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The Mentawai Get New Fanny Packs

April 07, 2010 //  Travel Stories Back to posts

I traveled to Siberut, Indonesia last August and slept on the front porch of some of the most incredible people I've ever met- The Mentawai. During the trip I became good friends with the Shaman's that guided me through the rainforest- Bajak Lala, Toikot, Tai Jia Jia and Tarason. These medicine men acted as a bridge into their culture, introducing me to their families, friends and complex spiritual beliefs. I had to repay them some how...

To see the Mentawai Series, visit​
To read the behind the scenes blog, click here

Although the Shaman refuse to join any government villages established near them, one of the few modern conveniences they enjoy are fanny packs. It makes perfect sense- they can keep everything they need in there for their daily lives- medicinal plants gathered from the rainforest to heal clan members, bits of Sago palm to eat while on a monkey hunt, and of course tobacco- a favorite past time. All of this and they do not divert attention away from their traditional tattoos and look good with a loincloth made of red tree bark.

So when it came time for me to leave Siberut last year, I promised the Mentawai I would find a way to get them new fanny packs, it was the least I could do for all they had done for me. Their old packs they traded for had seen better days, and the cheap material didn’t last long in the damp climate. When I got home, I shipped some nice leather ones to my apartment from another kind of rainforest-

The Mentawai do not exactly have mail boxes. They live on a remote island, tucked away safely in the rainforest practicing their ancient traditions away from persecution. So, I put the fanny packs in a box along with some pictures, and mailed them to Ricky. Ricky was one of my guides and translators who lives in Padang, a large city in Sumatra. Ricky and I had also become good friends during the trip, so he was happy to take the arduous journey again to the remote clans, and deliver the goods.

To get to the house of Aman Tai Jia Jia (a shaman of the Atabai Clan) from Padang, you must hop on a 10 hour cargo boat across the ocean. When you reach the island Siberut, you have to take a dug-out river boat all day to the interior of the island and spend the night at Gejeng’s house, our other Mentawai guide. From Gejeng’s, you leave in the morning and trek 4-6 hours uphill and finally reach Aman Tai Jia Jia’s home, where he will most likely be sitting there with his kids telling stories, and greet you with a big smile of sharpened teeth.

Ricky just got back from Siberut, and delivered the goods. He sent me the following pictures from his point and shoot camera, and personal messages from the Mentawai Shamans.

Lala : “Masura Bagata Joey, Mecak Jene anai kahidup…hahaha…”

“Thank you Joey, Come back here again while I’m still alive…hahaha…”

Toikot : “Maeruk lek lopet na? Masura bagata. Ponia oni na..??? Oh Joey!!!” :

“Good Fanny Pack isn’t it? Thanks. How do you say his name..? Oh Joey!!!”

Ta jia Jia:“Joey, Masura bagata siripok ku tapi lopet na maigi ka aku, hahahahahha!”

“Joey, Thank you but this panny pack quite big for me, hahahahahha!”

Tarason: “Bak malupa ekeu Joey lek nu majanji, masura bagata oto toggok jene mecak”

“You didn’t forget your promise Joey, thank you and hope to see you again here.”

I’m sure I will see them again sooner than later.


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Isabella // April 07, 2010 09:25

it looks very exciting :) I love the two first pictures

zeez // April 07, 2010 10:08

nice gesture of sending them the waist pouches:)

Bille // April 07, 2010 10:20

Good on you and a good solution to repay them...

