprises only a handful of people. These guides are around thirty and have often been guiding since the beginning of tourism. They have extensively travelled Siberut, speak Mentawaian fluently and maintain good relationships with their hosts on Siberut who they occasionally assist in case of problems outside their host's daily life and who they bring plentiful supplies when visiting[153]). The friendly relationship between the guide and the people he visits shows in the enthusiastic reception of his group, the ease with which the guide and the host arrange a program and the relaxed atmosphere surrounding the entire trip. These guides support contact between tourists and Mentawaians and function mainly as organizers and interpreters.

The second category comprises most of the other guides. Young men, mostly in their twenties, with limited or no knowledge at all of Mentawaian culture and language. Unlike the former category their relationship with the hosts is not safeguarded by mutual liking, nor do they attempt to bring about such a relationship. These guides are often described as patronizing and disdainful towards their Mentawaian hosts, commandeering space for their group, time, and services (from the latter) while paying little and bringing few supplies. They take a key position between Mentawaians and tourists and attempt to stay in control of all inter-group contact, thus discouraging any individual initiatives developing outside their sphere of influence. It is frequently noted that the main interests of these guides appear not to be Siberut and its population but the tourists in the group, towards whom they behave friendly and interested, and the good money the job pays. The programmes offered are not as good as the ones offered by the first category of guides and comprise only one or two activities a day. They make up for it by extended jungle walks and card game playing.

Like the first, the last category embodies only a few individuals. These are people either so disinterested that they alienate their group and lose their credibility, or people so blatantly rude to Mentawaians that the atmosphere becomes so full of covert hostility that it obstructs the impression of happiness and friendliness needed for a positive tourist experience. These few people do not appear to have taken the profession for any other reason than the money and the tourists that pay it. A few go as far as to stop somewhere in the jungle and demand more money because of some unexpectedly (and unexplained) arisen extra expenses. Even theft occurs more often in their groups.

Although ceremonies take place regularly, no regular intervals exist. Dates and places are hard to predict in advance. The chances of stumbling on a ceremony during one week on Siberut are slim, and most tourists are disappointed in their hopes of seeing an authentic one. Some groups opt for a demonstration and split the costs. Sometimes guides guarantee a ceremony beforehand and arrange for a demonstration while claiming authenticity. Those groups that are allowed to witness a ceremony are invariably impressed and find they had a breathtaking experience, well worth the trip.

Such experiences, and the individual guide, can make a trip successful or the lack of them can let it fail. For most tourists the trip is an affordable but nevertheless costly affair. The costs of the trip are an investment made expecting the promised experience to be worthwhile. When their guide turns out to be uninterested with limited knowledge of Mentawaian culture and incapable of showing them the island and the life of its inhabitants up to the expected degree his group feels disappointed and taken in. In general, it is felt that tours are expensive. The nature, and amount of expenses made by the guide are not so hard to estimate and quickly lead to the impression that the guide's revenues make up a considerable part of the total sum paid.



5.5. Tourists: an overview.


The group that until now was defined only as 'Western tourists' or 'the tourists' needs to be discussed in more detail. The great majority are West Europeans, amongst these Germans, British and Dutch are the numerably most frequent nationalities. They are mostly young people who travel through Indonesia alone or in small groups[154]). They plan to travel for an extended period of time with limited funds, using guidebooks and stories of fellow-travellers to decide on their route. They carry a small amount of personal luggage in a backpack with them for the length of their travels. Because of this way of travelling they can easily decide to join a week long tour without having to make elaborate preparations. A very small number of Western tour operators organizes trips to Siberut from Europe but their share is marginal[155]).

Another group of Western tourists visits the south coast of Siberut around Taileleu. Many of these tourists are Australians and Americans[156]). They hardly venture inland but stay at the coast only. This is a different kind of tourists altogether as they come to surf. Surfing is a new form of tourism on Siberut that started about three years ago and has been expanding since. It appears that Siberut's south coast is hit by a specific sort of tunnel waves that is very rare throughout the world. One of the few other places where it is found is the island of Nias, further north along the coast of Sumatra. Here the Lagundri beach area developed as a result of these waves. The area has in recent years become so popular that veritable queues of surfers have arisen along the waterfront. A few, mainly Australian companies have started to organize exclusive surf trips to Siberut. They claim they want to avoid the crowded situations that now exist on Nias but this may be difficult due to the popularity of the waves and the nearness of Nias. During my fieldwork I unfortunately lacked the time to visit Taileleu and the south coast so further research of this kind of tourism might be necessary.

Domestic tourism is part of the Indonesian state policy to strengthen national unity. By introducing the nation's various ethnic groups to each other's traditions and customs it is hoped to reach a feeling of national identity and unity[157]). Domestic tourism to Siberut for cultural reasons is however non-existent. The traditional culture with its unhygienic pigs and scantly clad, tattooed people in their primitive houses in the muddy jungle do not appeal to Indonesian tourists. University students from West Sumatra do however visit the other three Mentawai islands where they go on survival trips through the jungle, a beloved pastime, for which they travel to the province of Riau as well. Contact between those groups and the inhabitants of the islands is limited. The students use chartered private boats and avoid settlements as much as possible in order to keep the survival aspect of their trip as prominent as possible.



5.6. Conclusion.


For most Western tourists a trip to Siberut is the ultimate in exoticism during their journey through Indonesia. The lack of information that is considered objective by Western travellers -such as guide books or stories heard from friends back home- makes the trip a true adventure in the wild. Practically all information about the island is delivered by the groups' guides, who thereby are able to create an image of Siberut optimized to the tastes of Western tourists and convenient to their own capacities. This immediately shows biggest risk tourists run: ending up with a disinterested guide who is only too obviously in it for the money alone. Satisfying trips are located in the traditional areas and show a variety of traditional activities.

The short duration of the trip makes it hard on tourists to experience Mentawai in the way they hoped to, but demonstrations are used to create an impression that is satisfying to most. Few tourists are able to witness a real ceremony, yet those who do go home very happy.





Bukittinggi is the tourism capital of West Sumatra. Most of the province's tourist sites are located in the vicinity of the city, while the city itself -favoured for its cool mountain climate and situated on the Trans Sumatra Highway- has several places of interest as well. The tourist industry is an important line of work in the city. Guides to numerous tourist attractions have made Bukittinggi their residence and offer their services and trips to the numerous tourists that frequent the city. Trips ranging in durance from one day to two weeks, to a wide choice of destinations -from a tour of Bukittinggi itself to journeys through Middle and North Sumatra- can be booked through one of the many travel agencies. The vast majority of guides that work on Siberut use Bukittinggi as their base. Many even originate from Bukittinggi or the surrounding villages. Therefore guides from Bukittinggi will be the main focus of attention of this chapter. As said before, 'guides' is but a generalizing name put on a group of individuals with widely varying qualities and personalities. Following are descriptions of work and life of a guide, as given by three of them.


6.1.1 Awang about his career.


"It must be about twelve years ago when I started taking tourists to Siberut[158]. There where not so many guides then as there are now, not as many tourists either. I think the only other guides there where then are Syaruddin and Budi, and the Khurba brothers from Padang. It was all very different then, more difficult to get visiting permits and also more expensive because we did not have the contacts and organization then as we do have now. I went from Bukittinggi to Muara Siberut to work for the logging companies. I didn't like the work much and I started to explore the island, taking breaks from work whenever I could. I like Siberut, it is a dangerous place and hard to live but also very beautiful and special. I met many Mentawaians and I lived with some families, helping them with their work and learning their language. In Muara Siberut they tell you that Mentawaians are dirty and dangerous, but they really are very kind people. I learned a lot about their way of life and I respect it. They want to keep their traditions just like we Minangkabau do. When I visit Siberut with tourists I often visit the houses of good friends. They know I make good money by guiding people so I pay them money and bring them goods as well. We get along well, but Mentawaians are difficult sometimes. You have to be careful about the things you give or say. Everybody is always watching and if you give one person more than another for no reason or sometimes give nothing they will call you avaricious and say: "Oh, he is Minangkabau, he just keeps everything for himself", and then it becomes difficult. Now I just give a big box with coffee and cigarettes to the people of a house and I say: "I brought this for all of you, please share it among yourself", as long as I make sure there is a lot they do not hold me responsible for the portions. Other guides bring much less and I know that is part of the reason why I am liked more than others. It has always been difficult to make Mentawaians believe in your good intentions, but to gain their trust as a new guide is nowadays very hard. Some other guides still have to learn a lot, and they make it difficult for any new guide. Some years ago I opened a hotel in Bukittinggi. Combined with the trips it is a good business. I work together with a few people and we make a good living. I tried to help some of my Mentawaian friends to become guides as well but some of the other guides thought it better not to do so. They feel that we in Bukittinggi much better understand tourists because we are used to modern life in contrast to Mentawaian people, and that it would be better to wait. My friends are now my local guides in the jungle and sometimes they come with me to Bukittinggi for a few days and in that way everybody is happy. I pick my assistants with care, the Mentawaian ones but also those from Bukittinggi. I have to make sure they do not cause trouble on Siberut when they work for me, but I need few assistants. Most of the time only my brother or I go with the tourists.

We no longer go to Rereiket; there are too many tourists there. We go to Salappa and Tatebburuk. The people there are very kind towards visitors. Only a few other guides go there, so there is little chance of running into other groups."


6.1.2. Lala hopes to marry a Western girl.


"I do not come from around here, I come from lake Toba[159]. I am a Batak and a Christian. When I came here several years ago I became friends with some of the guides and I joined their group. My boss is Budi. When I meet tourists who want to go to Siberut I tell Budi and he decides who is to take the group. I always make money by bringing in tourists, if I found them but someone else takes them they have to pay me. Most of the time I work in Budi's restaurant. I do not go to Siberut very often. I do not mind, I like Bukittinggi better than the jungle. Here I can meet all the tourists and my friends and family live here as well. Many tourist girls really like Indonesians and I like tourist girls. I can speak English so I can talk to them. Maybe sometime I will marry a tourist girl and go with her to another country. One of my friends has a girlfriend in Holland. He is going to visit her in two months. I do not want to marry yet, for now it is nice to meet so many different girls.

Often I send money home to my family but not always. Life in Bukittinggi is more expensive than in the village where I come from and I like to go and drink beer with tourists, or buy some nice clothes. When I need money I take a group to Siberut, or when there is a very nice girl that wants to go. I go once every two months or so. Most of the time we make loincloths and go hunting and swimming. Most of the time I go to Rereiket because there are the houses where my group always goes. I pay the people for the lodging and for help, and I always bring them coffee and tea, but they always want more and they are always trying to get presents from my guests. That is not polite, don't they realize these people are their guests as well? I do not know why you people like Siberut so much. Well, it can be exciting on Siberut. The speedboats are nice, and shooting arrows is nice as well. Still I think you could have a nicer holiday on Sumatra. The food is better, the people leave you alone and it is not so dirty. We have roads instead of mud and we have much more tradition than the Mentawaians. The Minangkabau houses here are very beautiful, Batak houses and traditional clothing as well.... Those Mentawaians are still primitive and I think it would really be better for them to become modern, like us. It is not a good life, in the jungle, without religion, and their places are so dirty! Well, I really do not mind. For now it gives me a good job. Maybe if Mentawai becomes modern tourists will not want to go there any more."


6.1.3. A Mentawaian guide.


"I came to Padang to go to school and when I finished I became a guide with this organization[160]. I knew the people already, I came here often while I still was at school. Many Mentawaians in the city come to our office to meet with one another. Perhaps once every three months or so we take tourists to Siberut. Few tourists come to Padang, and those who do often come to leave Sumatra[161]. Some time ago we tried to open an office in Bukittinggi, but we had to leave there again because the guides over there were threatening us. They beat up one of our guides! I think that for now we can forget about Bukittinggi. The guides there have their own organization and they keep everybody else who wants to take tourists to Siberut out of the city. We can survive here in Padang because the missionaries in Muara Siberut send us some money every month. We have people walking through the city every day distributing our leaflets to tourists, and the leaflets are available in all the hotels as well. As far away as Lake Toba we have distributed our leaflets in hotels and restaurants, hopefully it will work. When I still lived in Siberut I often went with groups from Bukittinggi. I carried their luggage and cooked food, so I have experience with tourists. When I take them to Siberut we go and visit my family in Rereiket, or the family of another guide. We do not have to negotiate a price because they want us to be successful and they know we make but little money at the moment. We do the same things the Bukittinggi guides do because that is what tourists want to see, but we know much more about the culture and because we come from the island we can easily take our groups to places where other guides are not invited, like ceremonies. My family does not mind if I bring tourists to a ceremony, but they do not want to have any of the Minangkabau guides visiting at such an occasion.

It is easy to see that tourists like Mentawaian guides more than Minangkabau guides. They realize as well that a Mentawaian guide knows much more about Siberut then Minangkabau guides do. But we cannot go to Bukittinggi and tourists do not know that in all of Bukittinggi there is not a single Mentawaian guide."


These three pieces show a lot of variation. One guide is mainly interested in the pleasures of his job, another one attempts to gain access to the business but is stopped because of his ethnic background and a third is interested in good relationships with all parties involved. Different approaches to the same job. In the following paragraphs guiding will be discussed in detail.



6.2. The popularity of guiding: guides in Indonesia and the origin of Bukittinggi's Siberut guides.


The spectacular growth of Indonesia's tourism confronted its population with the presence of large groups of rich foreigners willing to spend money in Indonesia. These tourists came looking for entertainment, the unique cultural sites of the country, and a bit of excitement. As they were far from home in a foreign environment their necessities of daily life needed to be taken care of as well. New lines of work exclusively based on tourism came into being while several others already in existence found their business expanding largely. The staff of restaurants and hotels, drivers, handicraft artisans, dancers and musicians, prostitutes, pickpockets and guides all profit by tourism. For reasons that will be explained below, of all these professions guiding is one that engages members of the society visited and the visiting tourists in a most intense form of contact.

 At every tourist site in Indonesia guiding has become a popular line of work. The general idea is that to guide foreign tourists no costly education is required whereas the profits are considerable. One needs to speak some basic English, be sufficiently social and have enough knowledge of the local tourist sites to offer an interesting explanation about their origin and use to the tourist audience.

 Guides fall apart in to two groups: official and unofficial ones. The Indonesian government attempts to professionalize the tourist sector: to work as a tourist guide means one needs to have a permit -an izin- issued by the local government. A permit can be obtained by following a course with the governmental tourist service and graduating for the concluding exam. The course takes only two months but is expensive, and the permit needs to be renewed every two years[162]. Many aspirant guides are unable to pay for the course and consequently work without a license. They cannot operate through the established tourism network of agencies and major hotels because of their illegal status[163]. Consequently they have to find their own clients in search of whom they continuously roam the streets, bars, and restaurants of their city.

 Considering Bukittinggi's Siberut guides the situation is less competitive. Contrary to the situation of today guiding was not a profession the experienced, present day guides dreamed of at the outset of their career, some ten years ago. Most went to primary school and continued high school for at least some years without specific plans for future work. When the opportunity to work as a guide came up the job promised to be interesting and well paying, although the profession did not yet have the possibilities or the image it has nowadays. It also meant working amongst the primitive Mentawaians away from the 'civilized world', whereas a job in or near Bukittinggi would allow one to daily return home without having to leave Sumatra's mainland.

