6. Narratives of Differentiation: Muntogat, Rakrak, Sirubeiteteu, and the ‘Ideology of Identity’


Narratives of Differentiation: Muntogat, Rakrak, Sirubeiteteu, and the ‘Ideology of Identity’

 In the previous articles mention is made of something I have termed the ‘Ideology of Identity’. In this article I go into some detail into why this is crucial to an understanding of Rereiket society.

In Madobag each suku is defined and represented in opposition to every other, evidenced in the paabad,pakok, and paroman/tulou institutions we looked at in the previous article. What implications then might this have for the existence of collectivities which include several suku together in an apparent identity? In this article I explore the evidence for the existence of such collectivities, and through this, the general representation of each suku as articulated in the ‘ideology of identity’. The reason for this is that it is characteristic of the anthropological approach to discover, describe, and then analyse the higher-order social entities, or kinship groups that anthropologists know exist in most societies across the world. This has been done for the Mentawai islands as a whole including Siberut in particular. On the surface, then, what you find in the Rereiket context is the existence of such groups. But probing beneath the surface rather than actually existing higher-order groups the reality is that the suku remains the basic most directly relevant social group.

The existence of higher order entities unifying the dozens of suku spread across the islands has been the focus of theorizing on the part of Nooy-Palm (1968) and Schefold (1972-73) who wrote on the subject of the muntogat (dealt with in article 2 ). Schefold’s (1986:73) argument for the existence of muntogat rests on the claim that muntogat identity is largely based on a ‘common descent myth’. However, my initial enquiries in Madobag as to the relationship between suku and muntogat turned up a blank. Informants did not generally know what a muntogat was. They picked up on the togat part since it is virtually the same as the Rereiket word for child, toga. However muntogat for most was either meaningless or “not often used”.

One informant explained that muntogat referred specifically to a man, his wife, and their children—sanga muntogat (“one/whole/complete muntogat”). In this particular case there is, for example, Tarason, Amanmairep, Amanbaigakunen, Amanbajikmanai and Amansaileppet and their children all of whom trace descent directly to their father (ama), whose personal name cannot be mentioned due to the prohibition on mentioning the names of close deceased relatives.

At base they are of one father (sabe amanda). Thus there is samuntogat. With Amanmairep, he has children (toga) and grandchildren (punu teteu). They are of one father, Amanmairep. Thus they are samuntogat, sanga ama.
The term generally used to convey the idea of several suku sharing a relationship through possessing the same ancestor (teteu), as opposed to ama, is ‘rakrak’, connoting “sociability”, “togetherness” and “solidarity” rather than muntogat. Most of the twenty suku in Madobag belong to a rakrak if we provisionally understand this as a higher order entity in the muntogat sense, that is, in the way it has been defined and employed by Nooy-Palm and Schefold. Through this concept, suku construct themselves as having relations with other suku in Madobag, with suku in other dusun in the Madobag desa, the Rereiket and further afield. Such a relationship is traced back to an original suku in the area of the Simatalu river on the central west coast. Apart from one suku, all others trace their origins back to an ancestor who was a member of a founding suku (with the implication that he was the sole member or in some way the most important member). Ideally all suku should trace their origins from the one suku at Simatalu. There are shades of this in the vague assertions people make when talking about origins prior to Simatalu. Some mention Nias, others Sumatra. But generally people regard ultimate origins as unimportant, sentiments reflected in the narratives which relate the reasons for and the details of the original diaspora. This ties in conveniently with the growing influence of ideas stemming from Christian theology concerning ultimate human origins. Humans can be easily conceived to have been created by God in the form of Adam and Eve prior to Simatalu since the details of origin and identity, what really counts, concerns the events occurring after an ancestor or ancestors left Simatalu. Whilst all suku trace origins back to Simatalu, however, not all suku trace their ‘rakrak’ relationship to there.

The journey to the Rereiket is usually represented as involving several sites, or pulaggajat (suku land), each usually corresponding to successive ancestors, finally ending up at a particular pulaggajat location in the Rereiket in recent times. The original suku has undergone sequential transformations along the way corresponding to successive name changes. One of these forms of the antecedent suku is considered to be the one which related suku in the present consider themselves to constitute. There are those suku that do not trace themselves to a ‘rakrak’, although they do cite an origin in Simatalu with a specific suku.

In what follows we examine the way in which suku in Madobag construct their origins and thus their identities as suku. On one hand they have (rakrak) relationships with other suku both in Madobag, in the Rereiket area as a whole, and beyond. On the other, their members, paradoxically, emphasize their suku’s uniqueness as distinct from all other suku even those of their particular rakrak. I have come to term this phenomenon a suku’s ‘ideology of identity’ which I define as the current official representation of a suku’s origin as articulated and thus “author-ized” by the eldest men or man, usually the rimata, within an uma faction.

The ‘ideology of identity’ consists of two related narrative dimensions. There are, firstly, the narratives themselves describing a suku’s rakrak relations through an account of its origins and subsequent dispersal giving the details of, and reasons for, successive movements from Simatalu. This is an example of what Fox, in a pan-Austronesian perspective, has come to term “topogeny”, defined as an “ordered succession of place names which is similar in structure to an ordered succession of ancestral names … analogous to a genealogy” (Fox 1993b:24). The second dimension consists of representations of the origins of ancestral heirlooms, the alei katsaila. I argue that, rather than presenting an image of, or basis for, solidarity, in actual fact each plays a role in the overall ideological expression and affirmation of the suku as unequivocally distinct from, rather than the same as, all the other suku within the one ‘rakrak’.

