• © R. Schefold
  • © R. Schefold

Mentawai from Indonesia



21 10 '17 > 27 05 '18

More info


Museum Volkenkunde
Steenstraat 1
N-2312 BS Leiden

Opening hours

Tuesday - Sunday 
10:00 - 17:00 

Closed on Monday
(except during school holidays), 
25 12 '17
01 01 '18 
& 27 04 '18


14,00 €


Groups (min. 10 people)
10% discount

Youth 4-18 years
6,00 €

Children -4 years
Students UL-HL
Free entrance

Guided tours

On demand
T +31 (0)88 004 28 00


Museum Volkenkunde

This exhibition was possible thanks to the support of Bankgiro Loterij

Thanks to a recent donation by Reimar Schefold, Mentawai specialist and former professor of anthropology at the University of Leiden, the Museum Volkenkunde has an exceptional collection of Mentawai artworks and everyday objects. Leiden Asia Year and EUROPALIA INDONESIA provide the perfect occasion to shine a spotlight on this people. From unique objects and the hidden stories they contain, you will learn about ancient Mentawai traditions and contemporary culture.  

For many centuries, the Mentawai lived in the archipelago of the same name, roughly 100 kilometres off the west coast of Sumatra. The first reference to inhabitants of these islands was by sailors of the Dutch East India Company in the 17th century. The ancient religious beliefs of the Mentawai, still practiced today, define to a large extent their thoughts and actions and imbue their material culture.

The Mentawai believe in an animated world. Not only humans and animals, but also plants and objects – everything, in short – has a soul. Therefore, everything must be treated with the same respect. This means living consciously, in harmony with nature, and not consuming more than is necessary. This ancient way of looking at the world is gaining more and more new adherents in the 21st century and elsewhere in the world.

The exhibition explores to what extent Mentawai traditions have retained their values in modern times, without having left their island shores. How much do the inhabitants of the archipelago want to be part of the globalised world? And are they able to combine their ancient traditions with life in the 21st century?

In September will be published the book ‘Toys for the Souls. Life and Art on the Mentawai Islands’ by Reimar Schefold (Primedia sprl (BCE : 0892.636.164), Belgium).