Mentawai – in the heart of the jungle

Fireflies, red dragonflies, the next moment a dinosaur could trudge between the primeval sago trees – south of Sumatra, in the Indonesian archipelago, there are small islands where the indigenous culture is still maintained: the Mentawai Islands.

young Sikerei (shaman)

The rivers lead deep into the largest island of Siberut. The jungle lies in a swamp – the indigenous cut down trees to create paths through the mire out of thin tree trunks – it’s a challenge to keep your balance on long walks across the slippery tree trunks and not to fall into the mud or into a spiked palm tree with your film equipment.

shaman Takgogouk in the forest

Deep in the forest, there is the Uma, the house of the clan. Airy and open, you feel at home quickly in its cooling shadow. My host is the shaman Takgogouk – the shamans (Sikerei) are the charismatic guardians of the ancient Mentawai culture, they know all the plants and preparations, how to craft bows and poison arrows and how to hunt, they live the tradition. I got to know some Sikerei during my days on the islands, listened to their stories and songs.

The indigenous people live in an egalitarian community. Everyone has a voice when there is something to decide, including the children. It roots partly from animism, here the spirits are more at eye level, less an almighty deity of monotheism, which could promote a culture of subjugation and exploitation.

Mother Tiru fishing in the river

Everything is animated: according to native beliefs, souls and spirits form the interwoven forest. Every human being, in a sense, has two souls: the consciousness and a spiritual soul that could be walking through the forest and meeting other souls while one is working or sleeping at home. In the aboriginal belief, the shaman can see the invisible souls, the whole spiritual fabric of the forest. One adorns oneself with flowers, so that after its wandering, the soul gladly takes its place inside the body again. If someone gets sick, their soul is gone astray on their wandering through the forest, is in bad company, does not want to come back. The soul is like a child, the shaman soothes and lures it like one – with songs and gestures.

Takgogouk searching for beetle larvae in a sago tree

The sago tree is the affluence of the swampy islands. If you cut down a tree, you can provide for family and pets for a long time. Some sago trees serve luxury: they feed beetle larvae, which are regarded as a delicacy. But in the end, you only get a small basket full of larvae from the soft wood of a big tree.

delicatecy: sago beetle larvae

Sago flour is much more fruitful. Roasted with grated coconut, it acts as the daily bread. You put the sago dough into the fire inside bamboo pipes or wrap it in sago leaves and put it into the hot coal. The menu includes fruit, chicken, fish, beetle larvae and game. Pigs are not part of everyday meals, their meat is reserved for important festivals and ceremonies. The domestic pigs are half boars and are free to search food in the forest daytime. In the evening their owner sounds the wooden bel, the noise rings through the forest and the pigs come back to the house to get their share of sago.

According to old legends, the sago tree is said to have turned into a human and a human into a sago tree. The tree not only provides food, its leaves serve as a roof and in earlier days, the leaves were smoked as well.

Takgogouk with bow and arrows in the forest

Poison arrows are made for hunting with a bow and arrows. The shaman knows exactly how to find roots and leaves to prepare in the vicinity of the house, and after half an hour, the arrows are prepared to be lethal.

Takgogouk processing the bark

The production of bark clothing is just as fast, but the old techniques can only be performed with such ease using lifelong practice. With a few strokes of the machete my host Takgogouk cuts through the slender trunk of a Baiko tree from which the bark clothing is made. But the tree does not fall yet, its crown is stuck in the dense forest. Takgogouk climbs up the narrow, bare trunk in seconds and uses the machete to separate the trunk from the top. A moment later, he is down again safely and with quick cuts releases the second layer of bark, taps and rolls it with a wooden tool until soft and elastic – this requires strength and skill, which only forms after long practice.


The forest of the islands is maintained to this day, the indigenous people use it regeneratively. But the government has given licenses to commercial loggers who are now moving in on it as well. Here, too, the ancient forests and traditional culture are in danger.

Mother Tiru

The Australian Rob Henry has been living with the indigenous people for nearly 10 years and has established a foundation to support their culture. He collaborates closely with the organization of the indigenous people Suku Mentawai.They have begun to document traditional culture, language, medical and plant knowledge, stories, myths, spirituality, songs – a project worth supporting. At present there are hardly any funds and donations are urgently needed. If you would like to travel to Mentawai yourself, you will find eco-tourism offers at the house of the foundation (

The old Aman Pangkek still lives in the forest with his wife

After filming, I‘m travelling to my next destination, the island Flores – first back to the 30-million-city Jakarta  and then further east in the archipelago, beyond the Wallace line. But the departure from the Mentawai Islands is hard. At some point I will return.