 The few guides that started to take tourists to Siberut knew each other well. The fairly recent discovery of Siberut as a tourist destination made them a select group that possessed the specialist knowledge needed to take tourists to the island. This position secured their influence when the Siberut tourist business started to expand. Whereas competition amongst tourist guides in most cities is tough, the Siberut guides keep potential rivals in check. Without the support and direct assistance of one of the established guides it is impossible for new guides to start work on Siberut, or in Bukittinggi. An introduction by an established guide gains a new guide support on Siberut. The alternative -to travel individually to Siberut and gain the experience needed amongst the Mentawaians- is frightening to many and difficult to carry out. Even if an aspirant guide already has contacts and experience on Siberut the help of an established guide would still be indispensable when in Bukittinggi[164]. The group of first generation guides have established themselves strategically along the Jalan A. Yani where they own hostels, coffeeshops and restaurants. Through arrangements with the owners of the other establishments along the street they effectively control the number of Siberut trips on offer in the city. Any new guide who comes to Bukittinggi looking for tourists to take to Siberut must either cooperate with the established guides -if it is decided to accept him in their midst- or leave town. This way of regulating the number of guides is at present still successfully applied although it is becoming harder to keep inner group rivalry low and competition out of the city.

 Connections are the best way of gaining entrance in the circle of Siberut guides. Several of the younger guides are either related to first generation guides, or come from the same village, or are long time friends. Others have worked their way up, starting as waiters or cooks in one of the restaurants along the Jalan A. Yani and ended up as guides themselves. Some of the young guides came from Muara Siberut. They started off as assistants to the tourist groups on the island and prepared meals and helped out whenever necessary. After some time they left for Bukittinggi where they took up residence in the restaurants of their patrons. Many of them go to Siberut only occasionally, preferring life in Bukittinggi to that in Muara Siberut[165].

 At the time of the fieldwork no new guides were accepted into the group. The number of tourists willing to go to Siberut is sufficient to ensure the well-being of the present group, but more members would endanger this situation. It is however feared that this situation will be difficult to keep up: guiding has become a popular and important line of work. Notwithstanding the governmental attempts to get a grip on the business and the level of professionalism the number of unofficial guides -without a permit- is huge. The potential high wages and the comparatively low job demands appeal to large numbers of candidate guides. The direct contact with tourists and a certain comfortable social marginality of the work hold perhaps even more tempting prospects.



6.3. Dual social identities and free sexual relations.


In her 1997 article Dahles argued that the exoticism of developing countries not only lies in the unique tourist experiences they offer, but in the thrill of possible sexual contacts with the local population as well. Indeed Western tourists -both male and female- are renowned in numerous Asian, African, and South American countries for their free sexual morals. In several tourist destination countries this reputation is turned into direct financial profit through overt prostitution. Thailand's capital Bangkok, for example, is known worldwide for its brothels. Other groups use more covert methods to benefit from this quest for exotic sex. Dahles' (1997:130-1) account of local gigolos or "entrepreneurs in romance" - men who are not directly paid for sexual services but enter into relationships with tourists for as long as the tourists improve their lovers financial situation- is an example applicable to the situation in Indonesia[166].

 Apart from financial profit or security the inherent promise of free sex embedded in the tourists' reputation may well urge young men in societies where sexual relationships are highly regulated and obtainable only through marriage to seek female tourists' company. Of course not every female tourist is looking for sexual adventures during a holiday and she might be shocked or offended by the men's behaviour, but the risk of repercussions is small. Most tourists travel alone or in pairs and whereas a local girl may call upon her family to defend her honour a foreign tourist far from her relatives cannot.

 The position of tourist guide and the frequent and intense contact it contains offers excellent opportunities to enter into such a relationship. For Bukittinggi's Minangkabau guides sex is an important asset of the job. Minangkabau are known throughout Indonesia as devout muslims who faithfully follow the teachings of both Islam and their own traditions. Contact between men and women is subject to strict regulations. Sexual relationships are not tolerated before marriage which often does not take place before the age of thirty[167]. Young, single men make up the majority of the Bukittinggi guides. To them female tourists hold an implicit promise of flirtations, romance, and sex. Sexual advances are made towards girls and women when it becomes clear that they travel without a husband or a boyfriend.

 When tourists are involved, many guides like to present themselves as strong and macho individuals. Sometimes female tourists experience this as threatening behaviour and some cases of sexual harassment are known. Others feel attracted to this pose and enjoy the attention they receive. As a next step, a single girl is approached in a more romantic manner whereas the appearance of unimpeachable machismo is maintained towards others.

 Free sexual contact taking place between foreign tourists and unmarried Minangkabau men is connived at by their families, as long as it does not take place openly. Guiding offers a marginality that does allow the guides to sufficiently retreat from their community to prevent negative consequences. Siberut offers sufficient seclusion to prevent all but some gossip to reach the home village. Similarly, a romance with a girl that stays in the hostel where the guide works while in Bukittinggi is easily kept indoors. Although there are several, hostels are marginal places in the daily life of Bukittinggi's inhabitants. Only foreign tourists frequent the hostels while the staff that has direct dealings with the clientele is limited to a few dozen individuals only. Another solution for a couple is to leave Bukittinggi and spend a few days together at Lake Toba or Bungus Beach in one of the secluded tourist hostels among fellow guides and tourists.

 To meet a western girl, fall in love, marry and leave with her for her country is a dream of many guides. A holiday romance can provide a ticket to a better, richer life in Europe or America. If not, a romance of a week on Siberut offers sex and a few pleasant days back in Bukittinggi.

 In the same way the social duality offered by guiding is used to take part in the 'party-life' of tourists which is frowned at by Minangkabau society: in the hostels and restaurants in Bukittinggi guides and tourists can drink beer and smoke marihuana together, practices that -if known to the home community of a guide- are no credit to his reputation.

 This dual social identity backfires as well. The behaviour of an individual guide is tolerated by his family as long as it is not directly and openly visible. The reputation of guides as a group however is not approved of by Minangkabau society and any individual adhering to the group is subject to suspicions regarding his behaviour. Being a guide entails a reputation of frivolous behaviour, be it false or true.

 When necessary guides can however fall back on their Minangkabau identity for support. In case of problems with tourists or when back up is needed otherwise, this switch is easily made. In return, guides have a commitment towards their families as well. Tourists are thought of as rich people and guides are reputed to make good money. If a guide does not send home some money regularly, his reputation is at stake. Their position makes guides especially subject to requests by family and friends for financial aid or for assistance in acquiring a job in the tourist industry. As the number of jobs is, however, limited and the height of a guide's income often not as high as his family hopes it to be, continuous compromising is necessary and tensions do sometimes arise out of this situation.



6.4. The Bukittinggi group and other guides.


Although a permit is legally compulsory if one is to guide tourists at any location, the high investment required poses difficulties for most. Permits are issued for single areas only: a guide with a permit for West Sumatra is not authorized to guide on Siberut and vice-versa. To obtain a permit thus means to be registered and employed as a guide for one designated area only, meaning a serious limitation of the possible area of work. This limitation, the high investment required, and the current lack of control have not made the permit very attractive to obtain.

 For these reasons guides possessing a permit are few and those without many. The main problem of guiding without a permit is the danger of controls. Individuals caught guiding without a permit are fined or even occasionally jailed. It depends on the area of work whether this risk poses a serious problem. In urban areas where many different tourist sites are at hand (and -consequently- many different routes can be taken) it is easy to avoid government attempts to control a guide's legitimacy. Tourists do not pose a problem as they do not ask a guide for his official credentials.

 Considering the case of Siberut, the large number of uma and sapou located in dense jungle should be heaven to illegal guides wishing to avoid official checking. Along the route from Sumatra to the jungle two unavoidable bottlenecks however offer excellent opportunities to check a guide's legitimacy: when embarking into the ferry and when registering with the local police in Muara Siberut. Police regularly check papers of guides at the ferry's quay. They take position at the end of the gangway and literally anyone wishing to board has to pass them. The local police at Siberut refuse aid to anyone who needs their services for as long as this person is not registered at their office. For safety reasons all guides therefore register all individuals in their group. Here again the police are an unavoidable station along the route and permits therefore are a necessity.

 Still, not many Siberut guides have permits. A system of patronage has developed that avoids the need for every guide to possess one. This system exists within several major guide groups: the Bukittinggi group, the Mentawaian guides and the Batak guides. All major guides of these groups posses a permit. When a guide of their group who has no permit takes tourists to Siberut they either accompany him to the ferry and in case of a check explain that they will follow the group a few days later, or they send a written message along with the guide to be given to the police. Some money changes hands, and the problem is solved. The same procedure is followed at the police office of Muara Siberut. Apparently the police officers that are in charge of the controls in Padang and Muara Siberut stay in this function for several years. They are as well known to the guides as the guides are to them and the agreement they made has been operating without problems for several years in a row.

 The most influential of the guide groups is the Bukittinggi guide organization. They are by far the biggest group currently operating on Siberut. They managed to close off Bukittinggi for Siberut guides who do not belong to their group. Therefore other guides can be found in a wide circle around Bukittinggi, in fact as far as Medan individuals offer themselves as guides for Siberut.

 As was said before, the tours to Siberut are largely controlled by tourist guides from Bukittinggi. The members of this group are almost exclusively Minangkabau[168]. These guides form a hierarchical organization of about fifteen guides and their assistants, altogether about 40 people[169]. Other guide organizations have a similar build up: one leading individual and several subordinates.

 The Bukittinggi group is horizontally divided into three hierarchical levels. At the top are the 'senior guides' of which there were three at the time of the research. These senior guides have all been guiding since the beginning of tourist interest in the island. They are considered the most experienced guides and are allowed -according to the rules of the Bukittinggi group- to take groups of up to ten tourists to Siberut[170]. It takes ten years of guiding experience -or longer- to become a senior guide. All three senior guides therefore were well known individuals to both Mentawaians and local authorities. Over the years they saved money and all three own either a hotel or a coffeeshop in the main tourist street of Bukittinggi, thus profiting from tourism in more than one way. All three senior guides have official permits although two of them nowadays prefer to stay in Bukittinggi and rarely go to Siberut. In their stead the groups are taken by the 'junior guides' who started off as assistants and cooks to the senior guides and are now considered experienced enough to take their own groups. Twelve such guides live in Bukittinggi. Although they have been to Siberut frequently and know some parts of the island quite well, only five of them speak Mentawaian. Junior guides can take groups of up to five people. In their turn the junior guides are aided by assistants and cooks, who are not responsible for the progress of the trip but assist the leading guide. Among these assistants there are several Minangkabau from Muara Siberut who speak some Mentawaian and know their way around the island. When no such assistants are available 'local guides' are added to the group's executive staff. Local guides are local Mentawaians who can take the group wherever they go and speak the language fluently. Mentawaians are also engaged to carry luggage and supplies.

 Apart from a hierarchical differentiation a vertical differentiation along patronage lines splits the system into three different groups. Every senior guide has his own group of junior guides and assistants. A place in this group means work, an income, and accommodation while staying in Bukittinggi. The members of a senior guide's group often live in his hotel or restaurant when in Bukittinggi and look for clients or work as staff.

 The number of guides in every group differs: the biggest group numbers nine guides whereas the smallest only has two. Every group continually scours the town for clients. Assistants and junior guides visit hotels, restaurants and coffeeshops where they distribute leaflets or offer their services to any tourist willing to listen. When a tourist agrees to join a trip this is reported to the senior guide. He decides upon the number of people in the group and has the final word on which guide is to go. Guides take turns to ensure that everyone enjoys an income although some prefer to live and work in Bukittinggi only. In the nine guide group mentioned above four guides frequently pass and live on the commissions they receive by bringing in tourists.

 This method of booking clients gave rise to an intricate system of commissions. When an assistant or a guide convinces a tourist to join his group he first has to pay commission to the owner of the place where the tourist was persuaded. When the person that booked the tourists is a guide he can try to book more and form a group that he can take to Siberut. If he is an assistant or if he is unable to find sufficient tourists for a group he can 'sell' his tourists to another guide in exchange for commission. Senior guides prefer one large group to two small ones in order to keep as many of their group available for work in Bukittinggi. Large groups are also more profitable than small ones.

 The amount of work tourism generates is not growing as quickly as the number of people trying to partake of it. The Bukittinggi organization is filled to capacity and does not accept new members, yet the number of candidate Siberut guides is growing and these new guides operate at the borders of the Bukittinggi group's territory. They work from less advantageous locations such as Padang or the guesthouses at Lake Toba.

 Because of the nearby threat of competition the Bukittinggi group actively protects itself against this competition. The group issues a permit of its own that is needed to work in Bukittinggi in addition to the official guide permit. Without a permit issued by the guide group it is impossible for any guide to take Bukittinggi as a working base for tours to Siberut. In addition the group maintains good relations with most of the hotels and restaurants in the city and does not allow non-members to advertise or to look for clients at these locations. Even so, attempts are regularly made by new guides. These are warned or intimidated at first, but eventually violence is used to scare them out of the city.

New members, if needed, are found through the family system or by taking in friends. There is certainly no inclination to open up this highly profitable business to other groups.

 In Padang, two other organizations of Siberut guides have their offices. The only Mentawaian guide group is located here, as is a highly successful group of Batak guides.

 Padang is not a popular town with tourists. Although both groups have members out on the streets who distribute leaflets the numbers of clients found in Padang are insufficient to sustain two independent organizations. Both groups have additional means of income.

 The Batak group has been in existence for nearly a decade. They developed close ties with several European travel organizations and are engaged directly by clients from outside Indonesia. Those travels that go from Europe directly to Siberut are mostly organized in cooperation with this group.

 The Mentawaian group started in 1994. Currently they still depend heavily on donations from the Catholic missionaries in Muara Siberut.

 Both groups number four guides. Especially the Mentawaian group is in a difficult position as they try to newly establish themselves in a business where the best places have already been taken and competition is hard[171].

 Yet another category of guides is developing in Puro and Maileppet: the Mentawaian harbour guides. Young Mentawaian men who have learned some English await the arrival of the ferry in Muara Siberut. They offer their services to any tourist that arrives on the island without a guide. These men lack the means and experience to go to Sumatra to look for clients there. Individual success is modest for there are very few tourists that depart to Siberut alone, while there are five harbour guides[172]. These guides do not work together. They know each other well because they originate from the same villages but they have not developed an

organization of their own and cannot be described as a cohesive group. As the harbour guides are not depending on tourists for their livelihood their efforts are unpoised and depending on their enthusiasm at that moment. Sometimes three of them await the ferry together, sometimes none at all are there.

 All different guide groups have an ideal of what a good guide should be like, but amongst the groups emphasis is placed differently. The Bukittinggi guides maintain several criteria to be met, the most important one being that tourists should be satisfied at the end of the trip. It must be avoided that tourists return feeling bored, disappointed, or simply swindled out of a large sum of money. Therefore a guide should have an extensive program of activities on the island and sufficient houses to stay at. He needs to have some knowledge of Mentawaian culture and the Mentawaians must like him. This does not mean that all members of the Bukittinggi group meet these criteria: most junior guides and assistants are still considered students who do not yet need to be perfect guides. However, a guide has to really damage the reputation of the Bukittinggi group before he is expelled from the city.