Rakrak relations form the first dimension of the ideology. However whilst all suku espouse narratives relating to their origins and the origins of their ancestral heirlooms, only 10 out of the 20 suku belong to what they define as their rakrak (rakrak mai [“our rakrak”]), and only six belong to substantial rakrak consisting of more than two suku. Four other suku belong respectively to two rakrak whilst all the others merely trace their origins directly to Simatalu. Having said this, it is nevertheless somewhat artificial and forced to classify suku with reference to the two criteria since each case is unique, which is, of course, the intended aim of the respective ideologies.

Most narratives focus upon a dispute between the members of the one suku, most often between an elder brother and his younger brother, a father and his son(s) or their wives. The problem arises over rights to the produce of a particular manggo tree or perhaps two trees each owned by the respective protagonists. Where paroman breaks down between the protagonists and compensation is not forthcoming, the suku splits. One party moves away to a separate location near a creek, claiming the land in the immediate vicinity as its pulaggajat. Stripped back to their bare essentials the disputes concern appropriate relations between people as governed by and reproduced in the paroman ethic. They can also be viewed as metaphors for an original unity subsequently torn asunder(1). The recurrence of key place-names in all narratives indicates a historical connection amongst all suku in the past, that is it points to a general movement from Simatalu. But what is important is not so much their historical significance but what they tell us about the current political relations between suku and uma factions within a suku—a discourse of difference not of sameness(2).

In table 6.1 I have listed each suku in Madobag along with the number and type of uma in each, the number of households in each, and the antecedent suku from which they see themselves derived.

Table 6.1

Suku                   Uma  Type(s)       Lalep       Antecedent Suku

Salolosit                    5                                  8                 Satoleoru

Samalaiming            1                                  4                 Satoleoru

Salulublub               4                                   1                 Satoleoru

Sapuaiload               6                                  1                  Satoleoru

Sabagalet                   3 3 3 1 1 5 Satoto

Sakaliau                      4 4 4 3 4 4 12 Satoto

Sabeuleleu —          4 Sabelepa

Samapopoupou     6                                   4                 Sabelepa

Sakukuret/ 5 2 4 5 15 Sabeleksiri

Samwonwot 4 4 10 Sakelak

Sakakadut                4                                     3                     Siripegu

Sabulau                    4                                     2                     Taksirikeru

Sakairigi                  1                                      1                     Taksiriabangan

Samatobe               4                                      2                     Sapojai

Sapojai                     2                                     4                      Sapojai

Samalaguret          4                                     5                      Sapojai


Numbers in bold type in the second column indicate uma located outside the dusun. (2012 note: this will be fixed soon)


The most prominent rakrak in Madobag, which also contains one of the largest suku, is Satoleoru, an intermediate suku between the original suku, Saileu, at Simatalu, and its constituent suku today. Four suku in Madobag, Salulublub, Samalaiming, Salolosit, and Sapuaiload belong to the Satoleoru rakrak. But there are also several in the dusun of Ugai, including the descendants of the original suku, itself still known as Satoleoru. There is Samangeak and Sakabeiliad, a one household uma/suku located just across the river to the east of Ugai outside the dusun.

Satoleoru exists in the current day as a small suku in Ugai. The rimata claims an ultimate origin for his suku at Simatalu in the antecedent suku Saileu.

The original ancestor was Talabbara who had two sons Bokolopura and Amanlegguk. Bokolopura remained at Simatalu whereas Amanlegguk moved to Terekan in the far north [a destination often appearing in origin accounts despite the geographical fact that it lies directly in the opposite direction to the ultimate destination, the Rereiket]. At Terekan Satoleoru was created. Amanlegguk’s son, Siubat, moved to the Alimoi creek area where both Salolosit and Samalaiming have land. One of Siubat’s son’s, Sibokbok, separated from Satoleoru to found his own suku Salolosit. One other son, Amankera, went to bat malaggai nearby. [‘Bat’ is derived from bat oinan meaning “river/creek”. The word itself, as we saw in relation to the batnumua, indicates a “space” and in this particular case the “space” or the general area in the vicinity of the muonugai creek.] His son and his son, in turn, remained here. His son’s son’s son, Amangitakmanai went to bat muonugai. Of Amangitakmanai’s two sons it was the second, Siaok, who had descendants, Sibaijak and Teukibau in succession. The suku remained Satoleoru through all of this. There is only the bakkat katsaila and two lulag platters both made by the rimata’s father in this particular inventory of ancestral valuables (alei katsaila).

In his version of Satoleoru/Salolosit origins the rimata of Salolosit relates that Salolosit has its ultimate origin at Simatalu where it was called Satoleoru. The particular ancestors, the rimata of the uma there, were Beggululaggai and his brother Amaneuwak . Amaneuwak’s son, Siubat, left Simatalu and made his way south and east to a place called Makromimik named after the small stream there. This was in the Rereiket proper but nearer to the present dusun of Matotonan than Ugai and Madobag. His son, Sibokbok, his son’s son, Sibotui, and his son’s son’s son, Amansupimanai, remained in the Rereiket. Each became the rimata of the uma in succession, ending up with Amansupimanai’s son, Sijaragjag, who is the present rimata.