Joo Peter, July 2019

Update September 2020:  trailer for my documentary 

Support the film project here – Thanks!

(c)  by Joo Peter (except film trailer by Rob Henry)

copyrights reserved, contact joopeter(at)

The featured starting picture of this chapter shows shaman Aman Boroi Ogok.


organization of the indigenous people: Suku Mentawai

IEF – Indigenous Education Foundation

As Worlds Devide film by Rob Henry

youtube channel  Yayasan Pendidikan Budaya Mentawai – Mentawai Cultural Education Foundation

Local media intiatives:  youtube chanel Bang Nimus

Onion Collective in Ubud, Bali

Like to jump into the pool after coding? The Onion Collective started 2012 in Ubud,  as the oldest co-working & co-living space on Bali, when the life-style of digital nomads just was born.  It’s  soulfeeding roots go back to the 70s with love, peace & happiness.

While  other co-working spaces turned more business-focused, Onion stays an inspiring place with a mission beyond money-making. So it still is the most affordable co-working space also, starting with 50.000 IDR day-pass.

Networking magic happens at the Onion Café at night – travellers & creative people around the world meet at the restaurant. I never met so many wonderful artists and travelling soulmates in Ubud like in this place.

Mark Kuan is the founder spirit of the Onion – handling it with a lot Asian wisdom to keep it a special place. More on the Onion temple of Chill here

Regina is the welcoming spirit of the Onion, supported by a like-minded team.

Find the Onion of Airbnb here. There are private rooms & dorms.

Onion collaborates with  Bali Moon project – jewelry by the tribe.

Mark Kuan also created a new retreat called Gungung An

Hi Gusdek, I spotted you at the cremation ceremony 😀

Budiana – art from the heart of Bali

Budiana lives in a typical Balinese family compound in the old royal village Ubud –  pavillons in a garden, all full of  delicately  hand-made art, including a family temple. As a child, he loved to explore the rivers around Ubud in the deep jungle valleys- water and transition is a core of life.


1969 Budiana started studying art in Denpasar at age 19. Back then, life  was still very traditional, no electricity on the island untill the mid Seventies, the first phone was installed 1985. A short walk away from his home lived artist legend I Gusti Lempad, born 1862, who reached the age of 116 years, when he died in 1978. Budiana also learned briefly from Rudolf Bonnet (1895-1978) in his late years from 1975-77. Besides Walter Spies, Rudolf Bonnet was one of the most influential artists on Bali in early 20th century.


Sekala and Niskala, the visible and spiritual world – the art of Budiana helps us to connect with Balinese cosmos of belief,  transformation of our soul from birth to death and reincarnation. All emotional process in our heart stirred by his art is connected to mythology and spirituality of interwoven cultural roots. Creative dualism: light and darkness always are part of our life, dynamic movement of our karma, as Budiana explains in”Whirling”, a recent catalogue on some of his major works.

“Heading towards release” is the title of the painting above in Arma museum. Based on the Mahabharata epos, it shows the final moment, when the hero Pandava after all struggles and challenges is marching towards heaven – still facing a last obstacle. The guardians of heaven welcome him, but not his dog. “Without my dog I will not enter”, the hero answers – proofing his pure heart by being willing to go to hell for his dog.

Below a exerpt of s larger painting just finsihed in his studio, celebrating how Bali and Chinese culture meet, building a dynamic relationship.. The good spirit Barong (partly of Chinese dragon origin). and witch Rangda encounter each other in different manifestations.


Since early beginnings, Budiana is also a mask maker (Topeng), sculpturer of sarcophaghi for cremation ceremony (bull,  lion etc. ), statues in the temple – involved in a lot of community work. He also has a passion to teach, studying teaching as well in the Seventies.

Since his childhood he loves deeply Moneky Forest, he told me.  Many of the sculptures in the Monkey forest were created by him. He always enjoyed visiting Monkey forest,  connect to the nature there and creating sculptures inspired by the spirits of the place.


Visiting Bali since many years, I was always touched by these sculptures in Monkey Forest, long time before I knew who made it. The sculptures tune in perfectly with the place, where sacred temple and wild animal meet, very specific, also full of humour and joy of life.


Budiana masters and  combines brilliantly a wide range of techniques and traditions, like sensitive, clear-line black and white drawing style below…



….narrative opulence in expressive black and white …


…ranging to abstract techniques…



….combining it all….



