The Mentawai Islands are famous for their consistently excellent waves which attract surfers from around the world. A range of tourism companies facilitate tours of varying degrees of luxury. Some surfers choose to stay off land for as long as possible, with chartered vessels providing all the necessary provisions. This means some surfers have few direct encounters with the local economy. The tattoo practices of the Mentawai Islands are also a point of attraction. The photos in this collection show another side to the Mentawai Islands – children at play. Children slide down mud tracks into rivers, play klereng (marbles) or invent games using recycled goods. The river becomes a space of play where the life skills of using a boat and swimming become outcomes learned through play. Playing with tyres, or on boats or learning the skills of volleyball are activities far from the grandeur of Jakarta’s stadiums and the discourses of the benefits of sport as espoused by politicians. Playing is an essential element of learning, socialising and enjoying the good life.
Maskota Delfi is a member of the International Indonesian Forum for Asian Studies at Andalas University in Padang, West Sumatra.