According to Sijaragjag it was Sibokbok who established himself on the suku’s current land located on both sides of the river a little to the north of the dusun extending to the east-north-east towards the Silaoinan district. His ancestral heirlooms are of relatively recent origin. The gong was bought from the Dutch at Muara Siberut by Sibotui who also made the three gajeuma drums. The bakkat katsaila dates to the present rimata’s father, Amansupimanai indicating that this may have been when the suku separated from Satoleoru. Amansupimanai also made the three lulag. Following a dispute, the details of which were not forthcoming, the latter left Simatalu heading south for the Sagalubbe district. No one ever heard of him again nor knows what happened to his descendants. However, as we see later, his fate is implicated within the present spread of the Satoleoru rakrak.
Samalaiming is the other major suku in Madobag professing an origin in Satoleoru. The Samalaiming rimata, Situri, gives a version very similar to the one given by the Satoleoru rimata. According to him

the first ancestor was Talabbara at Simatalu, the rimata of the antecedent suku Saileu. His son Amanlegguk went to Terekan giving rise to the suku Satoleoru. Amanlegguk’s son Siubat went to the Alimoi creek area near Silaoinan, creating the present suku Samalaiming. Sibokbok, Siubat’s son, along with his successive descendants Asagoibag, Siboktekrukukat, and Gaur the father of the present rimata respectively remained in the Rereiket in and around the area of bat malaiming, the particular stream from which the suku gained its current name.

Situri also relates that Siubat purchased one of the three gongs from the Dutch (they are all quite old and look about the same age—it seems likely that all three have their origins with the Dutch). The bakkat katsaila was fashioned by Gaur. The rimata did not know what it contained as it had never been taken apart in his lifetime although later that year a new bakkat katsaila was made, since the old one had fallen into disrepair, whereupon the items inside were transferred to a new bamboo container. This type of event probably happens more often than mythical sensibilities or aesthetics are inclined to recognize. The rimata was not sure about the set of three gajeuma drums apart from their “great antiquity”. He did not go so far as to claim they came from Simatalu as would many other rimata in this situation. The Dutch plate was bought by Siubat.
The narrative describing the circumstances leading to the original move away from Simatalu given by the Samalaiming rimata is a variant of one of the two most frequently related stories given by most rimata concerning disputes over mangoes or pigs, or on a fundamental level, over the quality of paroman exchanges between the protagonists(3). In this particular version there was

the antecedent ancestor Talabbara and his two sons each of whom owned a large mango tree. On one occasion they went out to inspect their trees. The fruit on the elder’s tree was not very big whereas the younger brother’s tree had not only larger fruit but more of them. The elder brother began taking his younger brother’s larger fruit to compensate for his smaller mangoes. The younger brother soon noticed that someone was taking his mangoes and so set out to find who the culprit was. He asked his elder brother who denied taking them. The younger then accused him outright, precipitating a fight. Along came their father who, in order to break up the argument, took up an axe and struck the brothers over their heads. All three scattered, each wandering around from place (pulaggajat) to place over the years. Eventually the elder brother met up with the younger brother. Neither recognizing the other, the younger brother asked the elder where he was from. “A long way off” he replied. “I’m also from a long way off”, the younger brother said. It started to rain. They took shelter in an uma whereupon the elder brother asked the younger to search for lice in his hair. The younger brother noticed that the other’s head was marked and so he asked him about it. The elder brother replied, “My father hit me”. “What was it about?” “It was over mangoes” answered the elder brother. Then the younger brother suggested that the other have a look at his head. The elder brother asked him where he had got the marks he found there from. “I got them from my father too. It was about mangoes.” He went on to relate the incident that had occurred all those years before. They came to the conclusion after this that they must be brothers. They immediately split up again. The elder brother, Bokolopura, went north to Simalegi whereas his younger brother, Amanlegguk, headed south to the Muara Siberut district eventually ending up at the Rereiket. The father had many years earlier gone to the Sagalubbe area where Samalaiming has land today. Many of the elements present in the other versions are present in this, the most elaborate version I recorded, yet arranged differently and accompanied by the unique.

Whilst Salolosit, Samalaiming, and Satoleoru in Ugai present similar, yet particular, renditions of their ‘rakrak’ origin and development, the remaining suku in the rakrak for which I have data diverge sharply in various ways, retaining merely some superficial indications that they are members of an overall entity. In Salulublub’s case the ancestor at Simatalu is Siubat who has appeared in the Salolosit, Samalaiming, and Satoleoru narratives. His son, the familiar Amanlegguk, although appearing here simply as Silegguk, moved to the vicinity of a waterfall in the Matotonan area. His son, Sinaoi, moved to bat malaiming. The suku remained Satoleoru. Sinaoi’s son, Sigaeluk moved from here closer to the Silaoinan area, ie. Alimoi. His son Amangitakmanai moved from here to the Ugai area. From here there was a succession of ancestors, Sinonoasak, Sinyong, Sidodoigo, Sirabdab, ending with the father of the present rimata Teutuduklaibok with whom the suku Salulublub came into being. All the ancestral heirlooms are traced back to Sirabdab.

With the narrative describing the emergence of Salulublub we are introduced to a unique type of origin narrative, the only one of its type that I recorded. In this the rimata’s father and his relatives made a lulublub or a small fenced enclosure for their pigs. Having been there a while the pigs had trampled the ground making it soft and boggy. The relatives planted a small sago tree there since the marshy state of the lulublub was perfect for cultivating sago. They then fought with the other members of Satoleoruk over ownership of the tree. The present Salulublub faction who actually had planted the tree asserted their ownership by breaking away from Satoleoru, forming their own suku, Salulublub (“the unity of those of the lulublub”).

Sakabeiliad, the smallest and most recently established suku of those in the Satoleoru rakrak in the Madobag-Ugai area, is even further removed, ideologically, than Salulublub from the Satoleoru core. Their origins begin with Amanpedduglaggai of Satoleoru at Simatalu. He moved out of the Simatalu area to bat bajak . His son’s son, Sigaeluk, one of three, moved out of the area to bat pojai then on to bat liliggut where he remained. His son, Amankera, moved to teitei sigarena (a ‘mountain’) at the headwaters of the Rereiket and then on to bat daggi in the Rereiket proper. His son, Siubat, moved to bat tiop then to bat kainabag. Of his two sons Sitipputoggat moved to bat lulublub and established the suku Saluluplup. The other, Makottiktik, headed west to Sagalubbe. Subsequent ancestors, Dodoigo and Amanariebbuk remained at bat lulublub. Amanariebbuk’s son, Sialakkerei, came to the present uma’s location at bat wot a little way out of Ugai, where the uma is occupied by the present rimata, Dodoigo, and his wife.