He loves to paint at night, he told me. Life is calming down outside, a meditative atmosphere. More closer to a dream world, it seems.


His studio with grey walls keeps out the hard sunlight. It’s calm and quiet like a retreat, modest, not larger than nescessary. You can sense the atmosphere of very focused and disciplined work, but also the deep connection to the family life in the compound outside – traditional Balinese architecture at its best, garden-like and rich in art, full of life with his children and grandchildren.


Budiana told me about his four children and twelf grandchildren, even some grand-grandchildren. He is at age 69  now, still looking young like in his early Fifties. He practices Yoga to keep fit – and enjoys life.

Thanks for inspiration, Budiana!

Text and photos by Joo Peter, June 2019


Indigenous Film Festival 2019 in Bali

Kynan, a 14 year old filmmaker from Kalimantan (Borneo) was one of the stars of the festival, backed by a powerful grass root movement of a new generation of media activists, using all possible media to communicate with local and global audience. From Papua New Guinea filmmakers taking a risk touching political issues to Ibu Onet, communicating with a Orang Utan puppet as Instagram star to local audience or international productions like Small Island – Big Song showing Austronesian culture interwoven from Madagascar to Easter island.

Emmanuela Shinta, founder of Indigenous Film Festival

Emmanuela Shinta, a young activist from Kalimantan, who just spoke in front of the UN, founded the festival together with David Metcalf.

Co-founder David Metcalf (New Zealand) and Ado-Kaliting-Pacidal (Taiwan) presenting “Musical Healers of Land”

Getting organized: the power behind the new grass root movement are organizations like Ranu Welum Foundation in Kalimantan (founded by Emmanuela Shinta) or Wapikoni Mobile in Kanada, which provides media technology and knowledge to indigenious communities in Canada and supports aspiring filmmakers like Craig Commanda and Jani Bellfleur-Kaltush, who presented their films at the festival.

Craig Commanda and Jani Bellefleur-Kaltush in Q&A about their films and Wapikoni


Rizal Lanni and Yonri Revolt

Rizal Lanni comes from mountain area of Papua New Guinea only accessible by airplane – he is one of Papuan Voices, an initiative of videographers in Papua- check out Rizals youtube channel here . Yonri Revolt is a filmmaker and activist in Papua, also promoting archiving and presentation programs (more here).

Hugo Metz and Charlie Hill Smith

Filmmakers as networkers: Hugo Metz is collaborating with many organizations and channels to give indigenious cultures a voice world wide – check out the huge youtube channel of “If not us then who?” here.

Multi-talent Charlie Hill Smith from Australia works as producer, networker & director in West Papua (trailer of his festival film here)


Uyau Moris from Kalimantan

Music is a powerful messenger, as two other festival films showed, both based on the Austronesian migration over 5000 years, rediscovering common roots, deeply touching in the film Musical Healers of Land by Ado Kaliting Pacidal and vibrant charismatic in Small Island Big Song orchestrating musicians from Madagascar to Easter Island in a project by Bao Bao Chen and Tim Coles.

director Ado Kaliting Pacidal, director of “Musical Healers of Land”

Sometimes nothing is more powerful then the spoken word – as special guest Miliwanga Wurrben, grown up in the outback of Australia, showed in her welcome speeches. It all comes back to basics – an open heart – Thanks for a great festival.

Miliwanga Wurrben


more on the film program here

The next Indigenous Film Festival will be in Kalimantan August 9th to 11th 2019, more here.

Support indigenous filmmakers by donation to Ranu Welum Foundation in Kalimantan here

(see also article Bumi Hijau und Swadaya)





Dojo co-working in Bali

Dojo co-working in Canggu on Bali quickly became famous after founder Michael Craig started it a few years ago, inspired by Hubud, Balis award-winning co-working space in a bamboo architecture close to nature similar to Green School. Michael loved to bring this co-working spirit to the beach at Canngu. So just a few steps away from the beach, Dojo developed quickly as a vibrant and inspiring place for creative people.

Haren is one of the welcome spirits at Dojo. The japanese word Dojo goes back to buddhist martial art practicing court, a place for intense learning and meditation .

Community spirit as a key issue at Dojo, so it’s a great place to find support, feedback, collaborators.

The founder Michael Craig invests a lot of money in a superfast internet on the isalnd, where high-speed internet isn’t a standard.

Dojos in-house pool is one of the cool features

Sometimes its getting pretty crowded. I met a lot of hard-working, very focused e-commerce people there, attracted by the weekly Meet-Up discussing e-commerce, dropshipping, FBA.

