Picture Sequence Goals to Seize the Tradition of Distant Tribes in Indonesia


This sequence is taken from my time with folks from the Baduy, Mentawai, and Sasak tribes on the islands of Java, Siberut, and Lombok in Indonesia. I lived with them for per week every and managed to realize a small perception into their methods of life. Regardless that we couldn’t converse via English, my intention was to narrate, observe and befriend these pretty individuals who isolate themselves throughout the surrounding (pure) surroundings, and reside peacefully away from the noise and distraction of at the moment’s first world technological reliance.

The draw of Indonesia is its range of individuals and sheer scale of geographic and ethnic selection. It’s such an enormous nation, made up of hundreds of islands, volcanoes, a number of religions, tribes, and cultures, draw-dropping magnificence from finish to finish, and hundreds of years of fractured historical past. My fascination with it deepens additional each time I go to and I’ve needed to discover deeper and deeper into this intriguing place ever since I got here to reside in Southeast Asia. And this journey was probably the most immersed I’ve been throughout the Indonesian tradition but; I had a chance to journey as far-off from actuality as doable, and in a 12 months the place actuality appeared to have light nearly fully, it felt applicable in lots of senses to be as far-off from different folks as doable.

My sheer love of artwork, images, and journey, in addition to simply embracing new experiences has led me over a few years to hunt the extra extraordinary locations of the world, nonetheless troublesome they could be to get to. As well as, I need to present folks the variety and variations of the world, culturally, ecologically, and geographically — in spite of everything, we’re all on this collectively, so why not go and see as a lot of what’s on the market as doable? Images is the proper medium for me to do that, and I really like the way in which that the gear and my artistic imaginative and prescient can both encourage or enlighten. I see folks wrapped up in their very own world on daily basis, so why not put yourselves in another person’s?

The primary objective of the journey was to go to The Mentawai Tribe — individuals who I had examine for some time and seen documented earlier than via images. My second objective was to go to the island of Lombok the place my spouse and I’ve purchased some land, however quite than go to there for different private causes I needed to see the indigenous teams of the island, the Sasak folks. However first, to get to the island of Siberut, one of many islands the place numerous Mentawai households reside, we had to determine and plan a rigorous and arduous journey schedule. Ultimately, the timings of the completely different sections of the journey meant that the Mentawai Tribe half could be sandwiched between the Baduy folks within the highlands of Java and the Sasak folks in Lombok.

And so I had a plan – three tribes over three weeks.


The Baduy (pronounced Badui) are a conventional group and are thought-about (anecdotally) an un-contacted folks, and a gaggle who’re nearly fully remoted from the surface world. There isn’t any electrical energy, no know-how, and plentiful peace and quiet. They’ve their very own faith — ‘Animism’ — whereby they honor or worship spirits of pure forces by the angle of guarding and preserving the pure surroundings such because the mountains, valleys, forests, rivers, and all of the ecosystems inside them, in addition to giving their highest gratitude to this nature as a part of an effort to take care of the stability of the universe. In addition they have some guidelines that they reside by, for instance, no automobiles are allowed as a type of transportation, no footwear is allowed, utilization of digital units is prohibited, and no trendy clothes is allowed.

All of this made for an fascinating expertise while staying with the chief of the village and his household. I slept on the picket ground of their hut together with my fixer, John, assistant Trudy, and native information Alan. As you possibly can think about, this didn’t make for a cushty or quiet sleep every evening. As at all times although, that is a part of the expertise, and when it got here to images — what I used to be there to in the end do — it’s a necessity to immerse oneself within the lifetime of the topic as a lot as doable.

For the primary few days we sat round quite a bit, smoked, talked, and ate. The Baduy folks didn’t communicate any English so for me a lot of this was all commentary, which allowed me to study and hear another way, which helps very a lot with images — how they interacted with one another, their physique language, consolation stage, and openness. These few days additionally allowed me to realize my bearings, stroll throughout the village and surrounding space, present my face to as many individuals as doable, and devise a “shot plan.” Earlier than lengthy, I sat down with the crew to inform them what I needed to do, climate dependent, and with the permission of ‘Sharif’, the Chief – which was granted – we set to work.


