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Toys for the Souls: Life and Art on the Mentawai Islands

Reimar Schefold

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Publication date:
27 November 2019

Short description: 

This book presents a detailed and inspiring picture of the traditional ways of life and the impressive art of the Mentawai archipelago located off the west coast of Sumatra in Indonesia. This shamanistic culture, most notably found on the northernmost island of Siberut, maintains an ancient relationship between man and the spiritual world. Within this worldview, everything is animated. Not only do humans have souls, but so do animals, plants and objects. To please these souls and to create harmony, alluring artifacts have been created for generations. In this way life, art, ritual and esthetics are intertwined: a notion reflected in the field photographs and in the beautiful and rare objects that are described and illustrated here. Toys for the Souls reveals for the first time the richness and creative power of an artistic imagination, deeply rooted in Southeast Asian prehistory.


Reimar Schefold is Professor Emeritus of the anthropology of Indonesia at the Institute of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology at Leiden University.

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