How This Tribe Spend Nights Carrying Out “Trance-Like” Dances And Covering Themselves In Tattoos


Would you like to be among this tribe? Men, women and children who live separately from modern society as part of an indigenous

Indonesian tribe have been revealed in a fascinating series of pictures and portraits.

The heavily tattooed tribesmen of Mentawai live a semi-nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyle in the coastal and rainforest environments of the


The Mentawai people, characterised by their heavy spirituality, body art and their tendency to sharpen their teeth, have a population of

around 64,000 and live 90 miles from the coast of West Sumatra.

Their homes are made by weaving bamboo strips together to make walls and thatching the roofs with grass.


The floor is raised on stilts and is made of wood planks, and they decorate the interior with the skulls of their prey. 

Mentawai use bark and leaves as clothes, adorning themselves with necklaces and flowers in their hair and ears, with women typically

wearing a cloth wound around the waist and small sleeveless vests.  

Tattooing is done with a needle and wood which is hammered on the needle by a shaman called sikerei, while they sharpen their teeth with

a chisel for aesthetic reasons. 

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Body ink on the island was an identity and a personal or communal reflection of the people’s relationship to nature called arat subulungan. 


The semi-nomadic people still hunt fish and animals with poisoned arrows.

The tribe believe every living object has a spirit and worship nature, particularly the river. They think damaging or polluting the water source is a sin.

Their days are spent hunting and fishing and these tasks are divided by gender. While hunting is for men, fishing is predominately a woman’s chore. 

The Mentawaian’s social life revolves around their clans, and at the centre is the communal longhouse. 

The clans vary in size between 30 to 80 members and every person has a job to do. 


The tribe has a custom of throwing a feast for everyone before the first hunting by a boy to avoid any bad omen.

The women use Panu, a rod made of two-three centimetre long blades, to catch fish in an act they call Manino.

Since they are not familiar with weaving techniques, they still use bark and leaves to cover their privates while they allow their upper body to remain uncovered.  

After a hard day hunting and fishing, the Mentawai people use the night to indulge in spirited recreation, losing themselves in a trance-like state as they dance together.

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Mentawai men, women and children all love to dance, depicting their love for nature through a set of movements called Laggai Turuk.

They wear colourful headdresses, pearls, feathers and leaves. 

The only specialist in the Mentawai community is its medicine man who is responsible for communicating with the spirits and the souls. In cases of misfortune or illness, he is called in to restore harmony within the group.

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