The plan was epic, and never essentially the optimistic model of the phrase: someday journey again to Jakarta then two days to Siberut through airplane, automobile, tuk-tuk, bike, ferry, canoe, and foot! On this island, there could be no chance to speak with the remainder of the world and so we bought the final remnants of mobile information within the city earlier than boarding the penultimate leg on the ferry so we might advise household, associates, and colleagues that we’d be out of service (fully) and supply the satellite tv for pc telephone quantity for emergency contact.

The 2 leaders of the tribe had taken the canoe all the way in which downriver to gather us. They’re brothers, named Aman (Mr) Manja and Aman Sasali, and are each Shamans (non secular healers and Chiefs). From the outset, I befriended Aman Sasali, and though the youthful brother of two, he took the lead with speaking between us and his tribe. He spoke a bit of English which helped – he had picked up a few of the fundamentals over his years of visiting close by cities and the odd vacationer.

Mentawai individuals are the native folks of the Mentawai Islands, and Siberut is a kind of islands, about 100 miles from West Sumatra province, Indonesia. The tribes of Mentawai make up a fraction of Indonesia’s indigenous teams, who select to apply and protect historical methods of life that, for probably the most half, heart on the sustainable use of pure sources. They reside a semi-nomadic hunter-gatherer life-style within the coastal and rainforest environments of the islands and are additionally one of many oldest tribes in Indonesia. Their inhabitants is estimated to be round fifty thousand, they’ve their very own language and likewise observe the Animist perception system that hyperlinks the supernatural powers of ancestral spirits to the ecology of the rainforest. The Mentawai individuals are additionally characterised by their physique artwork (as a form of “uniform” representing their standing), and the ladies’s tendency to sharpen their enamel, a apply they really feel makes one lovely (often achieved when married).

After I arrived I used to be greeted by the remainder of the household with hugs, smiles, and mick-taking gestures (and jokes most likely — I simply couldn’t perceive them) about my beard. I used to be provided espresso, cigarettes, and residential meals (greens and fruit), and we spent the time sitting, watching, and speaking. I used to be interested by so many issues, however the extra broad questions I had on my thoughts have been: what am I doing right here, who’re these folks and the way do they reside?

But extra particularly, I needed to get to know them individually and as a household — what are their private tales, what’s their historical past, what’s the context behind the tattoos, why do some ladies get their enamel sharpened and others not, how do they deal with illnesses, what’s their day by day ritual like, do they have a good time something, what do they visualize the spirits to be like, and do they marvel what the surface world is like? That is to call just some of the questions swirling in my head.

We slept on the ground, however in a tent or underneath mosquito nets. The sounds of the evening have been fantastic, however the warmth was insufferable. Waking up on the second day to cockerels and in a pool of sweat, I began desirous about images plans. Being within the rainforest, the daylight could be arduous to seize, if it was current in any respect, and a few the ten particular pictures I needed required some rays of solar peaking via the bushes. This was all nonetheless at the back of my thoughts although as the primary few days could be spent as soon as once more attending to know my topics, asking extra questions, and sharing extra of one another’s wildly reverse life.

By the third evening I had a shot checklist, and I later added plans B and C for the case of rain or incompatibility with topics (language translation was clearly going to be a problem, and confusions would come up, plus timings could not have suited the folks I needed at a sure time so I wanted to know what and who to substitute). Plan B is at all times put to make use of sooner or later, and infrequently C too, so it was good that I might have just a few days scheduling and writing correct plans down.