 The Batak group regards knowledge of the area, the culture, and the language as the most important assets to make a good guide. "If the guide is experienced, every tourist will be satisfied with his tours" is how their leading guide put it. Friendly relationships between Mentawaians and guides are deemed essential for everyone who leads a group to the island. Therefore the Batak guides pride themselves on a reputation of open-handedness. Abundant provisions are brought on every trip and iron tools, a gong, or other utensils are regularly added. In addition charity causes are supported by the group. Sick Mentawaians are taken to the hospital in Muara Siberut by their returning speed boats and occasionally the group even pays the hospital fees. One of the senior members recently built a boarding-house close to Muara Siberut to allow more children from the heartland to continue their education in Muara Siberut.

 To all Mentawaian guides -both those in Padang and those in Muara Siberut- the way in which guides treat the Mentawaians is essential. Not only is it important that the guides are polite, they should also pay a substantial amount of their income to the Mentawaians. Without them it would be impossible for any of the Siberut guides to earn such wages, and therefore it is only fair that the Mentawaians share in the revenues they generate. The Mentawaian group that works from Padang has chosen a direct way to let the population of Siberut benefit from the international tourist attention. They make up one of the divisions of a Mentawaian non-governmental organization that tries to gain the Mentawaian population more political influence in order to look after their interests. The guides charge prices similar to those in Bukittinggi, but hand over most of their revenues to their organization. In addition they pay their Mentawaian hosts higher fees while they stay on Siberut with a group.



6.5. The working situation.


While at their holiday destination, tourists make up a group at the margins of local daily life. Contact between tourists and the local population is limited because neither speaks the others language or is familiar with the others social customs. Guides make up the link between the two groups. Often they originate from either of the two groups and have acquainted themselves with the other group's language and customs through classes or experience. They can explain the one group to the other, a position that enables them to identify, up to a certain degree, with both groups. This is even a necessity as they have to make tourists feel secure and understood while they simultaneously have to be sufficiently 'exotic' to allow a credible identification with the group visited.

 In Bukittinggi guides are easily recognizable by their looks. Long hair, earrings, tattoos, tight jeans and sleeveless shirts depicting Western heavy metal groups make up their appearance[173]: a kind of dress copied from tourists, modern pop-groups and Bali's 'Kuta Cowboys'[174]. They treat tourists with a cheerful attitude and self confidence, suggesting a care-free and relaxed state of mind. It is vitally important to the success of the trip that the "guests" -as the groups are called- are in a joyful mood. A beautiful trip to a terra incognita, filled with excitement and relaxation while the group had no worries is excellent publicity for any guide. "No worries mate", "tidak apa-apa" and "no what what" are expressions frequently used by guides to show their own relaxed state of mind and their confidence in the positive outcome of the trip. Apart from the aforementioned "anai leu ita", the words "kut na leek" are among the few Mentawaian expressions a tourist might learn[175].

 Before departure the guides decide together on the route each of them will follow. In this way they avoid running into each other and stimulate the tourists' impression of an island where no other tourists are present. A few other measures are taken to ensure a truly exotic image. Some Mentawaian house owners have agreed to wear loincloths and hide any radios or watches every time a group visits. In this way modernity is kept out of sight. Similarly, groups sometimes walk to a new house in large spiralling circles. By doing so only a small traditional area is needed to create the impression of covering large distances while trekking deep into the heartland.

 While thus initiating the group's mood and confidence in the success of the trip, the guide has to look after all the different organizational aspects of the trip. He tries to let this part pass unnoticed to the group. Officially this is because most guides take their reputation among tourists very seriously; when they accepted to guide the group they made themselves the group's hosts, the group became their personal guests[176]. It is not polite to involve guests in one's personal business, nor is it in accordance with the desired state of mind of the group. Unofficially tourists are simply better left out of certain contacts as they are thought to only cause problems and unrest when involved in these transactions.

 To be the guide of a group of tourists has its consequences. As said before, tourists are considered to be rich and alone, and a large group of people practising a wide variety of occupations hopes to profit. Next, tourism offers an additional income to some not directly involved, yet indispensable in the process of tourism[177]. The group expects from their guide to be taken around any possible obstacles they might encounter when travelling alone. Some of these 'obstacles' however expect support from the guide in their attempt to profit by 'his' tourists.

 To avoid contact that tourists might experience negatively the guide deals with such secondary involved groups privately, out of sight of his group. When taking tourists to Siberut, a guide encounters three such groups.

 Upon reaching the quay for the ferry in Padang the group is met by a crowd of fellow travellers, vendors, spectators and a thief gang. This gang has made the quay its working place and demands protection money from the guides. Either the guide pays this money or the gang steels the group's luggage, harasses the tourists or even beats up the guide himself. The money paid only counts for single passage, meaning that upon return one has to watch one's bags carefully.

 The Bukittinggi guides get along with the gang fairly well. To my surprise one of these guides told me that some of the gang members actually are relatives of his. The gang members are all young Minangkabau men from Padang and are reputed to be much more easygoing and polite towards fellow Minangkabau and fellow muslims than they are towards other ethnic groups. The other way around, the same mutual ethnic background facilitated their acceptance by the Bukittinggi guides.

 Around the time of the ferry's departure the quay also functions as a meeting place for Mentawaians who live in Padang. Their ethnic background and their different religion sets them apart from Minangkabau present at the quay. They also are smaller in number and keep a low profile as bored hoodlums and gang members enjoy picking a fight with any of them. Mentawaian and Batak guides furiously detest the gang. They cannot use ethnic ties to negotiate their price, nor can they use the pressure of a large group of friends or relatives that backs them up. The Mentawaian guides have however found a way around the gang by doing the opposite of what the other guides do: they involve their tourists in the problem. When they arrive at the quay the group walks to the ferry, not answering the many questions concerning the identity of their guide. A little later the guide arrives solitary, he talks to some of the other Mentawaians present, buys some cigarettes, shows no sign of being responsible for the group. When gang-members ask him about his presence he answers that he just came to meet some friends, or that he goes home for some time. Shortly before departure he boards as well. At other times the guide takes the ferry that precedes the one his group takes and awaits them in Muara Siberut. A friend takes the group to the ferry on the evening of departure.

 The Bukittinggi guides need to make some additional payments to the ferry's personnel when they collect the group's tickets at the office. A number of beds on the ferry are permanently reserved for the groups from Bukittinggi. Yet it is not known until shortly before departure whether all reserved beds are really needed. Sometimes the ferry leaves with beds still free. They will be filled by other passengers who have bought a ticket for a place in the hold and not paid the higher fee demanded for a bed. The futile reservations thus cost the ferry companies money. Financial 'tokens of appreciation' are required every once in while.

 Upon arrival in Muara Siberut 'tax'[178] needs to be paid to the local authorities. The police office is visited by the guide to register the identity of every individual member of the group. As a rule, foreigners need to report to the local police while staying in Indonesia. The police in Siberut refuse aid to any person on the island that is not registered at their office. Thus they force the guides to adhere to Indonesian legislation while simultaneously making their taxes unavoidable. Taxes vary between RP 10,000 and RP 50,000 for a group, depending on the size of the group and the relationship of their guide with the authorities.

 When the group departs to the jungle the hardest part is over for the guide. The scheme of the route and the activities that will take place can be made up during the trip. The route is chosen with care, avoiding resettlement villages and extensive walks. Sometimes neighbouring houses are visited on following nights. To give the impression that extensive distances are covered the group is taken to the house by long detours. In the meantime the inhabitants of the house that will be visited hide their radios and wristwatches -sometimes they even put on loincloths for the occasion- to give a traditional impression.

 To show the image of a traditional island as it is presented in Bukittinggi is the main difficulty during the trip. Years of experience have however taught the guides how to arrange this matter and only truly unexpected situations (heavy rain, conflicts) nowadays pose a serious problem.

 This situation, in which an image of pristine culture was created by the guides, gave me some trouble and made that I had to use the research method of 'covert observation'. I needed to visit Mentawaians who frequently accommodated tourists. However they were afraid to let me stay when a group would arrive. One time I arrived at a house simultaneously with a group of tourists. Their guide became very angry with the house owner and threatened not to return if I would be allowed to stay. The only possibility to observe tourist-Mentawaian interaction in a house was to go up to the house after dark, take a seat in the shadows a few metres from the porch and observe what goes on. At first this method seemed a bit awkward, but soon my hosts and I started to see the humour of the situation. One night I was joined by two young men who spent a good half hour producing 'jungle sounds'; it is truly amazing what goes on in the jungle after dark! A second night the house owner came up to me and courteously invited us to observe the porch from inside the house where he served us coffee.



6.6. Minangkabau and Siberut.


"You want to go to Siberut? But why? It is a dangerous and dirty place. My brother in law had to go there two years ago, he got malaria and had to stay in the hospital for nearly two weeks. The people there are very violent and primitive, are you sure you want to go into the jungle alone? You have to be strong to go there or you will fall ill quickly, you know, and there are no hospitals! Better think about it again before you go!"


While still in Padang, before my first trip to Siberut, I shocked my Minangkabau host when I told him about my research plans. Other people in the city reacted in a similar way, urging me to stay and study Minangkabau culture instead. My interest in Mentawai culture was met with incomprehension although the groups of tourists that went before me had inspired the idea that Western people enjoy visiting such a place. The reason for which is not clear. Often I was asked so and various reasons were suggested to me. Is it because Mentawaians and tourists both are Christians? Because tourists enjoy the physical strain as a kind of endurance sport? Perhaps because they like to laugh at such overt primitiveness? At the time I could not answer such questions sufficiently as I did not know myself. The nature of the questions together with the comment of my host does however give an indication of a view of Siberut and its inhabitants that I frequently encountered while in Padang.

 The island has an ill reputation in Padang. Both because of the natural conditions and because of its inhabitants. The following is a description of Siberut's image as it showed during the many conversations I had with Padangese about the island.

 All that jungle is dangerous and dirty. There are poisonous snakes, malaria and leeches while the mud, the rain and the lack of proper paths make travelling hard and uncomfortable. The locals live in an uncivilized manner. Their houses are primitive and dirty, their food monotonous and unhealthy and the pigs that roam freely around the houses make it a horrible place for any devout muslim to visit. The Mentawaians themselves are considered superstitious and without any real religion. They pretend to have converted to Christianity yet still continue their own pagan rituals whenever these are called for. The Christian missionaries who settled on the island apparently unable to convert this backward population. Even attempts by government employees to modernize Siberut have mostly failed, which just proves how stubborn the Mentawaians resist attempts to improve the conditions of their primitive life.

 They are dangerous, as they use bows and poisoned arrows to hunt and who knows for what other purposes. They also have an unknown kind of dukun who may be more dangerous then useful[179].

It is not a population that is open to changes even though their lives would be more comfortable and more modern. As the island itself is not a tempting place to settle, why would anyone bother? This is however the image by one group of another group. On Siberut, individual contact between the two groups often is friendly. Some Mentawaians have taken up a Minangkabau lifestyle altogether and are difficult to distinguish from the ethnic Minang. Friendships between Minangkabau and Mentawaians exist as well and quarrels are between individuals and not between the two groups.

 Many Minangkabau in Padang however suggested that the only reason they would voluntarily leave for Siberut would be substantial economic gain. Basically, economic profit was the reason the first Minangkabau settlers came to Muara Siberut when it was still a Dutch penal colony. The well known Minangkabau tradition of merantau -migration- spread these people widely throughout the Indonesian archipelago and the Malayan peninsula. The institution of merantau probably goes back to the time when Minangkabau villages on Sumatra were still surrounded by virgin jungle[180]. Young men cleared plots in the jungle and founded new villages, leaving the old settlements and thus ever expanding the Minangkabau heartland. Around the end of the nineteenth century this pattern of expansion ended due to lack of available space. A new form of merantau followed: men left to find work outside their home area and returned home regularly to their families who stayed behind. The men could be away from home for months or even years at a time. Yet they invested their profit in their native villages and had the obvious intention to one day return and settle down. This pattern is known as circulatory migration.

A further form developed after the Second World War. Men looked for all kinds of non-agricultural work in Indonesia's urban areas and overseas. Huge geographical distances between the homeland and the new place of employment became usual. The nuclear family migrates as a whole and focuses its life on the city where the husband finds employment. They rarely return to their home villages although they keep a strong sense of Minangkabau identity. This form of migration is called merantau cino "Chinese migration" so called after the migration style of the Chinese who came from overseas and settled permanently.

 The Minangkabau population of Muara Siberut consists of two different groups[181]. Firstly, there are the first and second generations of migrants that settled down permanently and made a living as fishermen and traders. These people have constructed a small town of concrete houses where electricity and numerous modern facilities are available. They have no intention of returning to Sumatra and can be considered permanent migrants. Secondly, there are civil servants that have been posted in Muara Siberut for a limited period of several years. They as well are mostly Minangkabau as they belong to the West Sumatran branches of several national departments. This group did not choose to go to Siberut and has no intention to settle there permanently. To them their presence on the island is just an extended period of isolation away from Sumatra and cut off from the world[182]. They have been sent to enforce government policies regarding Siberut and its population and that is what they do.

As an ethnic group the Minangkabau on Siberut consider themselves superior to the Mentawaians in every possible way. The Mentawaians are considered backward and their unwillingness to learn from their Minangkabau neighbours -who attach great value to education and development- classifies them as ignorant. An ignorance that is incomprehensible in the eyes of the Minangkabau.

 Yet although the two Minangkabau groups of inhabitants feel united through their ethnic identity, the way of interacting with the Mentawaian population is the main difference between the two Minangkabau groups on Siberut. Minangkabau settlers never claimed land away from the coast. All land was divided by use-rights amongst the Mentawaian uma and their individual members, instead the Minangkabau focused on the sea and made a living as fishermen and traders. Because they owned no jungle themselves, traders from Muara Siberut depended on a Mentawaian clientele to provide jungle products and buy imported wares. To the traders a good relationship with their neighbours was of vital importance for their business, just as for Minangkabau farmers and fishermen who used Mentawaian labourers. Civil servants on the other hand had no interest in friendly relationships between the two groups. The departments they belonged to were responsible for the development of Siberut and they were sent to see that regulations were followed up and if not, to enforce these with sanctions[183]. Sometimes individual civil servants saw their post at Siberut as an opportunity to attract the attention of their superiors and applied governmental policies with unusual stern vigour. Sanctions, when applied, threatened to disrupt relations between Minangkabau and the Mentawaians which posed a substantial economic problem for the traders who saw their business dwindle rapidly. Usually traders found a way to persuade the civil servants to tone down sanctions and allow sufficient space for business to recommence. Not in the last place by referring to their mutual Minangkabau ethnicity and the need for Minangkabau to help one another.

 Muara Siberut is a little Minangkabau village that would have fitted along Sumatra's west coast just as well. Few other ethnic groups can be found in the village and no Mentawaians have settled in the village itself. Culturally the village is focused on Sumatra, ignoring the jungle that starts behind the last houses and that is the beginning of the rest of the island. Few of the inhabitants venture into the heartland, and none do so for pleasure alone.

 Minangkabau guides, like merchants or fishermen, came to Siberut to start a new business and hopefully make profit. Although they did not settle down on the island they share many interests with the Minangkabau migrants that settled down permanently. The tourist guides as well need good relations with the Mentawaian population in order to profit. They are not helped by stern civil servants attempting to apply government control more effectively. Those areas that have resisted government influence the longest and try to maintain their traditional way of life are in fact the areas most favoured by tourists and therefore the areas of importance to the guides, which puts their interests opposite to those of the civil servants. The migrants in Muara Siberut profit by the tourism as the guides visit their shops for supplies, direct the groups to their restaurants, and rent their speed boats to bring the groups upriver.

