Mentawai – Educational Genocide

The shaman Amun Masit Dere faces an uncertain future in the jungled Sarereiket regions of Siberut Island, part of the Mentawai archipelago off the western coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. A surf mecca more commonly known for its impeccable offshore breaks, it is also home to an indigenous tribe of traditional hunters and gatherers of animist faith, living under the traditional lore of Arat Sabulungan; a complex belief system that gives reverence to the spirit of their ancestors and all that is natural. In the 1950s the Indonesian government implemented a program to integrate tribal groups into conventional society by building purpose built villages and forcibly removing the tribes from their traditional land.

Families now receive financial incentives if their children are taught in westernised schools, there are bans on traditional dress within the settlements and the appeal of modernity to younger generations has culminated in mental and physical health issues and ultimately abject poverty. This has consequentially led to a disconnection between the generations and a lack of identifying with the traditional customs and culture. Masit Dere is one of the regions few Sikerei who continues to resist this westernised integration and continues to live the traditional way of life. Photographed for and part of the 2017 ‘As Worlds Divide’ documentary film campaign in conjunction with the Australian NGO ‘Indigenous Education Foundation.