Dodoigo is named after his grandfather, a practice occasionally adopted to keep alive the memory of an ancestor. The current Dodoigo established the present suku Sakabeiliad. The name purportedly means “those who are despised” and derives from an unknown incident in which Dodoigo and his family asserted their separation from Satoleoru. In a return to the Satoleoru dispersal theme, Amanpedduglaggai moved from Simatalu because of a mango dispute.

There was just the single tree. In the past there had been many but as the suku fragmented over time the ownership of the trees also fragmented. The dispute over this particular mango tree involved two women and one man. The mangoes on one side belonged to the women, the mangoes on the other side to the man. When in the night a mango would fall on the man’s half the women would exchange it for one of the smaller mangoes that would fall on their half. When accused by the man they would deny it. “No, elder brother (kebbuk), we did not take your mango.” Then in the night a large mango would fall on the women’s side only to be exchanged by the man for one of his smaller mangoes. When challenged he would say, “No, mottok(4), it is not so. I did not take it.” The man finally got sick of this. He requested the women to look after the tree and then took his leave.

The final suku in the Satoleoru rakrak is Sapuaiload, who present yet another radical version of Satoleoru rakrak ideology. Sapuaiload trace their origin to the now familiar Amanlegguk at Simatalu who moved directly to a waterfall in the Matotonan area. From there his son moved to the Ugai area where he remained with his son. With his grandsons the suku split into two collateral lines. The brothers Amansimmak and Amanusut’s sons, Simadobag and Siluko, moved to bat madobag. With their sons Saikebbu and Silaitak respectively, the suku which had remained Satoleoru through all these moves and separations, became Sapuaiload when they split away and moved to the vicinity of batpuailo. The core of Sapuaiload is today constituted by Saikebbuk’s three sons as well as his FFBSS (Father’s Father’s Brother’s Sister’s Son [momoik]) who constitutes a collateral line. The eldest of Saikebbuk’s son’s made the bakkat katsaila, whereas Simadobag procured the one gong, gajeuma drum, lakuk (bowl) and sisip (ladle), and the lelebak. There were once two Dutch plates both of which have since been broken.


The second most comprehensive rakrak, in terms of sheer numbers, is Satoto to which belong the largest suku, Sabagalet and Sakaliau. Information on Sabagalet origins was gained from just the one uma faction from the three constituting Sabagalet. It was my intention to get details on origin narratives from the other two, however this turned out to be impossible due to unwilling informants. Nevertheless interesting comparisons can be made with versions of origin narratives of two uma factions in Sakaliau and one other suku in the rakrak based in Ugai, Samalelet. In the Sabagalet version

Amansaigit, of the suku Satoto in Simatalu, moved firstly to Terekan, then to bat sailiu in the Saibi area to the east. His son Amanpakale went from here to bat kinigdog near to the Rereiket. Successive descendants Tokkaileoru, Sabubuket, and Silaguruakek, who gave rise to the suku Sabagalet, remained in this area. With Silaguruakek’s son, a move was made to bat malabaiet, located on Madobag’s west boundary. Subsequent descendants remained in this general area, Sigilik, Amangilakleleu, Amanailamanai, ending with Teremon in the present.

The other uma factions in the suku are related through collateral lines beginning with each of Sigilik’s four sons. Teremon traces the bakkat katsaila for his particular faction to Amanailamanai, although he thinks it probably pre-dates Amanailamanai. The two gongs and gajeuma drums were respectively, made and obtained by Amangilakleleu as with the lelebak, lulag platters, sisip (ladle) and lakuk (bowl). The reasons for the initial move from Simatalu are given in the second of the two major narrative types which hinges upon, as with the first, a situation involving problems with appropriate exchange (paroman):

Amansaigit went off to the leleu (forest) hunting monkey where he came across five seemingly dead pigs. So he wrapped them up in sago leaves ready to be transported back to the uma(5). He took one back to the uma where it was divided up, cooked, and then eaten by everyone there. There was a rainstorm while they were eating. Having eaten, several of them set off to fetch the rest of the pigs back to the uma. However when they arrived at the place where Amansaigit said he had left the pigs, they were gone. The leaves in which they had been wrapped were open. Amansaigit’s relatives accused him of lying about the pigs. He suggested to his accusers that the pigs had been revived by the rain that had fallen earlier and had run off. Everyone returned to the uma where Amansaigit was subject to further ridicule. Finally taking umbrage at all this he gave one of his own pigs to compensate for those that had run off to his relatives for them to eat. After his relatives had eaten, they started on him again, saying that he had fabricated the whole event and had even lied about the pig he had just presented to them, claiming it was in fact one of the pigs that had ‘disappeared’. Not being able to put up with this any longer he went to Terekan. A problem with mangoes here saw him move to Saibi.

Similar to the general tendency in the Satoleoru narratives, each of the Sakaliau versions of rakrak origins differ (remarkably) from Sabagalet, and also Samalelet, as they do from each other to a certain extent. Each of the Sakaliau rimata willing to give me information presented different versions of an origin myth betraying the influence of their close contacts with the Minangkabau living in Muara Siberut. For the first faction, substantive origins begin as usual in Simatalu.