 The civil servants profit as well, the 'tax' collected by the police is intended for several different departments. In addition, tourism has inspired the West Sumatran government to follow a policy of tolerance regarding forbidden expressions of Mentawaian culture. Thus punitive actions and long trekkings through the jungle have for the moment become unnecessary.

 Earlier in this chapter the pleasures of guiding Western tourists were discussed. Whereas the nature of the work holds interest and profit, most of the Minangkabau Siberut guides do not themselves enjoy the destination of their trips. Even though they see the satisfaction and excitement their trips give to tourists, the names used to describe Mentawaians in Bukittinggi's advertising slogans; "primitive people" or "stone age people" are not unlike euphemistic expressions of the Minangkabau view on the Mentawaian population and their traditions. Sometimes guides told me how frustrating it was to take tourists to see Siberut whereas they travelled straight through the centre of the Minangkabau heartland without paying real attention to their culture. The frequent travelling to and fro has however inspired other Minangkabau guides to view their practice as respectable merantau, and highly successful merantau as well since they made good money.



6.7. Conclusion.


Minangkabau West Sumatra and Mentawaian West Sumatra are socially two different worlds that met because of the Minangkabau traditions of trade and merantau. Because of the immense cultural differences between the two Minangkabau migrants focused on Sumatra rather than mingling with the local Mentawaian population. Tourism offered a new means to open up virgin forest on Siberut for the profitable exploitation that is the starting point of merantau. Tourist guides are the first Minangkabau group that voluntarily travels frequently among the traditional Mentawaians in the heartland. Siberut holds little or no attraction to the Minangkabau guides that choose to work there, the island is just the setting of their occupation. To them, tourism embodies tempting promises of high wages and free sexual contacts. The former is received positively in Minangkabau society in general, the latter is socially ambiguous if openly known yet highly praised by the young men in question.





7.1. Tourism policy in a national perspective.


When visiting Indonesia, handling its money, one cannot help but see the images on the different denominations. Coins and notes alike depict some of the country's cultural and biological riches. Indeed Indonesia is a country of great variety in many ways. The national device of "Bhinneka Tunggal Ika" pays homage to the many diverse ethnic groups living together in the archipelago[184].

The unifying factor within the Republic of Indonesia at Independence was not so much based on a mutual feeling of identity among its inhabitants. Rather colonial history had defined the territory of the new state. With only few changes, the national borders are nowadays very similar to the borders of the former Dutch colony. If Indonesia's borders were not imposed on the new state, they were at least created illogically and artificially, without concern for the problems that a multitude of different ethnic groups face upon forming a state together. The great cultural diversity, the recent founding of the republic, and the immense wideness of the state all are obstructions in achieving national unity and in creating an overall sense of 'Indonesianess', an Indonesian identity, in the population.

As a process national integration consists of a wide variety of factors. Drake (1989:2-5) distinguishes between four particularly important dimensions. Firstly, common, integrative, historical and political experiences act as a cohesive force. Secondly, shared socio-cultural attributes like language, cultural elements, and religion can create an identity that distinguishes the state from its neighbours. Thirdly, while interaction among the diverse peoples within the state will support integration, national media and good infrastructure are necessary to support such interaction. Finally, regional economic interdependence and some measure of regional balance are fundamental to national economic integration.

Generally speaking, it can be claimed that large parts of Indonesia meet the criteria posed. The majority of the population is Muslim and the nationwide introduction of Bahasa Indonesia allows Indonesians all over the state to communicate. Historical events such as the war for Independence and the PRRI uprising have involved the populations of the major islands to a large extent. Although Java is the economic centre inter-regional contact takes place on many different levels. Within the process of national integration special importance is attached to tourism. Firstly, because it is an important economic source of foreign revenue, and secondly because domestic tourism is considered an efficient manner of strengthening national unity. Tourism is in fourth position as a source of foreign revenue for Indonesia[185]. Between 1988 and 1995 tourism has more than tripled while expectations are that future developments will expand the tourist sector even further. The most frequently visited areas at the moment are on Java and Bali[186]. The vast majority of tourists who visit Indonesia are not 'Western' tourists but residents of other southeast Asian countries and Japan[187].

The ASEAN countries have been promoting their tourist industries vigorously since the 1980's. Indonesia's campaigns were among the most successful. However, over the years Indonesia's tourist policy has alternated in course, and two different goals must be noted. Firstly, whereas Indonesia is known as a country that welcomes low budget tourists, many of the more recent developments and investments are aimed at luxury tourists; (Richter, 1993:188-9; Ave, 1990). Indeed of the eleven international hotel companies active in Asia in 1993 nine had hotels in Indonesia[188]. Secondly, a policy used to be followed that restricted foreign tourism to specifically assigned areas. These areas were gradually expanded, allowing for a controlled opening of the country. In 1990 all 27 provinces of Indonesia were divided over 7 tourist regions. This division would allow for a faster yet closely monitored development of infrastructure and tourist facilities. Emphasis was placed on a controlled growth incorporating both the private and the public sector to create job opportunities[189]. In 1989 a Tourism Awareness campaign was started by the Ministry of Tourism. This campaign focused on seven points of attention that the government wanted the population to take notice of in order to upgrade Indonesia as a tourist product. The points included security, orderliness, cleanliness, comfort, beauty of the environment, friendliness, and unforgettable experiences[190] (Ave, 1990:45-9).

The idea behind these seven charms was "to form a strong and sturdy identity and to maintain national discipline" (Direktorat Jenderal Pariwisata, 1990:36). No difference was made between foreign or domestic tourists in the application of these points.

Domestic tourism is expected to become an important means to strengthen the ties between the many different ethnic groups in Indonesia by introducing them to each other's cultures (Adams, 1997:156-7; Directorate General of Tourism, 1996:5). In addition, domestic tourism must develop the national economy and improve a sense of 'national culture' by introducing the Indonesians to the histories and natural beauty of the various regions. As such it became part of the program of Pelite V in 1988 (cited in Hutajulu, 1995:640-1).

Promoting regional cultural identity as a tourist attraction posed some major problems. It was felt that because of inter-ethnic contacts between groups and various influences from outside the own culture Indonesian ethnic groups had lost touch with part of their unique traditions. In an attempt to counter this phenomenon the government adopted a policy to preserve these traditions and the ethnic variety within Indonesia (Hutajulu, 1995:641)[191]. This policy combined well with the national aims of tourist promotion. Although Indonesia's cultural diversity is to be the source of domestic tourism, this diversity is necessarily subject to limitations. "Unity" comes before "diversity", both in the national device and in cultural importance. Therefore cultural diversity is expected to be in line with the national pancasila ideology which, in its turn, is to be the source for a national Indonesian culture of which Hutajulu writes that: "its most important obyek turis is Indonesia's cultural and ethnic diversity."[192]. The emphasis of the traditions preserved is therefore placed on art aspects such as dance, song, and crafts. Simultaneously the ancient ideological bases of tradition were forced to the background. Pancasila, as the Indonesian state ideology, replaced the old adat-systems as the ideology to live by[193]. The adat systems were not forbidden, yet subordinated to, and if necessary overruled by, pancasila. It can be questioned what authenticity can be ascribed to the new forms of traditions that resulted. As Acciaioli (1985:162) writes:


"The locus of diversity is.... merely aesthetic. Most groups may dance their way to the national goals, each with its own ethnic steps, as long as the underlying ideology, the tune to which the dance is called, is what the state has ratified."


Since the emphasis of the state is on art, or on the visual aspects of culture, visual ethnic identity consequently receives abundant attention. Weekly programs on Indonesian state television show dance and music performances from the different ethnic groups, and special performances of traditional dances are held at local art centres and around popular tourist sites. Tourist performances are drastically shortened, dramatized and visually attractive versions of the originals, staging something in between a cultural summary and the colourful plates of a coffeetable book[194].

Simultaneously, the masyarakat terasing discussed in 1.4. are becoming popular tourist destinations. So-called "adventure tourism" is promoted in areas home to tribal communities. Ave (1990), in describing Indonesia's tourist plans for the nineties mentions how river trips can be made in Kalimantan visiting Dayak longhouses where "The tribal dances are distinctive and art is expressed on wood as well as through embroidery and beading that are part of traditional attire" (p54). Similar trips are announced to the Toraja (p94), and to the interior of Irian Jaya where "a pig feast with tribal dances can be arranged" (p96).

The nomadic Kubu from Jambi have made their way into the tourist guide books as well (see Persoon, 1996:198-9; Delahunty, 1995:593). From Bukittinggi trips are organized with such names as: "Magical Adventure, Explore the native tribe of Kubu primitives of the lowland rainforest".

As yet little research has been done on the influence of tourism amongst the masyarakat terasing. However, their tourist potential seems to be recognized by the Indonesian government. This potential might be turned into 'government approved culture', but it might also influence the PKMT programs and assure the survival (or prolonging) of some sort of 'authentic' culture.



7.2. Tourism plans for Siberut and the Indonesian image of the island.


As stated before, tourism was part of the plan that destined Siberut as a natural conservation area (World Wildlife Fund, 1980:102-7). This plan proposed to keep the number of tourists limited, and in specified areas only, as to offer the Mentawaians the choice whether they liked to be visited or not. Tourism should be a local matter, with maximum financial profits for the island. These should then be invested in education and the construction of health centres. The World Wildlife Fund foresaw that the jobs generated by tourism would not be easily filled by Mentawaians, as they required knowledge of English or specified knowledge in other matters, such as tourist guiding. To avoid a Sumatra oriented profit drain it was advised to give Mentawaians priority in any tourism related job that they already could fulfil (for example as boatmen). Special courses by the Department of Tourism should make the Mentawaians understand tourists and their desires. Requirements for permanent government positions should be relaxed as to make more Mentawaians eligible, and Mentawaian school teachers could be employed as seasonal guides, thus dividing their attention between teaching and promoting tourism. Tourist accommodation should be built by local people, and although some building materials would have to be imported, influence from outside Siberut should be kept to a minimum.

As tourism started to develop the media started to pay attention to Siberut. In September 1989 several officials of the West-Sumatran tourist service made an exploring trip through South-Siberut. Two newspapers, Semangat and Singgalang published articles on this trip and the tourism potential of Siberut in succession (Semangat 1989a to 1989g, Singgalang 1989a and 1989b). In these articles the nature and the ancient Mentawaian culture were discussed, as were the positive influences tourism might bring. It is clearly stated that those tourists that visit Siberut are foreigners who admire this 'natural culture', no Indonesian tourists had visited Siberut so far.

In December of the same year Kompas published two articles on Mentawaian tourism. The articles related how Mentawai and Nias were promoted as tourist destinations on a travel fair in Brussels. The promoters were promoting many different travels on and around Sumatra. Both islands were new travel products and the promoters expected that the islands would be well received. Unfortunately no follow-up article on the success of Mentawai at the travel fair was published.

Also in December 1989 the newspaper Harian Haluan published an article describing how foreign tourists are attracted to the Mentawaian culture and nature. The author sees tourism as economically beneficial, as its yearly growth since 1986 is well over 100%.

All these articles never refer to any Mentawaian influence on tourism, nor do they mention a need for it. Economically, Sumatra is considered the centre of Mentawaian tourism. While reading the articles one gets the impression that the Mentawaians themselves are literally seen as 'Obyek Wisata' themselves[195].

Apart from newspaper articles some books on Siberut have appeared in Indonesian. Persoon (1998a:332) mentions how amongst Indonesian students, especially the 'nature lovers[196]' concern for tribal groups has grown. Students visit these groups and report in the regional and national press. Salmeno (1994) wrote a booklet on a trip that took him to all of the Mentawai islands. He admires the closeness to nature in the Mentawaian way of life. He feels that the traditional culture of tattoos and loincloths will disappear, something he considers both inevitable and a little tragic. He sees a new role for the kerei in changing their leading roles in rituals into leading roles in modern economy (p31), although their ritual function might be preserved as well, as is shown on Sipora (pp48-53) His main concern lies with the nature on the islands, for which he shows great admiration.

An analysis of the tourism situation by the Department of Forestry in 1995 showed the results of the World Wildlife Fund plan to be rather disappointing[197]. Although tourism developed steadily between 1990 and 1994 to an estimated 2,100 visitors a year, the influence of the Mentawaian population was less then marginal[198]. All guides were Minangkabau, operating from Bukittinggi and Sumatra with little or no knowledge of Mentawaian language and culture. All guides took their groups to uma and sapou situated in isolated spots in the jungle, leaving the newly constructed tourist accommodations in and around the villages unvisited. As many of these accommodations are constructed in government villages this is not a strange thing; controls of the guides are far less in the jungle and tourists are not looking for a village in cultural transition but for an intimate meeting with an ancient culture. All the same, the owners of the accommodations are not pleased by this development. In addition, the transport by speed boat on the island, and the supplying of the food needed are controlled by Sumatran traders. The result is a placid attitude towards tourism in the Mentawaians; they see tourism as something outside local control that leaves them very little financial benefit (Ministry of Forestry, 1995a: 343-7). This development can be turned or may continue. A lot depends on governmental plans for Siberut. Siberut has been officially indicated as fit for tourist development, several government publications express these intentions.

First, there is the Indonesia Tourism Investment Map (Department of Tourism, Post and Telecommunications, 1996), a book meant for foreign investors that suggests types and locations of possible future tourist projects located in Indonesia. Most of the information given is a superficial outline of the highlights of the area discussed, information on the infrastructure and existing tourist facilities. Every province is discussed in one chapter and every chapter is concluded by a map of the area showing the location of the major tourism sites while describing them with little pictograms[199].

The West Sumatra chapter is illuminated with a picture of the four star Sedona Bumi Minang Hotel in Padang, with its towering Minangkabau style roof (p19-20). The general information on the area discusses the Minangkabau people, their handicrafts, and the natural beauty of the area. Considering tourism investment, the regional government state that they would encourage investments in infrastructure and a tourist resort. Although not mentioned in the text, Siberut is shown on the map with two pictogrammes, one for adventure tourism, and one for marine tourism. It seems slightly surprising that no attention has been given to the national park on the island, or to the opportunities offered by the traditional areas.

In the West Sumatra Tourist Guide Book, a publication of the regional branch of the Department of Tourism, four pages are devoted to the Mentawai islands[200]. Most information concerns geography, food, and the history of Awera[201]. A map depicts two areas of interest for 'nature tourism', and again the icon for cultural tourism, although depicted in the legend, is not used. Some information on the culture is given. Interestingly, according to this book "most of the people of Siberut still adhere to the ancestral Bahai religion, a form of old Indonesian animism", although "Islam and Christianity have in the past decades gained many converts" (p92)[202]. A photograph of a tattooed Mentawaian man adorning himself with strings of beads illuminates the whole.

In 1988 the west Sumatran government decided in favour of developing Siberut as a tourist destination. A special company was founded, the PT. Mentawai Wisata Bahari, based in Padang. Wisata Bahari is a joint-venture between the West Sumatran Government and local partners. As a consequence all employees are Minangkabau. Several types of tourism were suggested, the most important of which are adventure tourism, surfing, and the creation of tourist resorts on Siberut. PT. Mentawai Wisata Bahari is supposed to take complete control of tourism on Siberut to ensure safe, and high quality tourism. It was suggested that all developments should be implemented according to the rules of eco-tourism in an attempt to keep impact low[203]. As yet, PT. Mentawai Wisata Bahari is mostly a theoretical influence, as no great steps towards the implementation of a new, government controlled, tourism have been taken. Legally, they are however completely entitled to bring about any change in Mentawaian tourism deemed necessary. In future events, the influence of PT. Mentawai Wisata Bahari could become of great importance.