Morgan // April 07, 2010 10:37

Fantastic story, how banal it may seem. Owning up to a promise must be hugely important for them, and this will have created bonds i'm sure. Always a great read. Morgan

Troy Freund // April 07, 2010 11:02

Good job, Joey; that's the follow-up that's so important. Thanks for being a good example for all of us out here. Keep up the great work; be well.Sincerely,Troy

chi // April 07, 2010 14:23

the smell of leather fanny packs will give away their location when hunting. You've doomed them all! hahha

Jenna Julianne // April 07, 2010 15:33

AWE! You rock Joey L! AWESOMEEEEEE :)

Axel // April 07, 2010 18:21

Hey Joey,Love your photos from the Mentawai series - amazing people, and I would love to go and visit them myself one day! Hope you get to see them soon again - feel free to send an invite my way (c',Keep on blogging - and doing what you do best!Cheers, Axel

Richardg // April 07, 2010 18:28

Hey that was a very nice gesture to give them I am sure they really appreciated them. It looks like to are a simple people not requiring many material things like here in the west. So for them I am sure they are very happy.Nice going Joe..

alfred // April 07, 2010 20:47

these look like amazing ppl,joey they will never forget you

Michael Bandy // April 08, 2010 01:58

Great stuff man! I am sure they will find them quite useful.

Sher // April 08, 2010 03:30

Joey, you are a very kind and thoughtful man. I'm so proud to know you. Hugs to you!...Sher

Agnesa // April 08, 2010 03:32

Hey Joey! that's're making friends all over : ) .

Jill // April 09, 2010 05:20

I'm a long-time reader of your blog, Joey- and this post made me want to comment because it's a little different from your others. There are no fancy, processed images- only real snapshots of genuine friends. I really admire that you treat your subjects with so much humanity and respect, not as though they're just another assignment... and you can really see how happy they are to know that, too! This took a lot of coordination!Also, I think I'm in love with you. haha :) Keep up the great work!

TAKKI // April 10, 2010 11:53

TAKKI // April 10, 2010 11:54

This is a great story, thanks for sharing

arnanda // April 14, 2010 09:25

ohohohooo, such a perfect gift for them! anyway, big thank you for your great pictures in my country. glad to know that The Mentawai had already been captured by one damn cool Joey L! :)

Dee // April 14, 2010 11:32

Wow... great story Joey and such a lovely gift for them...

renata // April 15, 2010 01:49

more important than talent, is having a good heart. and you have both!:)

Mark // April 18, 2010 14:21

Ah, nice work and nice gesture. You have some amazing travels.

abdu // April 21, 2010 20:04

very nice your gallery photo

Adam Svensson // April 26, 2010 13:30

Love the stuff dude!.. When are u gonna update ur blog man? checking it daily, need more photos from ya :P btw.. coming to NY soon. 15th of may. take care

Firdaus Ginting // April 27, 2010 07:12

great stuff men.. im indonesian and a big fan of your work, and i myself never been to mentawai even though im near. hopefully in the near future i'll be there, and hopefully with you joe.. i wish...thanks for sharing this...

Ade // April 28, 2010 02:20

hi joey.. i'm originally come from west sumatera, the province where mentawai island located.. love to see the sessions of mentawai people you'va made.. i hope i can accompany you the next time you visit mentawai again,..cheers,,

Geoff // April 29, 2010 22:04

You're very talented and I'm pleased to see you're making the most of it and taking the opportunities afforded to you to experience the vastness life has to offer and grow in your field. alert('HELLO');

Lawrence Oluyede // May 04, 2010 11:37

Great post Joey and great work.

Jared Rey // May 05, 2010 04:26

That is stinkin' awesome that you shared those fanny packs and how crazy it was just to get it to them. Thanks for sharing those details. Cool stuff man.

Francois // May 07, 2010 10:56

Amazing, they must have been so happy. I remember they were eagerly waiting for that when I visited them in December!

Kosmo // May 10, 2010 15:52

Undeniabley, you have some great talent, but even if this guy went to see the same people, and shot with the same "style", I don't call it a copy. I can understand why you feel that way, but when you look at his website, this style apply to all other travels he has done...I found another photographer (Laurent Auxietre) who as the same style as well, and even some exactly same pictures than you - (he told me you did the same trip.)If he made the travel to do it so far, he must be as passionate..

niharika // May 17, 2010 23:01

hey..really very nice..this is the first time i have visited your page n couldn't resist leaving a comment.I will be comin around more now :)

dono // November 17, 2012 17:28

terima kasih sudah mengabadikan kenunikan indonesia dengan kameramu joey

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