The first ancestor, Amangomak, came from Minangkabau on the Sumatran mainland. His brother Sueppa, a Minangkabau, went out of the area to the east never to be heard of again. In Simatalu Amangomak inaugurated the suku Simatalu. His son, Marisabbuk, went to Simalegi giving rise to the suku Saterekat (read Terekan). A succession of ancestors then went respectively to bat pokai, giving rise to the suku Sapokai, to Saibi, hence the suku Saibi, then to bat majomak, hence the suku Samajomak. Siuggala arrived from majomak at bat matotonan giving rise to the suku Satoto. His son Jalaklakeu the father of the present rimata went to bat kaliau which runs into the Rereiket a little way downstream from Madobag.

In another variant on the mango dispute, whilst also incorporating a version of the second narrative type, we find Marisabbuk and his younger brother Tokoileoru shared a mango tree. It was divided in two by a fence with a hole on each side in order to catch the fruit falling off the tree. The elder brother substituted his small mangoes for the bigger ones which fell on his younger brother’s side. There was a dispute over this resulting in Marisabbuk and his son, Laimik, leaving. Having lived for some time in their new location in the Simalegi area Marisabbuk told Laimik to go to the leleu and bring back some wild pigs he would find there. However he was unable to find any. He returned to the uma accusing his father of lying about the pigs. They went their separate ways, Laimik going to Saibi. Sailet was the ancestor who left Saibi for Majomak after a dispute in which he shot someone with an arrow.

The other rimata’s account of the suku’s origins is closer to the usual pattern. Whilst still portraying a lively, mobile set of ancestors, it gives a better picture of the (ideological) development of the rakrak as a whole. In this version the elder brother came to Simatalu from Sumatra not belonging to any suku. His son Amangomak created the suku Satoto. Along with his son Amanlaimik he went to a series of locations, Terekan, Sepungan, Silogui, finally ending up at Samukob, the moves being precipitated by a variety of problems. His grandson Amantailajet was the next to move along with his father Amanbuttetleleu to bat kinigdog. Here Amantailajet’s son, Simaluplab went his own way creating the suku Taksiriguruk. His grandson went to the Rereiket proper with his son ending up at bat kaliau where he created the suku Sakaliau. His son Silakka is the present rimata of this particular uma faction. Silakka made the present bakkat katsaila when he occupied his new uma just the year before. It included elements from the old bakkat katsaila that presided over his father’s uma. His gong he brought recently from one of the tourist guides who brought it from the mainland. Silakka also made the three lulag, the sisip and lakuk. He does not have any tudukat (drums).

The ultimate origin in Sumatra is the subject of an elaborate narrative in which disputes came about over many issues besides mangoes. On Sumatra there was a father and his sons whose names have since been forgotten. The elder brother was out working on the mone (garden). The younger brother was back at the uma. The elder brother came home tired and went to sleep. His younger brother was working at the uma making a racket waking his elder brother who complained to him: “I’m tired yet when I come home to rest you start working and wake me up. It’s too much.” Then came prayer time. The elder brother asked his younger brother “What are you doing. Why are you prostrated like that (in the Muslim prayer position)?” Their father came along saying, “Oh, that’s our younger brother’s business there. You make the gardens, that’s your work. There was an argument. The elder brother speared his younger brother in the buttocks. Having done this he left. Their father said, “Your elder brother is angry. You have fought and your elder brother has now gone. You are left here.” The elder brother went to Simatalu where he died. The move from Simatalu was due to a fight over mangoes. The move from Terekan was due to an argument over roiget-roiget, a type of bird. Once again it involved a father and his two sons. The father and two brother discovered the two birds in a tree. The father and the younger brother kept a small roiget-roiget for themselves whereas the elder brother and his family had a large one. There was an argument about this leading to the departure of the father, Amanmarisabbu and the younger brother who eventually came to Kinigdog.

Samalelet traces its origins as with the two Sakaliau factions to Amangomak of the suku Satoto in Simatalu but not beyond, certainly not the Sumatran mainland. There is also little in common with either of the Sakaliau versions.
Amangomak had four grandsons. One of them, Amantokkaileoru was the ancestor for the present Sabagalet. One other, Amantailauta, eventually led to Sakaliau. One other, Sibuji, began a line leading to Samalelet. Sibuji himself went to Samukob. His grandson Amantakgoiiri went to bat makromimik. Amantakgoiiri’s son Sijanggat, went to the Ugai area creating the suku Samalelet. His grandson Opumaggok, the (deceased) father of the current rimata, Pius. One more Samalelet branch beginning with Amantakgoiiri is to be found in a dusun near Muara Siberut.

The uma itself is a sapou containing a small bakkat katsaila, a set of lulag platters, a set of tudukat drums, and a lakuk (bowl) with its sisip (ladle), all made by Oppumaggok. Unlike Sakaliau there is no narrative concerning origins prior to Simatalu. Pius, in fact, expressed no interest in origin narratives at all saying that it was important to know which ancestor went where, not why. This helps, he said, in disputes such as the recent one between Sabagalet and Sakaliau over tracts of land in which both claimed rights.


The next most coherent rakrak is constituted by the two uma factions making up Sabeuleleu-Samapopoupou. Consistent with the way most suku describe their rakrak allegiances, they describe themselves, each relative to the other, as simply of the one rakrak, expressed as rakrak mai (“our rakrak”). Sabeuleleu say of Samapopoupou “they are our rakrak”, or “rakrak with us” (parakrak kai). However, only the suku constituting the Satoleoru and Satoto rakrak, respectively, see themselves in some sense as part of a larger entity. Sabeuleleu and Samapopoupou both derive from the one suku Sabelepa. But they do not present themselves as members of “Sabelepa” in the way Samalaiming, unique in this respect, does in relation to Satoleoru.