7.3. Ratified ethnicity as a means of maintaining identity?


This paragraph is based entirely on personal observations and entrances I made in my notebook and dairy, following the occasion.


The fiftieth anniversary of Indonesia's independence took place during my fieldwork. At the time I stayed in Padang, where festivities were being held on several successive days, culminating on Independence Day. Amongst other activities a parade was held by people dressed in traditional costumes from West Sumatra and surrounding areas. I had completely forgotten about the parade as I had arranged to go to Padang Pariaman that morning to arrange some permits and my mind was focused on the coming busride and the following visit to the local SOSPOL office. On my way to the bus station I ran into the parade. Its participants wore garments from all the different regions of the Minangkabau area, some wore Javanese, as the sign the first of the group held, said. Two wore Mentawaian traditional costumes. Both were men. They wore brown shirts and shorts, on their heads they wore the headgear of the kerei and they had tied a kerei's 'dancing apron' around their waists. To complete the ensemble they had several necklaces of shiny beads around their necks. At the time I did not give much thought to the matter, considering it to be just a curiosity[204]. Later a Catholic schoolboy from Sipora showed me some recent class pictures where the students were dressed similarly[205]. The schoolboy told me that this Mentawaian costume had been developed only recently. The costume was unknown to Mentawaians on Siberut. Perhaps this is an example of an ethnic costume redesigned to fit in with modern Indonesia?[206].



7.4. Mentawaian identity and integration.


In paragraph 4.8. I discussed the vital qualities of Mentawaian identity as they were explained to me. These were often ideal types, or not considered by my respondents within the context of the present day Indonesian state. Here these qualities will be discussed again, this time in the context of such reformations as the government has planned for the island.

Foodstuffs, -pork, sago and chicken- were considered to be essential elements of identity. Apart from their value as basic daily nutrition the crucial position of pigs and chickens in arat sabulungan rituals was expressed. In addition, pigs are in direct opposition to the neighbouring Minangkabau culture, and as such allow for a covered statement of distinction.

 Part of the PKMT program focuses specifically on food, and changes in the Mentawaian diet were planned. Sago is considered unfit as a basic food for the inhabitants of a modern society. It is condemned as a 'lazy man's food' (Persoon, 1998b:322), not befitting civilized populations. In the resettlement villages attempts were made to introduce the Mentawaian population to the cultivation of rice. Yet, although the taste and structure of rice were highly appreciated, the projects mostly failed because insufficient attention was given to the paddies. Other crops that were introduced simultaneously, cloves and peppers in particular, yielded profitable harvests. Contrary to rice, little attention is required whereas plentiful harvests are almost certain. Cloves and peppers are not grown for personal consumption but as cash-crops only. Harvests are sold to traders and exported to Sumatra. Some other crops are grown for personal use only, mostly fruit and a small range of vegetables.

Agricultural plots in and around the village left little room for pigs. The free-roaming pigs showed such an enthusiastic liking for all young plants and fruits that it was hardly possible to grow anything where pigs are around. In addition, government employees feared that pigs would spread diseases and turn the neat villages into unhygienic mud-holes. Pigs are therefore banned from the resettlement villages, although some villages have constructed small pens where villagers can keep pigs shortly needed for ceremonies, or awaiting transport after a sale.

Denied access to the villages, pigs are kept at sapou and uma as they always were. In the past, when controls were frequent, the pigs provided their owners with a valid reason to be absent in the village. Today many individuals -even entire families- frequently disappear to their sapou for extended periods of time, some have left the village for good and settled permanently in their old houses.

Pigs are brought back to the villages when needed for ceremonies or feasts. Many of the inhabitants of Puro come from Rereiket, which is a long way to go carrying a pig. Still, people take the trouble to occasionally bring pigs to the village. Lines of skulls in the houses are proof of that.

It is unlikely that pigs will disappear, even if arat sabulungan could be replaced. The introduction of a huge number of other domestic animals would be needed to replace the pigs' nutritional value. The same goes for sago; sago palms abound on the island whereas rice-fields are few, and Mentawaians willing to -and capable of- growing rice even fewer.

Eating together is not hampered in the least by the spread of an uma over numerous houses. In the traditional situation the families do not meet continually either. Unless a ceremony takes place at the communal uma, most of the (different) families are away to their respective sapou. When food is eaten, it is eaten together with those that are present in the house. In a sense, ceremonial meals are facilitated in the villages because often an entire uma lives side by side along a street. When in the village, it is easy to visit friends and relatives.

Kerei are much more vulnerable to outside control. When, a few years ago, control was rigid and punishment stern, the office of kerei was under severe pressure. No new kerei were initiated for fear of punishment. Ceremonies were held only seldom, and only in remote sapou in the jungle, whereas kerei-attributes were regularly confiscated and burned by the police. These days one can meet kerei in the streets of Muara Siberut, and ceremonies are held as nearby as Puro. However, if a new wave of modernization measures would take place, kerei inevitably would suffer severely. It would however not necessarily be the end of their office. The nearby islands of Pagai and Sipora have retained very little of the traditional Mentawaian culture. Arat sabulungan is said to have disappeared from the islands as the population has converted to Christianity and Islam. Mentawaians from Pagai whom I met in Padang and Salappa told me however that kerei still existed on their island. Their ceremonies had become a syncretic mixture of Christianity and arat sabulungan, but they were known as kerei nonetheless.

All over Indonesia dukun can be found, a profession that combines a wide range of practices from traditional healers to spirit-mediums and magicians. The source of the dukuns' knowledge is not always clear, and can be suggested to be based on beliefs predecessing the present day Muslim and Christian faiths. A new status for kerei, similarly to that of the dukun, could be the result should another, more definitive, modernization campaign take place. The main question is that of faith. For kerei to continue to play such an important part in the life of the Mentawaian population, the population's faith in arat sabulungan must be continued. Nowadays, the younger generations go to school in Muara Siberut and Padang. Here they are educated either at Islamic or Christian schools. The impact of these religions remains to be seen, but changes in faiths may be a direct result.

However, at present the opposite seems to be the case. Young adults on Siberut take pride in their Mentawaian identity and lifestyle. Although very few young men still wear the traditional loincloth, many have tattoos. Few are adorned with the traditional patterns, these days more concrete pictures are preferred, such as flowers, animals, Christian crosses, daggers and birds[207].

Tattoos are the most visible mark of Mentawaian identity. One day, crossing the market in Padang, I noticed an old man with large tattooed bands around his wrists. I walked up to him, greeted him in Mentawaian and asked where he was going. He answered with a broad smile that he had gone shopping on this market because there were so many things available, but that he had never thought there would be tourists that spoke Mentawaian. Later, at his house, I asked him about the tattoos. He rolled up his sleeves and unbuttoned his shirt to show that he was covered in traditional patterns. He tried to cover up as much as possible when going into the city because people would abuse him for the tattoos, or simply laugh at him and not take him seriously.

In Indonesian society tattoos are considered signs of primitivity, or of a criminal background[208]. Police in Padang told me that Indonesia's organized crime is following the example of the Japanese Jakuza in covering their bodies with tattoos. Among lesser criminals tattoos are thought to be popular as well. When a crime has been committed but the perpetrator managed to get away, the Padang police frequently rounds up all the men in the direct surroundings. Those that are tattooed are then taken into custody for interrogation. In Padang this method has proved successful as often the perpetrator is found in this way. Apart from successful, the method was also a nuisance and a source of embarrassment for tattooed Mentawaians who live in the city.

Over the last few years the new toleration of Mentawaian culture has reached the police in Padang. At present, when a tattooed Mentawaian is arrested in a razzia, the possession of an identity card that proves his Mentawaian identity is sufficient explanation for his tattoos.

The point for young Mentawaian men is that tattoos are part of their identity as a Mentawaian. They consider the traditional patterns either too painful or too large, and have chosen to use other decorations. Western tourists, Sumatran young men and magazines provide examples of another style of tattoos -concrete images instead of decorative patterns- and inspiration for new designs. "Perhaps", some men told me" when we are older and have decided to remain on Siberut forever, we'll want the traditional patterns.[209]" Therefore the modern tattoos are outlined only, not coloured inside. Their lines can easily be blunged by the larger lines of the traditional patterns at a later stage.

The admiration shown by tourists for traditional tattoos strengthens pride in the own culture. Sometimes tourists decide to have Mentawaian tattoos made on their own bodies, which is considered quite a compliment.

The other way around, tattooed tourists are studied and sometimes copied by Mentawaians. Such tattoos are not always quite applicable to the Mentawaian situation. A famous Sakaliou tattooist explained the problem to me. He told me:


"Yes, I have seen such tattoos several times already. I have made tattoos for tourists and often they already had other tattoos. These are not always good. Sometimes they have skulls, dangerous animals, evil and scary things. That is not good. Tattoos are made so that they please you and your simagere to look at. If your simagere is scared away by your tattoos it will be very difficult to make it return. We take our tattoos with us when we die. If you have evil tattoos your spirit will become evil as well. It is not good when I see that young people copy these designs."


The old man would have liked young men to start wearing loincloths again. He considered them much more practical and becoming than the trousers and shirts that are worn nowadays. It saddened him that most young men did not share his preference. Most men now wearing loincloths are elderly men, young men only wear them when they are kerei. However, men in loincloths can be found in every village, ignoring the government decree not to wear them. Especially upon visiting Muara Siberut men used to change into Western style clothes, and many still do. Yet two times I saw elderly Mentawaian men from Rereiket arrive in the harbour with a group of returning tourists. The old men defiantly walked through the village in their loincloths, and visibly took pleasure in it.

As said before, loincloths are still worn by men in the heartland of the island, although most men prefer cloth to treebark. Yet treebark-loincloths were revived by tourism. The manufacturing of supple, strong, clothing material from strips of treebark is part of the program of every group. Similarly, a number of other artifacts receive disproportionate attention from tourism. Bows and arrows now exist in two kinds; the real bows, used for hunting and owned by every adult male, and the copies sold to tourists with incomplete sets of arrows. Tobacco boxes, mentioned by many people as typical for Mentawaian culture, had almost disappeared when they became popular souvenirs. Now houses that are frequently visited by groups of tourists have small supplies of the boxes to sell as souvenirs. As intensively used utilities tobacco boxes are out of existence. Their function -holding tobacco safe and dry- is taken over by plastic bags, empty film-cases and -immensely popular- hipbags and moneybelts traded by tourists.

Souvenirs are a lucrative source of cash that many individuals try to obtain. Many different utilities are offered for sale causing a practical problem. Tourists come from far, and have to return home again. Therefore they cannot carry large, encumbering objects with them. A solution was found; many souvenir-bows are smaller than the real ones, miniature carrying baskets are sold instead of the real things, small peddles replace large ones and several other objects are produced in reduced size. Practical use is rather limited, but they are much more easily carried.

The large clanhouses, the uma, are developing the other way. Many uma have rebuilt their clanhouses now that the modernization programmes are more permittive towards such practices. Several uma have built their clanhouses in the resettlement villages where most of their members live. Others, that are frequently visited by tourists, decided to build their uma larger than necessary to offer lodging to as many tourists as possible. The uma Saguluw constructed an enormous new house in Tatebburuk that would easily house the uma's members easily. Another uma that I visited in the same area was also frequently visited by tourists. The only permanent inhabitants of the building were the rimata and his family who had grown wealthy because of the groups. They even owned several karbau, which is a rarity on the island, especially away from the villages.

In another way, the new uma and sapou are not only functional, but symbols of wealth. The Sakaliou discussed earlier build enormous houses not only large enough to accommodate large groups of tourists, but also outshining all other houses in the area. Following is a detailed description -taken from my diary- of the sapou that Salomo built.


The sapou of Salomo is the most recently completed example of the Sakaliou houses. The house measures roughly 40 metres in length[210]. Apart from its length the house is ostentatiously decorated in comparison to other sapou or even uma. The outer wall separating the inside of the house from the porch is lavishly decorated with different patterns, monkey and lizard figures in different colours, on the porch side. Painted wooden snakes have been fastened in the rafters to deter evil, and a jaraik is positioned above the main entrance[211]. This jaraik is an interesting feature. It is a decoration in which the skull of the first bokkoi-monkey that is shot after the house is finished, is placed. The skull is placed at the bottom end or a little up to the middle. Jeraik are only made for uma[212]. Salomo's jeraik has not got a monkey skull in it but a painted coconut on the top. He agrees there should be a skull, but he has not shot a bokkoi yet. The coconut is meant as a temporary replacement.

Missing are the vast amounts of skulls normally fastened on this wall because Salomo has not yet had any time to go hunting. Salomo says his reason for building the house is that he wants to show the traditional Mentawaian style of building to his children. He does not build specifically for tourists apart from making sure his house is large enough to accommodate groups of tourists and his own family.


Most Mentawaians undertaking the construction of a new sapou build less extensive dwellings. However, the size of the buildings is generally larger than the size of the old buildings that are replaced. The use of chainsaws facilitates construction, and the money that almost everyone makes in some way allows for the purchase of other tools, large pieces of plastic that are sometimes used in the roof, and iron nails used in the walls.



7.5. An uncertain future: surfers or oilpalms?


As I tried to show, the specific role of Siberut within the context of the Indonesian state is not yet laid down. Neither is it certain what will be considered as Mentawaian identity in the future. To show some near future economic alternatives for tourism as it currently takes place two other developments will be discussed here.

Just before I left the island a new plan was announced by the regional authorities. The half of Siberut that remains outside the borders of the nature reserve is to be turned into an enormous oilpalm plantation (Singgalang, 1996). This would not only generate more economic profit than the present day tourism does, it would also provide a means of existence for several thousands of transmigrants from overpopulated Java. Permits were already issued (Suara Pembaruan, 1996a). The plan was to create 35,000 plots of oilpalms of two hectares each. There were 7,600 Mentawaian families living in this part of the island, which would leave 27,400 plots for Javanese families. If every Javanese family consists of three people that would mean 82,200 Javanese, whereas the present total Mentawaian population numbers about 22,000 people. This Javanese influx would reduce the traditional Mentawaian groups to a cultural minority. The division of the land into oilpalm plots would destroy the sago swamps whereas pigs would have to be removed from the island or kept in pens, as they form a threat to the oilpalms' young shoots. Altogether, the project will form a serious threat to Mentawaian culture.

Several Mentawaian organizations are opposing the plans aided by a Sumatran non-governmental organization for legal help, and until as recently as the moment of writing with some success (Suara Pembaruan, 1996b)[213]. The plans were considerably delayed when one of the organisations succeeded in registering all individual ground claims that the Mentawaian population made regarding the area. A map of countless little plot was the result. Local government and other entrepreneurs now have to negotiate every single plot, which takes a lot of time. Even so, some uma have decided to cooperate and several more are being tempted by the prospect of profitable deals to be made. The project still has not been executed, although it has not been cancelled either.

Tourism is planned as a continuing asset of Siberut, but in a different form[214]. The coastal areas and seas around Siberut and the other Mentawai islands offer excellent opportunities for swimming, snorkelling, diving, and surfing. PT. Mentawai Wisata Bahari has therefore assigned five different zones intended for the development of marine tourism. An Australian company that specialises in surfing holidays has been attracted to assist in the development of tourism at the locations assigned.

