Every year since 2020, Malinggai Uma jointly organise with SwaraOwa a workshop for teachers of local traditions at schools (known locally as ‘facilitators of Mentawai culture’). These people have a huge role to play in ensuring that local children of school going age inherit the cultural knowledge passed down from their forebears. Accordingly, we invited representatives from several local cultural and educational organisations to attend this year’s edition of the event. The event is supported by Mandai Nature and Fortwayne Children’s Zoo through swaraOwa’s Mentawai Gibbon Conservation Program.
It aimed to:
- Introduce to the current generation of local teachers of Mentawai culture the local flora and fauna, especially our primate species;
- Educate them on the importance of conserving Mentawai primates, and measures currently being taken on that front;
- Enable teachers of Mentawai culture to spread the conservation message to their students;
- Allow teachers to inspire the next generation to contribute to conservation at a local level;
- Bring together Mentawai biodiversity and cultural conservation activists.
The workshop was held from 1 – 4 March 2022 and involved a total of 29 people, made up of the participants, subject matter experts and the organising committee. The participants represented teachers of Mentawai culture from local primary schools, kindergartens, charitable foundations as well as local community organisations
The event was held at Toloulaggo Hamlet, Katurei Village (Siberut Barat Daya District). For the field survey component, we went to a nearby observation point in the forest of Tololago.
Chaired by Ismael Saumanuk, the workshop was officially opened on 2 March 2022 by Karlo Saumanuk from the Katurei village administration, followed by speeches by Damianus Tateburuk (Malinggai Uma) and Nur Aoliya (SwaraOwa). The opening ceremony featured a traditional Mentawai dance performance by children from Malinggai Uma, featuring the gibbon (uliat bilou) dance and eagle dance.
Next came the presentations from the two experts we invited. The first was by Antonius Vevbri, S.Si, M.Sc from Siberut National Park, who covered the biodiversity on Siberut Island and the efforts made to conserve it. Our second speaker was Fransiskus Yanuarius M, from the Yayasan Pendidikan Budaya Mentawai (Mentawai Cultural Education Foundation), who touched upon the importance of preserving both Mentawai customs and local wildlife, introducing the activities of his foundation along the way.
On the first day of the workshop, the SwaraOwa team also launched the Mentawai Nature and Culture card game, a memory game that can be played by young and old alike. It consists of cards with photos printed on them that showcase Mentawai biodiversity and culture. In fact, this card game was born of a previous edition of the workshop. Through this interactive game, we hope that the conservation message will be passed on more effectively from teachers to their students. Attendees were also given a field guide to Mentawai primate and bird species, which had been jointly compiled and published by SwaraOwa and Malinggai Uma.
On the second and third days, we ventured into the forest in Toloulaggo to look for local wildlife. The participants were divided into three groups named after indigenous primates, namely Team Bilou (Kloss’s gibbon), Team Simakobu (Pigtailed langur) and Team Joja (Mentawai langur). Each group took a different transect walk, taking note of their sightings from 6.30am to 11.30am. After that, they regrouped in the village to talk about the types of primates and birds they found, as well as discuss how these types of wildlife related to local culture, for example the part they had to play in storytelling traditions.
Below, you can find our photos from these two days of fieldwork.
Written by Damianus Tateburuk (Malinggai Uma Tradisional Mentawai), Translated by TT Chan.
Malinggai Uma Tradisional Mentawai is a traditional Institution headquartered in Dusun Puro II Muntei Village, South Siberut District, Mentawai Islands Regency – West Sumatra. Malinggai Uma was formed on 5 September 2014 and seeks to promote local forms of art and culture, as well as the conservation of the native biodiversity of the Mentawai Islands.