The rimata of Sabeuleleu traces the suku origins from Simatalu over four generations (redenan).

Sikorokutet was the ancestor who went from Simatalu to bat sigolok in the Matotonan area. His son Sisinguh went from here to bat mapopoupou giving rise to the suku Samapopoupou. His son Sipakpak went on to the Sabeuleleu area west of Madobag’s present position establishing the suku Sabeuleleu. His son Simaebah is the grandfather of the current rimata, Amanpiatkerei.
Amanpiatkerei bought the gong, made the bakkat katsaila, along with the three lulag platters, the lakuk (bowl) and sisip (ladle). The Dutch plate was acquired by Simaebah. One of the gajeuma drums, clearly of great antiquity, is traced back to Simatalu and Sabelepa. The narrative explaining Sikorokutet’s departure from Simatalu is another fairly common form of the familiar mango dispute, but exhibits a different configuration of protagonists.

The trouble here was between Sikorokutet’s wife and his mother. There were two trees belonging respectively to Sikorokutet’s wife and his mother. Sikorokutet’s wife made a fence around the tree she and her husband owned. If a ripe fruit fell within its bounds then nobody could take it except herself. Sikorokutet’s mother had made a fence around her and her husband’s tree to which the same rule applied. A large mango fell from Sikorokutet’s wife’s tree within the bounds of the fence, whereas only a small one fell within the bounds of his mother’s fence. Early in the morning the mother went to have a look. She envied the large mango belonging to her son’s wife, as her own mango was only small. So she swapped the mangoes over. Later on Sikorokutet’s wife went to inspect, noticing a large mango in the area surrounding her mother-in-law’s tree. Yet the fruit still hanging on the tree was small. She came to the conclusion that her big mango had been substituted for one of her mother-in-law’s smaller mangoes. She told her husband and together they asked the mother how she would make good the loss, ie. what tulou they would pay. Her husband, however, thought it better that they simply move away.

The Samapopoupou version predictably differs somewhat from this.

The first ancestor of the suku Sabelepa was Luaklaku who lived at Paipajet in the Simatalu area whose son Bosalok moved to Samukob. From here his son moved to Katurei near Muara Siberut, then to bat sigolok near Matotonan, and then to bat mapopoupou where he created the suku Samapopoupou. The suku continued with his son Silokik the grandfather of the present rimata, Silajuk.
The bakkat katsaila was made by Silokkik, whereas the gong was obtained by Gelemi. The lelebak was brought all the way from the old uma at bat mapopoupou. The three gajeuma were the original ones from Paipajet. Silajuk made the three lulag, the lakuk and the sisip himself. The narrative begins with Gelemi at Katurei, events prior to this either unknown or Silajuk, the incumbent rimata, was not saying, apart from that it all began back in Simatalu. This narrative does not remotely resemble the Sabeuleleu origin narrative. Briefly, Gelemi lived at Katurei where one of his children was taken by a crocodile. Fearing the rest would end up the same way he decided to move far away from the area, that is to bat sigolok.


The couple constituting the Sakairiggi suku which has affiliated with Samapopoupou in the dusun related an origin narrative similar in some respects to Sampopoupou despite different origins.

The first ancestor was Amanpolei in Simatalu of the suku Taksiriabangan. Amanpolei had two sons, Talaklak and Taleggai. Talaklak had two sons, Sialeutet and Amansailiu. They all moved from Simatalu, firstly to Samukob, then to the east coast, then on to bat tiop where Amanpolei died. Following this they all went to Rogdog where Sitalaklak and Sialeutet stayed and where their descendants still dwell (Taksiriabangan). Taleggai and Sipojai went to the Matotonan area creating the suku Saleleggu. Amansailiu went to bat muonwot where Sailiu was born. Sailiu eventually created the suku Sakairigi. The bakkat katsaila and gajeuma drums were made by Sailiu. His father, who made the three lulag, the lakuk and the sisip as well as the three tudukat, also bought the gong.

The main narrative is a familiar mixture of the novel along with some of the usual elements.

At Simatalu Amanpolei and his sons had a problem with some of the other members of Taksiriabangan. They were playing around throwing things at each other whilst bathing in the river. The missiles they were throwing at each other became progressively more substantial to the point where they were throwing sharp projectiles at each other. They decided that this was no longer play and if it continued there was a good chance they would kill each other. So Amanpolei and family went to the Samukob river area. They lived in this area for some time coming to share a mango tree with the inhabitants there. The tree was divided into two halves by a fence. In the usual fashion, in the morning the local people substituted the Taksiriabangan’s large mangoes for the smaller fruit falling on their side. The Taksiriabangan people went and saw what had happened. They decided it was better to move away than to make a fuss. They moved to Saddabak near the coast. Their subsequent move from here was not due to any problem in particular. The split occurring at their subsequent destination, bat rogdog, involved tortoises. The wives of the brothers Sitalaklak and Taleggai went fishing together. They took with them their lailai (a material used for binding) from the uma. When they returned to the uma they saw that some of the lailai (used to tie up canoes) was missing. This led to an argument involving the wives who had, by this time, returned to the uma. Talaklak’s wife said that Taleggai’s wife had taken it and vice-versa. The Taleggai faction took the name Saleleggu even though they did not actually split until after the canoe was completed. The later move to bat muonwot did not involve a problem. Sailiu moved from muonwot to the valley to the west of the Rereiket. After this he moved to bat bukulu. With the enforcement of dusun residence regulations he moved there in 1975.