When entering either Siberut or Mentawai into the box of any browser on the internet, their advertisements easily make up 80% of the sites that are displayed. Most of these sites advertise the excellent surfing opportunities in the archipelago and are illustrated by beautiful full-colour pictures of blue waves and sunny beaches. Surfing is not an entirely new phenomenon on the island. Over the past two or three years individual surfers have travelled to Siberut to try the waves at the south-side of the island. Here the Indian ocean passes towards Sumatra, and creates tunnel waves; a special kind of wave that is hard to find worldwide. A small island near Taileleu, called Nyang-Nyang, became famous for these waves. The islands were soon becoming popular and in 1997 Mentawai Wisata Bahari registered 478 surfers, followed by 361 in 1998[215].

According to Mentawaian tradition Nyang-Nyang belongs to the uma Saleilei who live in Taileleu. They use it to grow sago, peppers, vegetables and coconuts.

The Australian organization mentioned above was the first to offer organized trips to Siberut aimed specifically at surfing. Since a few years they have taken tourists directly to the island, arriving by boat from Australia. At Siberut they stay with the locals and enjoy the waves. Until recently, there were no problems. Nyang-Nyang has however been chosen as one of the development zones for marine tourism and the location is reserved for a future surfing resort. Attempts were made to buy the rights to use the land from the uma Saleilei, but the uma refused. Legal matters were being disputed by Mentawaian organizations in Padang, and at the time of writing a lawsuit was taking place between the two parties.

Another Australian company has plans to develop a surf resort as well. They too are in the process of obtaining a small island. as yet competition between the two is high, as this second company currently uses chartered yachts to sail from Australia to the Mentawai islands. They use a small fleet of five boats that currently caters for in between 600 and 700 tourists a year.

I have been told about various other small Australian companies that sail to the Mentawais. The current number of yachts sailing to Siberut is estimated on 15. Even though it is as yet only developing the future impact of surfing tourism is expected to be huge.



7.6. Conclusion.


The combination of money and ethnic variety mentioned in the beginning of this chapter turns out to be an uneasy one. Adapting a variety of traditional cultures to fall in line with a new, nationwide, adat is an almost impossible task. On Siberut aspects of traditional culture are adapted to both tourism and Indonesia's mainstream culture in order to allow the island to take its place within the national economy of the Indonesian state. Different economic development possibilities make the future destination of the island uncertain. The implementation of the oilpalm scheme may well prove fatal to Siberut's indigenous culture. The Mentawaian population has however adapted tradition and their own view of ethnic identity in various ways as to fit in with modernity, proving that changing influences from outside can be adapted or encompassed by the variety living tradition offers. While national and international companies compete over the rights to exploit the ecological and tourism resources of Siberut, the situation is far too early to make conclusions regarding the outcome. In the end the final decision lies with the Indonesian government.





Ecotourism is part of the conservation plan for Siberut. However, the natural beauty of the island is not the major tourist attraction. Although it provides a beautiful setting for Siberut's tourism jungle can be explored more easily in one of the reserves on Sumatra. Tourists that come to see the Mentawaian animal primates will be disappointed as these are very difficult to encounter. The focus of the present form of tourism -ethnotourism- is those Mentawaians that attempt to maintain their traditional way of life. Social interaction between different groups therefore is the base of tourism to Siberut.

Four different groups can be distinguished here: Mentawaians, tourists, guides and the national government. All have different priorities and different views regarding the subject. The assumption of a situation consisting of "multiple narratives" must be used. At the base are Mentawaians and the tourists that visit them. Whereas the Mentawaians consider tourists as a kind of "uninvited guests" that must on the one hand by treated courteously yet are a source of income and entertainment as well, tourists mostly see Mentawaians as a kind of friendly 'noble savages' who live in a wonderful harmony with their natural environment. Most tourists have no idea about their role on Siberut. They assume that a basic rule of tourism is valid on Siberut as well: in exchange for money tourists expect -and are allowed- to experience the culture of the visited group. A fair trade when seen as a purely economic transaction and understandable to those who live in a monetary society where paying to experience culture takes place in a variety of everyday transactions such as entrance fees for museums, theatres or concerts. The notion of being a guest is not present as such; although the 'opportunity of escape' that usually is another feature of tourism is absent on Siberut. Tourists sit on the porch of their host's house deep in the jungle without the possibility of retiring to their room or walking away. However, they are not completely helpless as a third group is present to safeguard the tourist's interests among the Mentawaians: the Minangkabau guides.

Even though the Mentawaians are no longer headhunters protecting one's tourists is important. Minta -or possibly theft- or any other inconvenience Mentawaians may cause are essential worries to most of the guides. In their opinion -that can be traced through history- Mentawaians are uncivilized jungle dwellers that do not know how to treat their guests or successfully host tourists. Guides consider their own function of major importance although they do not expect Mentawaians to understand whereas tourists should not be bothered with such matters as it can only spoil their happy state of mind. Guiding on Siberut is considered like a form of economic trade -like merantau- in which the contentment of the tourists is a guide's personal measure of his success. Financial success follows automatically if tourists are satisfied.

The government planned for extensive Mentawaian influence in tourism. As yet, this influence does not exist since the current form of tourism has developed outside of government control. A profit drain to Sumatra is the result, another source of Mentawaian discontentment regarding the Minangkabau. Great care is taken by both groups to avoid tourists noticing any friction as this would damage business. Basically, tourists are shown a rather idyllic image of Siberut in line with their expectations, whereas actual daily life is conducted unnoticed by them. As a consequence, the image of Mentawaian culture remains static, propagating nobility, friendliness and pristine culture. Great care is taken to enable tourists to confirm this image themselves.

Does this mean that the tourist variety of Siberut is based on phoney ethnicity? I believe not. Tourism was a welcome assistance to Mentawaian tradition as it allowed for the continuing of an otherwise disappearing culture. whereas the culture had was being replaced, it had far from gone. Tourism merely was the instrument that allowed for its return. Ethnic markers that make up tourists expectations are the same ethnic markers that Mentawaians use to define their own ethnic identity. Wood's (1997:2) warnings of demonstrations of no longer existing rituals are invalid here: ethnicity was not re-invented for tourism purposes. Yet tourists do not experience Mentawaian culture in its modern form either: only a small part of the population of the island is the focus of attention, ignoring those groups that have made adaptations throughout the last decades of modernization. Neither is all that tourists encounter what I would call 'true culture'. Performances are held to provide in tourists' desire of experiencing the culture, a process for which they have about a week. In such a short time not all activities that they hope to see are in need of being conducted 'for real', thus performances were developed. 'Performed authenticity' or 'ethnic performances' are terms better suited to describe the situation.

I suggested that tourism might impose invented -alien- ethnic markers on a visited culture, yet on Siberut this does not seem to be the case. It did however introduce Mentawaian culture to the market value inherent in its ethnic markers. Through Appadurai's commodity situation they were changed in souvenirs. When it became apparent that they did not need to meet the standards required by their initial use, easier producible replicas were introduced that are sold as souvenirs. These copies meet the standards of a souvenir, but could not replace an original as an object functioning within Mentawaian culture.

Demonstrations and copies of ethnic utilities are an effective form of cultural defense, although the grave situation of MacCannel's (1973) "reconstructed ethnicity" is not yet encountered on Siberut. Frontstage - backstage divisions can be distinguished. Not every uma allows tourists into the privacy of its ceremonies, some ceremonies are even ritually closed to all outsiders. Neither are hunters willing to part with a particularly fine bow, or kerei with their equipment.

Yet this does not lead to static images to be met in demonstrations as does happen in the process of transculturation (Pratt, 1992:7; Dahles, 1996a:72). The actors in the demonstration try to keep their activities interesting to themselves as well, therefore they vary in dances and songs, or spontaneously invent new ones. Those Mentawaians that produce souvenirs keep themselves amused by varying in length, patterns, and materials used. The limited knowledge tourists have of rituals and commodities leaves sufficient space for this.

Successful defence against too large intrusions from outside is an important aspect of maintaining ethnic identity as such. Using those aspects of another culture that fit in with the own culture is another mains of survival of identity (Barth, 1969; Schefold, 1988b:231). Traditionally, contact with the outside world was mainly economic in nature. Successful use of the economic side of tourism is now an important part of the Mentawaian experience of tourism. Barter is used (no cigarette no photo) and as tourists possibly give away goods when asked, minta is another way of economically benefiting.

Tourism also generated a new way of inter-uma rivalry of a kind not experienced before. In the past, rivalry was mainly economic in nature. The heights of fines and bride prices gave status to the receiving uma. Now the number of tourists that visit give status. The economic nature is still there, but the ethnic implications are at least as important. Tourists are considered to visit only those houses that show true Mentawaian identity, even after decades of governmental attempts to do away with the expressions of this identity. Those uma that are visited most often therefore consider themselves to be the 'real Mentawaians', as opposed to other uma that did not succeed in maintaining those aspects of ethnic identity that are considered vital.

The main contact with the outside world, through the Minangkabau, has not been changed by tourism. Both groups simply adapted the new influence to the old situation. For the Minangkabau Siberut is an area that allows for financial profit. The population is not very important in this process, as they are mainly the instrument of profit: either as the collectors of jungle products, or as the attraction for Western tourists. The Mentawaians regard the Minangkabau as traders who are often cunning and unfair in the process of trading, whether they pay for jungle products needed by their customers on Sumatra or for Mentawaian identity needed by the Western clients who they bring. The form of trade has changed, the nature has not.

Tourism often arrives unannounced and finds a population unprepared to deal with it. In the case of Siberut the Minangkabau swiftly met this new economic opportunity and took care of the development. The Mentawaians used this new factor in their relations with the outside world as a means to strengthen the position of their culture within the Indonesian state and promote their ethnic identity, although their share of the economic profits they generate is very low.

As an ethnic influence, the nature of tourism is unpredictable. Although it is a worldwide phenomenon the specific results from the contact may differ with every different culture encountered. The economic nature of the contact can bring a culture into contact with the global monetary economy, for better or for worse, but other effects are difficult to predict. The Mentawaians' successful use of tourism as a means to openly return to their ethnic identity holds two factors of importance. First, ethnic identity was able to survive in the jungle throughout the modernization processes. As it had not disappeared, and the tourism takes place on Mentawaian territory (the jungle of Siberut, where but little government control takes place) the return to overt tradition was less difficult to make. Second, the Mentawaians are not economically depending on tourism. When money is needed they can sell jungle products in exchange for cash. Because of these aspects there was no need to adapt the culture to tourism and Abbink's (1995) rule of tourism behaviour of financially redeeming the aggravation of the population is not necessarily valid. If tourists were to be as annoying as Abbink suggests, tourists would not be received with the enthusiasm that is presently shown.

Resuming, this research may have several contributions for future tourism research. Although tourism appears to be a binary social process, the importance of distinguishing the different groups involved must be stressed. Whereas the basic unit of tourist and host is sufficient and valid in certain cases, this changes when tourism to ethnic minorities within a larger nation state is the subject of research. In this case a third party is added; the state whose policies towards ethnic minorities may be of major influence. A fourth group, guides, and their ethnic background needs to be researched as well.

Secondly, the specific conditions of tourism must be researched in every single case. To simply assume that tourism "corrupts" culture and just buys what it wants from helpless 'natives' in a kind of neo-imperialist fashion is a far too limited view. Tourists stay at the fringes of the society they visit, both because of the short time of their stay and because of their limited access to these cultures. Every culture reacts different to tourism, even if we accept that tourism's initial stimuli are the same worldwide. These different reactions -or the culture's unique mechanism of defense, if such martial terms are really applicable - decide under what conditions tourists will be allowed to explore the culture of the visited society. Within the culture it is decided what is accessible and what remains inside, the use of front-, and backstages. Of course tourism can overwhelm a culture, but whether it truly is able to change the inner "cultural stuff" just by itself should be a question in need of research, and not an accepted fact.


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[1] Bukittinggi is West Sumatra's main tourist centre.

[2] Those interested in a more complete description should read Coronese (1986), Kruyt (1923), and Schefold (1988a).

[3] Although attempts were made to officially regulate the height of both fines and bride prices it seems that the height of the sum agreed upon influences the status of the receiving group will be. However, more research on this topic might be necessary.

[4] Imported goods include tobacco, cooking pots, cloth, machetes, fishing hooks and coloured beads.

[5] This name is not a Mentawaian term, but was invented by outsiders in referring to Mentawaian beliefs which they called adat sabulungan. The Mentawaian population changed the Indonesian word adat to arat.

6 Simagere are not very conscious of their human counterparts. They are in contact with spirits and can be influenced by those. I chose to translate simagere with 'soul' although it fails to completely describe the nature of the simagere. It will do here, because a complete definition of simagere is beyond the range of this research.

[7] Simagere are compared to small children; one has to look after them and take care of them.

[8] Such occasions as marriage, death, the construction of a new uma, or bad omens.

[9] The rimata often is an elderly man. He and his family permanently inhabit the uma.

[10] This paragraph is based mostly on Persoon (1994,1997,1998a and 1988b) and Persoon and Schefold (1985).

[11] One of the elements of the Indonesian pancasila ideology is the compulsory belief in a monotheistic religion: Catholicism, Protestantism, Hinduism, Islam and Buddhism. Arat sabulungan clearly is not part of any of these and as such not accepted.

[12] Meant are the puliaijat.

[13] Sihombing (1979:99) mentions in his book how it was planned that Sabulungan had to be completely gone by the end of 1955.

[14] Meant are groups that in many other countries are known as tribal societies. See also paragraph 1.4. on masyarakat terasing.

[15] Pembinaan Kesejahteraan Masyarakat Terasing: development and welfare of the isolated communities.

[16] Currently there are 14 PKMT villages spread over Siberut.

[17] Plywood is the third most important foreign exchange earner in Indonesia.

[18] I was told that a small group of about 30 Mentawaian men together with their families went with the logging companies when they left the island. Currently they are living on Kalimantan, where the men again work in the logging industry.

[19] Otorita Pengembangan Kepulauan Mentawai: authority for the development of the Mentawai islands.

[20] According to Indonesian law a part of profits made through logging has to return to the area where the logging took place.

[21] Several television documentaries were made at the time about the Sakuddei, one of the uma that tried to preserve its traditional lifestyle (Schefold, 1973,1974a,1974b). These documentaries greatly contributed to international attention for Siberut.

[22] One endemic species of monkey from around the Mentawai islands became known as "King Kong". The map that is shown in the beginning of this movie locates the island where the giant monkey is captured somewhere west of Sumatra. It is assumed that the species now is extinct.

[23] For a discussion of the history of conservation and development see Persoon (1997).

[24] Preliminary extensive ecological research formed the base of this project proposal. Researchers such as Tenaza, Tilson and Whitten published extensively on Siberut's ecology both before and after the World Wildlife Fund proposal. For an overview of their publications see Ministry of Forestry (1995a:319-23).

[25] See Persoon and Schefold (1985).

[26] 'Suku' can be translated as 'tribe' or 'ethnic group', 'masyarakat' may be translated as 'community' or 'society' and 'terasing' as 'isolated'.

[27] 'Isolated communities' is an English translation used by the Indonesian government.

[28] '...masyarakat yang terisolasi dan memiliki kemampuan terbattas untuk berkomunikasi dengan masyarakat-masyarakat lain yang lebih maju, sehingga karena itu bersifat terbelakang serta tertinggal dengan proses mengembangkan kehidupan ekonomi, politik, sosial- budaya, keagamaan, dan ideologi...'