The few days of taking pictures have been extraordinarily tiring — with little sleep anyway and really early mornings to take care of, by the point I bought again into that canoe for the lengthy trek again to Jakarta I used to be exhausted. General although, the few days of photographing with the household went nicely; a lot endurance was exerted (on either side of the lens) and well mannered respect for one another was imparted. The brothers, particularly Aman Sasali, have been at all times accommodating in having their images taken and I wish to assume we made a small bond over the week I used to be with them. These have been some mesmerizing days that I had within the jungle, images apart. I realized quite a bit concerning the life-style of the Shamans and Mentawai as an entire; how they nonetheless reside to today efficiently, utilising the jungle for every little thing they want — shelter, meals, and well being — and with the ability to achieve happiness from it. Ought to that inform us one thing?

There have been so many observations, moments, and experiences that I needed to share and clarify, but I do know I couldn’t do it justice via my very own phrases of images — I used to be not there for reportage or journalism. The nuances of how their household hierarchy works, the meals preparation and cultural habits, the utilisation of each factor round them, their sense of humour, love of household, laughter and hope, have been all built-in into these small experiences and moments, none of which I caught on digital camera.

My goal was to transform via visible magnificence the immense worth of multiformity that the Mentawai symbolize part of, and that characterises each human. So I needed to doc these folks in a actuality that may solely be skilled in individual and transacted via a digital camera, thus bringing the eye of as many individuals as doable to the marvel of cultural and worldly range that the Mentawai symbolize.


My ultimate a part of the journey was per week in Lombok, the neighbouring island of Bali. Definitely the lesser identified little sister, this can be a sheer great thing about an island, and continues to be comparatively untouched, making its magnificence much more enticing to see and expertise. Thankfully, I used to be uncovered to this island just a few years again and acquired some land on the south facet, so I’m accustomed to its aesthetics, however I’m not accustomed to its folks or heritage, and so I took it upon myself to verify I didn’t go residence with out figuring out extra concerning the Sasak individuals who have inhabited Lombok for over 600 years.

A lot of the Sasak heritage is now present in just a few outdated villages which have preserved the genuine methods of residing, and so we spent most of our preliminary time right here, assembly folks and sourcing places and topics. It didn’t take me lengthy to find that Sasak folks love to bounce, sing and luxuriate in basic festivities, and so I needed to seize a few of this on digital camera, however extra the folks behind the traditions. Additionally, Peresean — a conventional combating sport with sticks and shields — is a typical apply and age-old custom – one thing that had the potential to be dramatic on digital camera. So, given my restricted time right here I targeted my consideration on a few of these main actions and the people who carried out them.

The three tribes I photographed have been so completely different in so some ways, and it’s bewildering that that is only a small fraction of the completely different clans of Indonesians throughout such an enormous and various nation. It solely made me need to see extra, expertise extra, and meet extra of the folks all through this glorious place. The one frequent denominator although that I skilled throughout my entire time was the kindness and heat of the folks, all over the place I went. They have been hospitable and welcoming, and happy that I used to be taking such an curiosity of their manner of lives.

I might urge anybody studying this to go and discover this nation and meet these folks — the worth of travelling isn’t the vacation spot and seeing the websites, however the journey alongside the way in which and the experiences that put you out of your consolation zone.

Elizabeth Benedict famously as soon as stated: “What offers worth to journey is worry. It breaks down a form of inside construction all of us have.”

That is the place I really imagine one beneficial properties perspective to develop, and in my case I hope I can translate that perspective via my pictures, by embracing the unknown and trusting the method.

However please be the decide, not me. I hope that my pictures of this journey encourage curiosity, and curiosity alone — to encourage the viewer to find their very own ideas and tales for every picture, or your entire assortment.

The total gallery of pictures from Matt Jacob’s Parts might be seen on his web site. Warning: there may be some nudity.

In regards to the Creator: Matt Jacob is a photographic artist who makes a speciality of capturing the evocative, dynamic, and sophisticated lives of varied topics whose tales seize his consideration. With a give attention to authentically encapsulating a second from all metaphorical angles inside {a photograph} and a deeper story over a set, Jacob has devoted his ardour to actually perceive the essence of various views, in addition to understanding the “why” behind numerous types of human nature. He believes a fearlessness in beholding his topic’s story is what makes his pictures distinctive. To today, he relentlessly pursues the capturing of untold tales of unfamiliar life.

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