Canadian Anthropology Society (CASCA)
Oral Presentation Session
In this paper, I would like to introduce the place of the birds and the role they play among the Mentawai of Indonesia. These live on Siberut Island, at around 150km off Sumatera Island (Indonesia). Omnipresent in the houses (Uma), the birds constitute a central figurative pattern for the multiple objects created by the Mentawai. Simple evocations or sophisticated creations, produced through different kind of realizations and techniques (mostly sculpture, painting and bas-relief) these artefacts are hung on the roofing ridges, on the walls, on the roof slopes, on the shelves or are elaborated as decorative elements. The birds assume particular representations of the habitat as a whole in the image of the forest. The Mentawai recognize also a causal link between these artefacts and the well-being of the household. This fact suggests a particular type of agency that accredits "woodbirds" (siag'gau batak) with their own efficiency. Drawing on three research periods in Bat Oinan Valley (south of Siberut), my paper intends to describe and analyze the local comprehension behind this efficiency of birds images. In a cosmological approach, I will point a specific representation of the "mentawai way" (sabu lungan).