[29] To mention a few, Koentjaraningrat names the Orang Sakai, the Mentawaians, the Orang Laut and the Engganeese on Sumatra, the Punan on Kalimantan, the Baduy on Java and the Dani and Asmat on Irian Jaya (see also Departemen Sosial, 1989).

[30] The environment is an issue newly added to the program.

[31] Compulsory work for the benefit of the community, such as the improvement of roads or the construction of bridges.

[32] In both villages a Mentawaian is the village head. In the past it happened that the local government appointed Minangkabau or Batak village heads in otherwise Mentawaian settlements.

[33] The factory produces sago flour that is exported to Singapore. The sago palms are brought to the factory over the rivers. The palms are tied together in big floats that are navigated to the factory. The factory is said to have a production of 20 tons of sago flour each month. This may however be estimated rather on the high side.

[34] Consequently, it is difficult to say exactly how many people live in the villages. In Puro I there should be 426 inhabitants of whom 200 are over 21 (Departemen Social, 1987:6). A walk through the village gives an entirely different image; a quiet village in the day time, busy when the schools are finished.

[35] The sekolah Dusun, the village school, is roughly comparable to the level of a primary school.

[36] Madobag is one of the large villages that were founded in the fifties by having the different uma of an area set up a village together. The houses were not built by the government as happened with later resettlement villages but had to be built by the inhabitants.

[37] The handbook used was Russell Bernard's "Research Methods in Cultural Anthropology". Especially the chapters on participant observation and unstructured interviewing were used.

[38] Doing research among the Sakaliou clan was an interesting lingual experience; most of them understand Bahasa Indonesia but few speak it. However, some of them know some words in English, French, German or Dutch learned from visiting tourists and they happily made combinations of these words to get their point across (Hoi this one, we go kesana ya?).

[39] This was easy to control. I said that most Mentawaians did not speak Bahasa Indonesia, yet most understood it sufficiently to object to translations they found inadequate.

[40] The closest I can get in translating these words is "Blimey, here come the tourists!".

[41] Indeed the difference between anthropologists and tourists is not always clear. In this chapter I will frequently compare the two.

[42] Inspired by Yamashita (1994), the notion 'post modern' could be used here as a term meaning a (relatively) new socioeconomic mode of late capitalism in a postindustrial society where new social forms like consumer society, multinational capitalism, media society and the like are developing in a globalizing world.

[43] Huige used the names of Dutch cities and villages, I changed those to more internationally known places in an attempt to translate his point to an international context.

[44] Pearce (1982:14-7) drew up a list of conclusions frequently drawn by social scientists after researching tourism. These vary from tourism as a devastating influence to an economic blessing. This variety is what I mean by 'many faces'.

[45] My emphasis.

[46] Some amusing examples of negative consequences of tourism are shown in Bali sing ken-ken? a collection of political cartoons regarding tourism on Bali, collected by the Fremantle Arts Centre (1994).

[47] The kingdom of Bhutan successfully regulates its tourism on an ethnotourism scheme. Numbers of tourists are kept low, Bhutanese entrepreneurs are protected by minimum prices set by the government and additional daily tax of up to $40,- is required from every tourist (my information dates from september 29th 1998, see www.bootan.com/tours1.htm).

[48] See for example Wood (1997:2) and Eriksen (1993).

[49] See Dann, Nash, and Pearce (1988) for a more elaborate discussion of the needs to study the temporal dimension.

[50] The importance of the historical context in social processes is shown by amongst others Bloch (1986) and Taussig (1987).

[51] A recent issue of Vice Versa, a Dutch magazine on development work, had a special on 'third world tourism'. Of the 13 articles 5 had a positive or neutral tone, whereas 8 were simply negative.

[52] Considering that a large part of the world's tourist population is formed by what I choose to call 'Westerners' (a group comprising Europeans, North Americans and Australians) I believe that the idea of a common 'cultural stuff' holds ground.

[53] Although it is questionable to what extent such distorted imagery differs from ordinary biases that may (or may not) be modified during the stay.

[54] Popular souvenirs from Bukittinggi are Javanese wayang golek puppets. They are foreign to the Minangkabau as well as to tourists, but they are part of the range of typical Indonesian artifacts illustrating travelling brochures and guide books and so make an excellent souvenir from Indonesia to take home, regardless what part of Indonesia has been visited.

[55] The Lonely Planet guide for Indonesia relates how the Dani of Irian Jaya have started to collect fossils eagerly bought by tourists. Another new development is the fabrication of stone axes out of a soft stone solely to sell as souvenirs. The stone is too soft for real use, but easy to work. One such axe will cost Rp 10,000 whereas a 'real' one has to fetch up to Rp 200,000 (Delahunty, 1995:968-9).

[56] Appadurai calls this "transaction across cultural boundaries".

[57] Like tourists, anthropologists are however unlikely to ever completely fit in with the community of their research. Although their stay is longer and their willingness to adapt greater most will adapt accommodate their everyday situation in the field in one way or another to keep life bearable, just as tourists retreat into their own culture.

[58] See also Kramer (1989:117-9), on comparing European observation of Africans and vice versa.

[59] In old Dutch "Goede Fortuyn Eilanden", this name is said to be given to Sipora after the crew of the Dutch ship Nieuwe Zeeland encountered another Dutch ship, the Vlissingen, near the coast of Sipora. Of the crew of the Vlissingen 160 sailors had perished and the ship was sailing uncontrolled (Wagner, 1992:39).

[60] Marlborough was built at the site of the present day city of Bengkulu.

[61] It is, of course, difficult to state opinions that were held by members of a scriptless society a century ago. These observations were based on the memories of a number of old people from various places on Siberut.

[62] Van Beukering mentions the Russian-Japanese war as the main reason to finally take possession of all the islands (Van Beukering, 1978:20).

[63] These were soldiers of the K.N.I.L. (Royal Dutch Indies Army), an army consisting mainly of Javanese and Ambonese privates, and Indo-European and European officers.

[64] 'Lived in Muara Siberut' is the way they talked about it. It seemed that those infrequently in contact with the Dutch did not consider them as higher in authority, but more like some sort of neighbours, be it neighbours with firearms.

[65] "For two sago trees brought down to the harbour I would get three large pieces of cloth, and the slabs of tobacco in those days weighed five kilos instead of one as they do nowadays" so I was told. On Siberut a theory behind the changing tobacco weight came to be: the Dutch liked to smoke tobacco in their pipes so it was easily available. The Indonesians only like kretek, hence nobody grows tobacco anymore and the slabs become increasingly harder to obtain.

[66] Meant here is everybody from outside the territory controlled by the own uma. He drew an image of Siberut at that time as one island divided into many different small areas that constantly fought against each other.

[67] She did in fact not visit Siberut, but the island of North Pagai.

[68] It seems that the most common way to study the islands was from afar, either with binoculars or through the purchase of pictures taken by photographers. The fear of malaria restrained people from actually setting foot on the islands.

[69] "Inseln des Friedens, eine Reise durch Mentawei" by K. Halusa (1938).

[70] "Auf den Gluckinseln" by S.S.Karny (1925).

[71] "Bei liebenswurdigen Wilden" by A. Maass (1902).

[72] Van Maurik gives an interesting account of a meeting with one such photographer and the stories this man has to tell of his work on Siberut (Van Maurik,1897:28-33).

[73] Meant is a negative and strongly simplified interpretation of sabulungan, Clifton mentions in her book how "The lives of these people are beset with fear of their departed friends, who when dead become devils and torment them" (Clifton,1927:115).

[74] This intermediary was a local who had already been working for the Dutch government.

[75] Gotong royong can be translated as communal service.

[76] Unfortunately, I could not find anyone to verify this specific story although I met several other older men who claimed to have shot Japanese. Some Mentawaians who lived around Muara Siberut told me that indeed some Japanese had been killed in the jungle.

[77] 'Tuan', means 'mister' or 'sir', and was used by Indonesians as a title to address the colonial Dutch. 'Tabe' means 'goodbye'.

[78] 'Freedom for Indonesia!!'

[79] For a discussion of measures taken and policies followed see chapter one.

[80] I translated the text from German.

[81] The tourism discussed in this paragraph is from after 1969, the year when Indonesia opened up for international tourism (see Picard,1997). During the period between independence and 1969 Siberut was to the best of my knowledge devoid of Western travellers, apart from some missionaries, several primatologists, and a single anthropologist.

[82] He referred to the annexation of East Timor by Indonesia in 1975.

[83]) Another area known for its traditionalism is the area around the Simatalu river to the north-east of Rereiket. This area is hard to reach and scarcely any tourists go there. In the Silaoinan area, where Salappa and Tatebburuk are situated.

[84]) Salomo spent RP 3,500,000 on the construction of his house (about $1,500).

[85]) A katsaila is the main protecting fetish of an uma, it consists of a bundle of various leaves and winds off evil from the uma and its inhabitants (see Schefold,1988a: 109,330-8).

[86]) On the table were written words of advice to the tourists: "If you have tobacco, please give it to the Mentawaians", and "It is forbidden to kiss when many other people are present". As these were written in Mentawaian most tourists will not understand.

[87]) For example: one evening a man came to ask me about 'an animal that lives in a place where it is very hot and never drinks' it turned out to be a camel.

[88]) Many of the Minangkabau on Siberut are traders who make through buying forest products.

[89]) Once I was asked about 'dangerous white animals in the snow' where, it turned out that polar bears were meant. It was very hard to explain both 'polar' and 'bear' to people who had no idea how to conceive either. We did however have an enjoyable evening.

[90]) Eating together, from one plate, establishes that the eaters are considered members of one and the same group. Visiting guests are often given a plate for themselves, eating together with tourists therefore is an act of hospitality.

[91]) Some guides bring a cook from Bukittinggi. It happened that such a cook prepared too much food for his group but fed the surplus to the pigs. It got him a terrible reputation.

[92]) A few guides have developed a system in which they pay low prices every time they visit, but bring an expensive gift to their Mentawaian hosts after ten or twenty visits. usually a large wok or a gong.

[93]) It would be difficult to maintain that the same reasoning is applied here. I suggest that a social custom was, perhaps conveniently, expanded to encompass a new social group.

[94]) The Indonesian word for asking is 'minta'. Mentawaians from outside the Rereiket area often referred to Rereiket as 'Minta-wai', a sneering connotation, especially if one keeps in mind that beggars in Indonesian are 'peminta'.

[95]) Appendix 2 shows some of the prices paid for tourist products.

[96]) This specific one was with a young Mentawaian guide (a 'local guide') from Rereiket.

[97]) Several Mentawaian NGO's are currently in existance. The two largest organisations are attempting to gain access to the tourism business. As this informant shows as well, the NGO's are not easily trusted by other Mentawaians who suspect the organizations of favouring their own uma and embazzeling money.

[98]) Some essential changes can be distinguished. A shift is started from a self-sufficient way of life to an economic system based on monetary exchange. Education opens up job possibilities. Rice, if affordable, replaces sago. Christianity or Islam replace sabulungan, although kerei are still summoned when necessary.

[99]) The only other 'real' Mentawaian uma the Sakaliou acknowledged as such were the Sakuddei.

[100]) The concept of a 'zoo' is known to the Sakaliou. Several of their number have visited Bukittinggi where a zoo is located.

[101]) Three of these women were tourists, one was an anthropologist. Two Mentawaian men now live in The Netherlands, one lives in Belgium and another lives in Germany. Marriages between tourists and Minangkabau guides have taken place as well, but I will limit myself to Mentawaians.

[102]) This fear is not unrealistic, a few times Mentawaian men have left their families to travel in Indonesia with a tourist lover for months at a time. So far, none have run away permanently, or to other countries.

[103]) Appendix 1 contains a myth on the evolution of mankind into diverse cultures. Note the initial tripartite division in Mentawaians, Christian Western people, and Muslim Indonesians and the ways in which these groups interact.

[104]) Asmawi (1996) wrote a report on Mentawaian perceptions of foreigners. I agree with most of her findings, although she did not include tourists in her research (she did include missionaries). Appendix 3 shows a scheme of perceptions that is partly based on her report.

[105]) On a bright day Sumatra can be seen at the horizon from Siberut's east coast, offering an explanation for the word sasareu.

[106]) See Persoon (1991) for a history of the Minangkabau settlements on Siberut.

[107]) On many tourist destinations all over the world it is customary for a guide to receive a provision when he takes a tourist to a shop where this tourist spends money. On Siberut this practice was unknown but it was introduced by guides that demanded provision when a member of their group bought a souvenir. This added to the selfish, rude reputation of the Minangkabau.

[108]) During my stay there was a lot of discontentment over electricity in Puro. Recently, the electricity network in Muara Siberut had been expanded to Maileppet, another village near Muara. The Puroans were angry because Puro is closer to Muara Siberut and they felt that they should have been on the electricity network first. They suspected it went to Maileppet only because some Minangkabau living there were from the same suku as the officials in Muara Siberut.

[109]) In his 1989 autobiography Suharto depicts himself as an adherent to Javanese mysticism. He is reputed to regularly have consulted visionaries, traditional healers, and the like (see Vlasblom, 1995). However, I have not found any proof of his alleged meeting with -or consulting of- those kerei while they visited in Jakarta.

[110]) Chinese as such must be understood as Indonesians whose ancestors migrated from China. Not first generation migrants nor people with the Chinese nationality.

[111]) In the case of the Chinese this reputation is found everywhere throughout Indonesia. Focusing on their foreign ancestry and the large share of their involvement in the national economy it is feared that Indonesia's profit disappears to China. China's communist politics and Indonesia's past experiences with communism do not improve the situation.

[112]) See Lett (1902), Kruyt (1924) and Canizzaro (1964). See Schefold (1990) for a discussion and explanation of missionary narratives about the Mentawai Islands.

[113]) Some non-Western societies depicted visiting Europeans from their first contacts onwards. Such historical paintings or carvings can be of great help to study the impressions they made on the people visited. Sometimes the stories behind such depictions can still be recalled. (see Wassing-Visser and Wolff,1987:6-11), suffice it to say here that I encountered no such depictions.

[114]) During the celebration of mass flowers are worn in the hair, the church is decorated with flowers, and singing makes up a considerable part of the mass. Both catholics and protestants conclude their services with a communal meal of sweets.

[115]) The notion of scientists as a category is non-existent on Siberut. The category is however used here because scientists on Siberut are known as individual people and not so much because of their activities. Acknowledged similarities between these individuals make it possible to assign them to one group.

[116]) Intoxicating mushrooms grow on the island, but were unknown to the population until a tourist recognized them and told his guide about their hallucinating capacity. Since then "magic mushroom" is understood in tourist areas, and they are occasionally eaten by tourists. Mentawaians do not seem to be interested.

[117]) A cemetery near Puro where a Dutch researcher was buried who died of malaria also has a fierce reputation of being haunted. Although I have not heard of anybody particularly seeing his ghost, the presence of his grave on the site is frequently mentioned simultaneously with the haunting story.

[118]) However, when the ethnic situation is changed from a majority to a minority loyalties are expanded. The Mentawaian minority population in Minangkabau Padang attach more value to their mutual Mentawaian identity than to their individual uma.

[119]) A base of this story was formed when Mentawaians visiting Muara Siberut recognized themselves on postcards and T-shirts sold there. In addition, professional Western photographers visited the island and published extensive photo books. They gave extensive gifts in exchange, thus giving rise to the idea that these pictures had great economical value. Furthermore, some researchers suggested to the Mentawaians to ask for small gifts in exchange for pictures taken by tourists, thus creating the impression that pictures are economical more than social.