Hosting photographer & filmmaker Meet-Ups myyself, I enjoyed to connect to the creative crowd in Canggu as well as in Ubud.

March 2019 the two most famous co-working spaces on Bali , Hubud in Central Bali and Dojo at the West Coast merged. For one membership you’re free to benefit from both places.

Prices are still affordable and I hope it stays that way.  Canggu is perfect for beachlovers and surfers, but  missing a bit traditional local culture you’ll find more in Ubud area. So by the merge you get the best of both places as a member.

Dojo homepage

Featured Co-working spaces in Bali:

Onion – Dojo – Hubud



Kan Kulak – portraying Bali culture

He is an Bali artist legend living in Ubuds neighbor village Peliatan: Kan Kulak portrays Bali culture and taksu (spirit) – he is like a powerful Balinese spirit himself.

Its joy of life and dedication to Balis precious culture expressed in his paintings, some of them reminding of Gauguins soft and colorful expressionism.

However there is much more to discover in his art, an universe of complexity in the spiritual belief  of Bali: his large  black & white art works are unsurpassed masterpieces in storytelling this complex interwoven spiritual world.

Portraying Dewi Sri, goddess of rice, Kan Kulak shows how all creatures and spirits are depending on her and linked to each other. All space surrounding us is full of spiritual energy and living spirits, therefor you will find in Bali art very often all space of canvas and sheet of paper filled with creatures.

This spiritual view on the world can have a great impact on our western culture, it can inspire and remind us to connect to nature again. Western culture is influenced by the three big religions originated in the desert, which change the world into  a desert – after we lost the connection to a spiritual world full of spirits like in Bali still present, reflecting the universe of souls mankind is put in.

Black & white art goes deep back in time in Bali art history. In the early times, a simple bamboo stick and ink was used – now also soft graphit.

Kan Kulak is also leading community projects like designing and supervising production of the huge bull sarcophagi for cremation ceremonies or creating a monster for Ogoh Ogoh parade in the night before Nyepi.

Above: Ogoh Ogoh designed by Kan Kulak, collaborating with artist friend Epong and other community members of his banjar in Peliatan.

But what he loves most is his silent reatreat in his studio to work on new art.

Soon more on Bali art, Kan Kulak and his friends.

Follow the dolphins to Flores

If you ask me for one of my  favorite trips in Indonesia: come on board the handmade wooden boats of Perama and cruise three days and nights to Flores.  That’s Indonesia! See the carpenters shape the boats in their docking on a stop by,  feel the wood under your feet, watch the dolphins following the boat close to Komodo island.

How does it come this tour opportunity is pretty unknown & a secret travel trip? Perama has chosen a promotion, I would have never gone for: they call the tour package “Komodo Hunting Trip”. Well, a stop-by at Komodo island is included, but the beauty of the trip goes far beyond that !

Day 1

Coming from Bali, you have to take the ferry to Sengigi in Lombok,  where the Perama tour to Flores  starts. The first day the Perama bus  crosses Lombok in direction of their dockings, with stops on the road giving insight to local culture & traditions of ethnic groups on Lombok. But the jaw-dropping part for me was arriving at Peramas traditional docking, where they produce their Bugis Phinisi style boats and see the barefooted  carpenters at work.


The boats in the dock look like strange pieces of furniture. Forget all plans – its all  in the head & hands of the experienced carpenters.


Your ship crew lights a bonfire after sunset, the boat leaves direction of Sumbawa, the island east of Lombok. You sleep on the boat – it feels like a adventure of the Seventies. Thank god I escaped the comfort zone. And nowadays -that’s a rare experience!  The captain is an Indonesian, who knows the sea since decades – never felt so safe on a boat.

Day 2

Arriving at Sumbawa coast in the morning,the ship stops at a small Satonda island for some snorkeling & island visit. After that, the boat continues East, with a stop at Kilo beach, Sumbawa.


After another night the ship  reaches the archipelago around Komodo Islands. For me, the beauty of the archipelago itself here around the national park was the most stunning . This was the area where the dolphins were following our boat.  Komodo island was ok, we saw the dragons – but for me personally it was not the main goal of my trip.

Afters stops at Komodo & Pink Beach , the boat continues East.

Getting close to Flores, the archipelago gets more and more beautiful.

The West coast harbor city in Flores is called Labuan Bajo.

If you have a chance to hire a bike and discover the island, its the best way the to discover Flores. But be careful on the winding mountain roads of Flores and cold nights on the bike in the mountain.

More about soon in the next chapter.