The remaining suku in Madobag do not regard themselves as belonging in any cogent sense to a particular rakrak. Nevertheless they have a strong sense of origins, and thus identity, based on the same sorts of narrative details we have encountered. Sagorojo-Sakukuret are a close-knit suku yet between at least two of the constituent factions origin details differ considerably. The first version, articulated by a rimata of one of the uma factions, begins with a pair of brothers at Simatalu.

Siegguakek and his younger brother Matalebbak belonged to the suku Sabeleksiri. It was Matalebbak who moved from Simatalu to the popular Samukob area, creating the suku Sagaragarak. Matalebbak’s son Sirajjak along with Siegguakek’s son Sibokulutetet moved from here to bat sigolok in the Rereiket where the suku became Sakukuret. It was his grandson, Sialadu’s son, Sialitok, that made a subsequent move to bat darogod where the suku Sakukuret has much of its land. As with Sabeuleleu the dispute was between the son’s mother and his wife over the one mango tree they shared. The large mangoes falling on the son’s wife’s half were taken by her husband’s mother. She told her husband which led to a split. The move from Samukob involved an unspecified problem with the local people. They kept moving until coming across clear running water at bat golok.

The bakkat katsaila was made by Aladu. The gong and Dutch plate were both obtained by Alitok. My informant, furthermore, claimed that the three gajeuma are shared between this faction and the Sagorojo faction. When required by the other faction they are taken away and used at the time. The rimata also claimed that the lakuk and sisip, although made by himself as were all the remaining items, are kept at the Sagorojo uma. However, it became clear to me that this was not the case—it was more an attempt to promote an image of inter-umasolidarity since each uma faction’s uma has an almost complete set of ancestral heirlooms of each category. It was the only instance of this I came across.

The Sagorojo rimata and the rimata of one of the other Sakukuret factions present a similar yet divergent view of Sakukuret origins. The originating ancestor of the suku Sabeleksiri was Amantelebak. A succession of descendants, Egguakek, Puleleleg, Rajjak, Bokulutetet remained in the Simatalu district. It was Bokulutetet’s son, Aladu, who moved to Samukob, that Sakukuret came into existence. Three ancestors later, it was Gegeakek who entered the Rereiket. He was followed by Porau whose son the present rimata [due to reasons nobody was willing to discuss, no doubt to play down the rift between Sagorojo and Sakukuret] broke away to form his own suku in the days before the dusun system was instituted.

The origin narrative begins with Aladu’s move from Simatalu to the Samukob area. The problem here was between Aladu’s wife and his mother who owned a mango tree each, in this case. The usual problem occurred with Aladu’s wife challenging her mother-in-law, who had taken her large mangoes, to pay compensation for them. But rather than make a fuss Aladu elected to leave the area.
The four remaining suku with which we will be concerned, Samwonwot, Samatobe, Sapojai, and Samalaguret are of interest for a variety of reasons. Despite common origins in the “one rakrak” (sanga rakrak) Samatobe, Sapojai and Samalaguret have very little in common. The members of Samatobe are singularly distinctive in their claim that all ancestral heirlooms originated in Simatalu. As we have seen, some suku have claimed that assorted items, mainly the gajeuma hand-held drums, originate in Simatalu. Heirlooms, on the whole, are constructed as having their origins with an ancestor two to three generations prior to the present. Similarly, Samwonwot conceive their three gajeuma and three tudukat drums to originate in Paipajet, the area in the Simatalu district to which their originating ancestor moved having left Simatalu. Unlike the other suku they claim a new bakkat katsaila was made with every new location their ancestors moved to.

Samwonwot distinguish themselves through their version of the mango narrative which involves the usual elder and younger brothers both owning the one mango tree divided in two with, once again, the elder brother helping himself to the younger brother’s large mangoes. Here the younger brother goes to Paipajet where he has two sons. He looked after two chickens on their behalf. Because the brothers were given to fighting over them, the father killed them. Following this the younger brother left, heading for the Matotonan area. Samalaguret claim their ancestor left Simatalu after fighting with his elder brother over ownership of a particular tree. The dispute was settled when the elder brother cut down the tree and the younger brother went south virtually directly to the Rereiket. Sapojai has the most unusual dispersal narrative, with their ancestor at Simatalu, Kutkutdere, emerging from a chicken egg. Kutkutdere’s younger brother eventually moved to the Sikakap area in north Pagai, whereas Kutkutdere went to the Rereiket via Samukob. The dispute was not over mangoes but came about through an incident where the younger brother killed one of Kutkutdere’s pigs when he was out hunting for wild pigs. In retaliation Kutkutdere killed the younger brother’s dog. They thus went their separate ways.

Taking a general perspective, from one point of view the two narrative dimensions could be argued to present a coherent basis for identity. However, I would argue that what is presented is at best a superficial image of, or better still, an ideological justification for unity (hence ‘ideology of identity’), which conversely functions in effect to differentiate a particular suku from all others by means of the rakrak concept, rather than postulating a unity based on common identity. ‘Rakrak’ is thus better viewed as an intransitive verb rather than a noun which is the way I have used it up until now. A noun is required if we are looking for clan-like higher order entities that are the hallmark of a classical (descent/alliance) kinship approach. However such an approach would appear to be misplaced in this context at the very least. In my view both Schefold and Nooy-Palm have erred in their privileged treatment of the muntogat, making more of it than is warranted through an unreflexive reliance on orthodox kinship theory, and implicitly promoting this to the status of a pan-Mentawaian institution. I furthermore propose that Schefold has treated as a ‘thing’ what was clearly meant to be taken as a process in his interpretation of the sirubeiteteu which he defines as a “non-localized sib” (the uma being defined as a “clan”).