[120]) See also Tarazon's explanation of different ethnic groups and their mutual relations in appendix 1.

[121]) This ruling opinion is an opinion I frequently encountered in Rereiket. As this is the area were tourism is concentrated I concentrated on the ideas and opinions of its population. It must be mentioned however, that this part of Siberut is only beginning to enter the monetary economy and certainly does not depend on it. The sudden stress placed on money in a modern city certainly is part of the reason for the grim image they expressed.

[122]) At the time about $70. The composition of the price list is shown in appendix 4.

[123]) Kerei read the results of the ceremony in patterns found on certain intestines. This oracle is usually performed by a few kerei who have to agree about the message imbedded in the veins, little humps and membranes that were all I could see.

[124]) This scheme is shown in appendix 5.

[125]) And indeed, some have.

[126]) To give an idea, I possess a used quiver of arrows that consists of 34 arrows in four different varieties: long and thin for monkeys, broad and blunt for birds, long and barbed for small animals, short and broad-bladed for pigs and deer. The set was used to hunt in the jungle -so no fishing arrows are included- and it was regarded as a quiver well equipped for the job.

[127]) In Muara Siberut outboard motors costed RP 4,000,000 ($1700) at the time. Chainsaws cost

RP 3,000,000 ($1250).

[128]) Note the double meaning of the word uma; group of relatives as well as communal house.

[129]) Money was required to buy nails and some tools, to rent a chainsaw and to buy other non-jungle products.

[130]) Schefold (1988a:108) mentioned a length of around 30 metres for the Sakuddei uma during his fieldwork in the seventies. In 1989 a much bigger uma was constructed by the Sakaliou (Persoon,1994:274) although the reason for the enlargement and the actual size are not mentioned.

[131]) Another brother was still saving up his money, in order to build an even larger house somewhere in the future.

[132]) In Bahasa Indonesia the verb makan (to eat) is frequently exchanged by makan nasi (to eat rice) which carries the same meaning. On Siberut as well an invitation to eat (spoken in Bahasa Indonesia) is always a definition of what will be eaten: makan sago.

[133]) Apart from the tobacco box, that is. To these boxes I will return later.

[134]) "You see, uma are build for people, sapou are for pigs. These [resettlement] houses are suited for chickens. They are far too small and not useful, we are too far away from our sago palms and our pigs to live here" a reluctant Sakaliou inhabitant of Madobag stated. He stood not alone, I found similar opinions among the inhabitants of all other resettlement villages that I visited.

[135]) See Borsboom (1988) for a more extensive analysis of the noble, and 'ignoble' savages.

[136]) To mention a few modern films: "The Gods must be crazy" relates how a bushman leaves the Kalahari desert to find the edge of the world to return an empty coke bottle to the Gods, instead he winds up in a modern city. The epic "Dances With Wolves" depicts the Sioux Indians as extremely noble and honest in comparison to the United States Government and neighbouring Pawnee. "The Last of the Mohicans" -after the novel- distinguishes between noble Mohawks and deceitful Hurons. In "Raiders Of The Lost Ark" the archaeologist Indiana Jones is vengefully hunted by an Amazonian Indian tribe governed by an evil Frenchman.

[137]) Probably no group on earth is not influenced by modern Western-inspired culture in some way. Some tribal societies or hunter and gatherer groups are however still so far removed from this worldwide modern culture that they may inspire comparisons to the 'noble savage'.

[138]) Such series as The National Geographic Channel's "Tribal Warriors", or The Discovery Channel's "Disappearing World".

[139]) A few copies of Lindsay's "Mentawai Shaman: keeper of the rain forest" (1992) were bought in Singapore. The book contains rather dreamy and timeless pictures of Mentawaian traditional life, shot around Ugai in rereiket.

[140]) Many guide books still recommend the Sakkudei as the best uma to visit. The Sakuddei prefer to be left alone and ask such high prices (up to RP 100,000 a night per person) that they have become too expensive for most travellers to visit.

[141]) It was attempted to describe them as direct as possible. In an attempt to avoid a static description I left words referring to the subject (e.g. tourists think....) out as much as I could.

[142]) "Magician's party" is the name used by guides to describe all ceremonies.

[143]) This paragraph contains excerpts from a diary written by a 20 year old Dutch girl who travelled through Indonesia together with her parents, two sisters, and two Minangkabau guides. She kindly permitted me to copy the pages relating to Siberut.

[144]) A village in West Sumatra.

[145]) Meant is anai leu ita, a greeting, and a word picked up (albeit phonetically) by every tourist.

[146]) This story was told by a 25 years old American girl. She and her group were surprised by heavy rain while staying in Salappa.

[147]) This piece comes from a letter written by a 23 years old Dutch girl who was on a four week holiday to Indonesia with her 54 year old father. Yosef, their guide, is a young Mentawaian guide. His parent's house is near Rogdog in Rereiket. The father fell ill during the walk from one house to another with symptoms resembling exhaustion.

[148]) This paragraph is written after my own diary entrance of 1 November 1996. Two days before I had arrived at a house that was frequently visited by tourists. The house was built with a clear view over the river.

[149]) Wristwatches, air guns, pocket-torches, rubber boots, framed pictures and battery powered cassette-players are utilities popular everywhere on the island.

[150]) Tradition is used here in the sense of tourist tradition as explained in chapter one.

[151]) Written by David Knight and located at http://www.cruzio.com/shanti/text/stone_age.html. last visited by me at 20 April 1999.

[152]) Sometimes tourists and Mentawaians spontaneously decide to undertake some action together. In such a situation it happens that a few individuals go hunting together or take part in the construction of a new house while the guide and other group members are involved somewhere else. This kind of direct contact is greatly enjoyed both by tourists and hosts. To both it is an opportunity to meet with the other group outside of the 'gaze-situation' of a formal tour.

[153]) Problems like a visit to a surgeon in Padang or assistance with governmental matters.

[154]) Of my respondents (42 tourists) 80% was between 20 and 35 years of age, with slightly more men than women (55% to 45%). The Indonesian Ministry of Forestry reports slightly different results while using a larger population (230 tourists): 92.8% is between 15 and 35 years old; 62.3% are men to 37.7% women (Ministry of Forestry, 1995b:90).

[155]) To the best of my knowledge there are as yet four such operators who together are responsible for seven groups every year; around 100 tourists at most.

[156]) This group mostly consists of young men only.

[157]) An extensive discussion of this topic follows in chapter seven.

[158] Awang is a Minangkabau guide. Together with his brother he works from Bukittinggi where he owns a hostel. He is 38 and married. Both brothers speak fluent Mentawaian and have studied the island and its culture extensively.


[159] Lala is 26 years old. He is not married, does not speak Mentawaian but has some knowledge of the Mentawaian culture. He works in a group of guides.

[160] Petrus is 23 years old and lives in Padang. He is a Sakaliou and started guiding when he finished his school.

[161] Padang's airport -Tabing- is the connection to Java or Singapore for many tourists. Therefore they only pass through Padang and have no time left to book a trip to Siberut.

[162] The course costs RP 400,000. A young Mentawaian who was about to start this course in Padang estimated his total costs at RP 600,000. Apart from the course fee he had to pay for food and lodging. These additional costs for staying in a foreign city make it more difficult to follow the course for Mentawaians.

[163] Dahles (1996b) gives an overview of the differences between official and unofficial guides and their motivations for the work in the Javanese city Yogyakarta.

[164] Some of the Minangkabau guides came from Muara Siberut. They did not need help of first generation guides to get to know the island.

[165] Recently, these guides have acquired a unique function in Bukittinggi. Because their personal identity cards were issued in Muara Siberut they can pose as ethnic Mentawaians. In this way it is less difficult to convince tourists of their knowledge of the culture and people on Siberut.

[166] Dahles (1997) writes about the existence of this phenomenon in Indonesia in Bali and Yogyakarta.

[167] Overt homosexual relationships are never tolerated in Minangkabau society. I do not know of any homosexual guides, but homosexual men do approach male tourists.

[168] Apart from three Batak and a Niassan who all work in minor positions.

[169] This organization has no name and is based upon agreements which are not so much formally recognized laws as unspoken rules to which the members adhere. Because this group has no official name I will refer to them as the Bukittinggi Guide Group.

[170] Although they had been guiding for many years only one of them spoke Mentawaian.

[171]) The fighting in Bukittinggi referred to in 6.1.3. involved members of this organization trying to establish a second office more profitably situated.

[172]) The harbour guides themselves estimated the number of tourists that arrive without a guide at one every two months.

[173]) This style of clothing is followed by other Sumatran young men as well. In Padang its adherents are known as preman, denoting both macho and rascal. The word is used with a kind of honourary ring to it; preman look after themselves and are unimpressed by the judgements of society.

[174]) Dahles (1997:126) observes that in Indonesia this style of dress started in Kuta. Many of Bukittinggi's guides have been to Bali or go there regularly.

[175]) "No what what" is a literal translation of the Indonesian tidak apa-apa. Kut na leek is used similarly, expressing that one should not seek problems or worry.

[176]) By official reasons I mean the explanation guides delivered directly to me.

[177]) Apendix 6 shows the breakdown of the tourprice. Several posts can be regarded as unusual for Western understanding.

[178]) The nature of this payment is ambiguous. Guides refer to it as taxes, as do some police officers whereas other officers deny its existence. The word taxes thus should not be taken literally as it is a euphemism.

[179]) Dukun -in the sense of traditional healers- are found throughout Indonesia and West Sumatra is no exception. Many dukun maintain contact with spirits and are capable of using magic -black or white- to reach their goals. Mentawaian kerei are not really known on Sumatra although some rumours about strange dangerous -probably black- magicians have reached Padang.

[180]) This brief discussion of Minangkabau merantau is mainly based on Kato (1982).

[181]) For a more thorough discussion of Muara Siberut's Minangkabau population see Persoon 1991 and 1997.

[182]) Persoon (1997) distinguishes between voluntary and involuntary migrants.

[183]) See for example the history of the Sakuddei in Schefold (1988a:97-105).

[184] 'Unity in diversity', in old Javanese.

[185] After oil and gas, textile and plywood since 1991 (Directorate General of Tourism, 1996:4).

[186] Bali alone was visited by over 1,500,000 tourists in 1994 (Picard, 1997: 182)

[187] Whereas in 1988 1,301,049 tourists visited Indonesia, this number augmented to 4,324,229 in 1995. Of this last number 1,343,824 tourists came from Europe, Oceania or America, whereas 2,915,065 came from the ASEAN countries or East Asia countries (Direktorat Jenderal Parawisata, 1996:80).

[188] These eleven hotel companies together owned 74 hotels. Of these 22 were situated in Indonesia, of which seven in Bali alone (Sinclair and Vokes, 1993:202).

[189] For example, Indonesian legislation does not allow foreigners to own property within Indonesia (Directorate General of Tourism,1996:7-8). The aforementioned hotel companies therefore are not the actual owners of the hotel buildings, these are owned by Indonesians. The hotel companies do however own the hotel's name and the company formula.

[190] These points were called 'Sapta Pesona', 'seven charms' in Javanese.

[191] This policy was called pelestarian tradisi dan budaya.

[192] In an early study on loyalties in Indonesia Skinner (1959) concluded that on the village level loyalties were, throughout the state, orientated locally and towards the own ethnic group instead of towards the Indonesian state. Since the founding of the Indonesian republic its government has been striving to create a feeling of national unity. Tourism is one of the many possibilities in causing such a feeling.

[193] Adat may be translated here as traditional law, or law of custom. The numerous ethnic groups in the archipelago lived by just as many different adat-systems. Pancasila ensured the validity of one law all over Indonesia, while removing differences in one of the most difficult fields of inter-ethnic interaction.

[194] In Bukittinggi a 'Cultural Show', as it is called, is performed six night a week. The show lasts about two hours and shows short performances of various Minangkabau dances. On Bali many of the larger tourist hotels host wayang kulit performances that last one or two hours, whereas a 'real' one might go on from dusk until dawn.

[195] Obyek Wisata is the term used to describe sites of interest to tourism like monuments or villages.

[196] Pencinta alam in Indonesian.

[197] As many of these results are similar to my own observations I will discuss this analysis only shortly.

[198] Estimate taken from Ministry of Forestry (1995b:90).

[199] Pictogrammes for west Sumatra include cave tourism, historical relics, national park, tourism park, marine tourism, and adventure tourism.

[200] General information on Indonesia covers 26 pages, whereas the reminder of the book is devoted to the Minangkabau (61 pages) and general information on the Minangkabau area (36 pages).

[201] Awera is a small island near Sipora that was visited by the district's administrator in 1950. He liked the place so much that he instructed for coconut palms to be planted on the island to make it a beautiful resort. This is the only text I came across mentioning the island.

[202] The bahai religion was introduced on Siberut after independence by an Iranese doctor. Although it harmonised with arat sabulungan, it is by no means the same thing. Because the religion was not acknowledged by the pancasila ideology it was forbidden in Indonesia shortly after (see also Persoon, 1994; Sihombing, 1979).

[203] A short explanation of the administrative and legislative situation can be found at http://www.greatbreaks.com.au/pemda.html, last visited by me at 4-30-1999.

[204] As these things go, I did not have a camera with me at the time so unfortunately no illustrations are available. Some pictures of this ethnic dress have been published in newspaper articles; see Haluan 4-12-'93 and 19-5-'94.

[205] In these pictures girls were present as well. They wore skirts instead of trousers and no aprons.

[206] For a similar redesigning of Batak costumes for ethnicity purposes see Hutajulu, 1995: 651-3.

[207] Young girls or women in Rereiket and other traditional areas are frequently still tattooed with the traditional patterns. In other areas they have none. Girls do not change to alternative tattoos, as young men do.

[208] Some groups that are defined as masyarakat terasing practise tattooing, for example Mentawaians and the Dayak tribes from Kalimantan. Several Papua groups carve patterns in the skin. As a result the ensuing scars form a kind of body decoration that resembles tattooing.

[209] Few young Mentawaian men actually leave Siberut, and many who do return. However, many dream of a future in tourism, or would like to travel through Indonesia. They feel that the traditional patterns would attract too much negative attention. It remains to be seen wether these young men will ever have the traditional patterns tattooed en masse, but to them the thought of the possibility is sufficing at the moment.

[210] Compared to other sapou, this was an extraordinarily large building that could easily function as an uma. By way of comparison, Schefold (1988a:108) mentioned a length of about 30 metres for the Sakuddei uma. Persoon (1994:274) wrote that the Sakuddei had constructed a new, bigger uma in 1989. He does not give the measurements.

[211] A jaraik is a fetish designated to protect the house. It directly faces the main entrance to scare off evil spirits. The usual construction somewhat resembles a skull with wooden antlers and locks of straw to the sides.

[212] It is interesting to note that the Sakaliou uma used at the time of my stay did not have a jaraik.

[213] The numbers I used were given to me by one of these Mentawaian organizations. The official plans mention a smaller area of 40,000 hectares (Singgalang,1996). But it is claimed by their opponents that these are only the beginning.

[214] I was told about this plan by one of the Mentawaian organizations that try to stop the oilpalm developments. They are now involved in opposing this plan as well, because they feel that Mentawaian rights are being violated. I could not find any documentation on the subject.

[215] As not all surfers travel to Siberut through this company, their annual estimates are higher: 1,400 for 1997 and 1,800 for 1998.