Perama Tour link here

Kali temple in Singapore

All our roots go back to India – feel the echo of centuries: visiting a Hindu-temple dedicated to goddess Kali in Singapore October 2018.  Giving life and taking it, ancient goddess Kali can give us an understanding of the ambivalent power of mother earth.

Enter the majestic door…

Veerama Kali Amman Temple started as a shrine 1855, a first temple was built 1881 by Bengali community members.

A devotee contacting goddess Kali.



The flame is an important part of Hindu ceremonies. Agni, god of fire, is one of the oldest gods  in India besides Indra, long time before belief of trimurti (Shiva, Vishnu, Brahma ) came up.  



Kali is an incarnation of the wife of Shiva.

Her sons are Ganesha and Murugan. In Tamil Hindu community, Murugan (also known as Kartikeya) is very important. I visited Thaipusam festival in Kuala Lumpur dedicated to Murugan, where devotees fall in trance, see my reportage on Maptia here.


Below: goddess Saraswati is  the wife of Brahma.


accessories like the drum and cobra snake helps to identify the wife of Shiva.


This shrine might be dedicated to Hanoman.

Kali and her dark powers:


Where to find

Veeramakaliamman temple is located right in the middle of Little India at the main road Serangoon Road 144

Hubud co-working space Bali

Hubud is a legend – founded 2013 in Balis old capitol Ubud, it was listed in the top ten co-working spaces worldwide for years, award-winning many times. Why? As one of the first co-working spaces it was a  blue-print and model how to do it right, the balance of the best on a highly professional level.

Community spirit, skill shares, meet-ups, inspiring talks, networking, great hospitality and close to nature, the founders knew perfectly what they wanted to go for and make it happen – in the early days of digital nomads shaping what are co-working spaces supposed to be at their best.

Its Bamboo architecture was inspired by Green School. I’m longing to have a work place like that – close to nature. Barefooted in an open space, meeting people from all over the world on a highly active vibe creating & sharing – paradise for me.

To be inspiring, it needs diversity. Not just business-focused people and coders, but also artists, designers, bloggers, NGO people, scientists, spiritual people and much more. I love to drop in this place and meet all this people hungry to create something new, breaking out of traditional stereotypes.

Diversity needs also access for all: Ubud sticks to a fair price model which allows  to join all members events for a low monthly basic membership price. Thanks for keeping it affordable!

Hubud also brought PetchaKutcha and FuckUp nights to Ubud, sharing inspiring life stories and was  one of the pioneers  in creating international cooperation of co-working spaces (Co-working Alliance for Asia Pacific, CAAP) and global learning community (see Hubud global learning).

Members lunch & social events boost the networking.

Thanks for all and keep it going!

Visit Hubud online:

Meet-Up for Photographers, Filmmakers, Creatives at Hubud October 4th 2018

Thanks for coming and sharing!

We were happy to welcome Joe Yaggi, who founded Jungle Run Film productions 1993 in Bali. He worked with BBC, National Geographic and other major broadcasters of documentary film (see also Ring of Fire ). At our Meet-Up Joe talked about Bumi Hijau TV reaching millions Indonesians via local television and his Swadaya project with Rio Helmi, how they raised 25.000 Dollar to shoot a pilot in East Java soon coming out.

Videographer Brian Ebbs presented his latest documentary on the Lombok  earthquake LombokStrong and other works. We also discussed the inspiring work of our colleague Marko Randelovic.

Neyna from Jakarta showed her submissions for portfolio night in Singapore and told us about Doc.Now! workshop  in the Alleyway Café Denpasar and the upcoming MiniKino festival for short films October 6th to 13th taking place in different locations around the island. Have a look on the festival booklet here

Patricia Segovia from Peru showed us, how she started to share her travel experience on social media like her instagram supported by a community back home in Peru

Daiana Paduan from Argentina told us about her travel blog for Spanish speaking audience Dale una vuelta al mundo and how she started photographing to support her writing.

Myself as the host of the evening I presented my latest multi-media history project in my hometown Time Echo ( , my photo reportages on South East Asian culture ( like Ogoh-Ogoh, a reportage used to pitch for a documentary on the same subject now) my Green School Documentary and the launch of the new Travel Blog Cosmic Beachcomber

For blogging, I suggested using WordPress Page builder Elementor, which I discovered on a recent talk on Hubud.

It was a joy hosting, you can catch up  with me on facebook  or on my website Joo Peter

By the way, the cover photo I shot in Jaisalmer, Rajastan.

See you next time

Joo Peter