Schefold’s argument is that, based on “half-historical, half-mythical traditions” relating to the settling of different areas of Siberut, a selection of which we have surveyed in the previous pages, the “particular descent groups [uma] … regard themselves as related to certain uma in other valleys and in combination with them constitute a sib” or sirubeiteteu (Schefold 1972-73:47). However, if we break down the concept “sirubeiteteu” we find it is a compound consisting of three words. The first is “si”, a prefix having the same function as “yang” in Indonesian meaning “that which”, or in this specific context “(that which is) the”. The second is “rubei” meaning to “divide”, “split up”, or “separate”. The third is “teteu” which, as a term of reference and address, refers to anyone in one’s parents’ parents’ generation (although anyone who has lost a child may be also addressed as “teteu” by his/her children). As a generic term it simply means “ancestor”. The compound “sirubeiteteu” could be translated, then, as “the separation of/the division of the ancestors”. Using orthodox kinship theory we could, indeed, consider sirubeiteteu to refer to a ‘thing’ such as a ‘clan’ or a ‘sib’, the elementary parts of which are constituted by various suku even if the links between these constituent suku is tenuously sustained by a ‘common’ mythical-historical tradition. But this designation would appear to be a description of a process not of a ‘thing’. In fairness to Schefold it should be noted that since his resort to it in the one article, he has never again used the concept. However, in his later writings the usage “clan”, which formerly applied to the uma, has come to be used in place of it. “Clan” now refers to the 25 un-named “patrilineal clans” having their origins in Simatalu into which the Siberut population as a whole is divided, whose unity is based on “sharing a common descent myth” (Schefold 1986:73).

My own initial enquiries about sirubeiteteu were met with corrections from informants who explained that the word describes a “journey” (puenungan) and not an ippak (“group”). The concept actually used to encapsulate this depiction of origins is kabaranan (occasionally kabaraijat), the noun form of the verb bara meaning “(originate, emerge) from”. So my initial enquiries phrased in terms of “Ponia sirubeiteteu mui?” (What is your sirubeiteteu?) were quickly replaced with “Ponia kabaranan mui?” (What are [the details of] your origins?”)

An analogous interpretation could be placed on the rakrak concept without much difficulty. But this would also distort it since the argument against sirubeiteteu can also be brought to bear against it. People, as we have seen, describe a relationship between their suku and another through the expression “rakrak mai”. One suku declared itself to be of “one rakrak” (sanga rakrak) with the other suku to which it was considered related. But they also frequently use the term “parakrak kai” (“we are close”), or occasionally “pasaraina kai” (“we are relatives”). They are, then, better thought of as being in a relationship of parakrak with another suku; it is misleading to consider them part of a spurious overarching rakrak entity. The expression is best understood as a deployment of a strategy in the present moment, which effects a temporary ideological reduction of distance between the user’s suku and the suku with whom they are ‘parakrak’ through the deployment of the term. This can be discursively grounded by reference to a common origin in a person who was identified with a particular place, bat sigolok, or bat kinigdog and so forth.

But it comes to pass in other contexts, however, that the suku described as rakrak mai or parakrak are just as easily designated as sirimanua, Other, strangers, which is in fact their de jure status in the cut and thrust of daily life. Granted they often have similar ancestors, a similar kabaranan and even similar origin narratives. But many, if not most, of the ancestors are different. Suku defined as mutually parakrak, have different origins in the last instance. It is this that is reproduced and reinforced, both within the narratives articulated in their ideology of identity and in the quotidian reality of the fundamental distinction between “our suku” and “sirimanua”.

Despite greater or lesser degrees of convergence between suku in various narrative details presented as part of the ‘ideology of identity’, suku represented as parakrak have very little in common, especially with regard to those fundamentally important elements of suku identity, the ancestral heirlooms. Indeed my ‘ideology of identity’ gloss could well be termed an ‘ideology of differentiation’, for, in effect, this is the ideology’s function: there is a discursive differentiation of each suku from every other suku, even those parakrak to each other complemented by the dat-to-day affirmation of suku exclusiveness. In other words, every suku marks itself off from every other, defining itself as unambiguously separate and distinct from every other. The narratives, then, concern suku origins not rakrak origins, an impossibility anyway, since rakrak actually refers to a relationship and not to a ‘thing’.

In the final article (article 8 ) we come to appreciate the importance of this differentiation in practice within the context of the puliaijat as it is produced through the use of the heirlooms, in which the meaning and function of the uma in all this becomes clear. Here exclusivity of identity is deployed against the forces that constantly seek to undermine that exclusivity, a deployment which serves to concurrently “reproduce” or affirm that distinctive identity through thwarting those forces. An assertion and reaffirmation of identity is the method by which the forces inimical to the “life” of the members of a suku are turned away—the living integrity of the suku is maintained. However in order to fully appreciate this, we firstly need to look a little more deeply into these forces of “life” and death that are at the foundation of the cosmos. This forms the topic of the next article.


(1) I have Jim Fox to thank for pointing this out to me.

(2) The narratives themselves (indented) are paraphrases of the exegesis of the rimata of the suku or particular uma faction involved.

(3) Disputes over mangoes constitute the major reason presented for a parting of the ways, I surmise, since ownership of the fruit in daily life is ambiguous, unlike the scenarios presented in the narratives. Fruit which has fallen from a tree, no matter who owns it may be taken away by anyone. Yet the tree’s owner would demand compensation (tulou) should he find out who has helped themselves to fruit from his tree. The usage ‘mango’ (sipeu) in reality subsumes a wide variety of fruits and functions in these narratives as a vehicle around which issues of (appropriate) exchange (paroman) can be expressed.

(4) Male term of address to female of same generation.

(5) These are arranged so a pig can be carried by one person in rucksack fashion.

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