Thursday, 31 December 2009

Behind the Mentawai islands

In the article below, titled Blind Zeal, we learn about the imminent rise of surfing in the Mentawai Islands, Indonesia. Once isolated and unknown amongst mainstream surfers and tourists, this string of islands off the coast of Sumatra has been consumed by surfers and surfing, "the best thing that ever happened to the Mentawai Islands, Indonesia" according to

Shir Raitses
Working Title: Blind Zeal
Katherine Moriwaki & Louisa Campbell
September 28, 2009

(working title)

Blind Zeal is a 2D linear narrative animation that uses satire to express the effects of tourism on the traditions of an indigenous community in the Mentawai Islands, Indonesia.
Blind Zeal currently explores 5 different domains; Surf Culture, Mentawai Tradition, Surf Tourism, Animation, and Satire.

Surf Culture includes the people, language, fashion and life surrounding the sport of surfing. Surfing imagery within the media has greatly increased the spread of surf culture around the globe and thereby influencing the popularity of the sport.
The Mentawai Islands are considered to be the worlds richest surf zone and have been the stage for the most rapid growth to date of surfing tourism to a previously unvisited area. Between 1994 and 2000 the islands went from having no surfing tourism industry and barely any independent visitation, to supporting the world’s largest surf charter fleet of over 30 live aboard yachts, one foreign/local joint venture surf camp and several surfer-targeted village home-stays. The Mentawais have generated the most media coverage of any surfing destination in recent times, have witnessed three failed attempts by government to introduce controlling legislation inspired the creation of the world’s first surfer initiated humanitarian aid organization (Surf Aid International) and have hosted the world’s riches surfing competition (The Op Pro). The region is currently experiencing and acceleration of land-based surf resort construction. Traditionally, Mentawaians lived in small settlements (uma) along the fringes of forest watercourses. Based around a staple diet of sago, Mentawaians made a living hunting and gathering, domesticating chickens and pigs and through the shifting cultivation of perennial crops. Minangkabau traders have also been exchanging ironware, cloth, tobacco, and glass beads for natural Mentawaian resources including turtle shells, cipra, rattan and resins, for thousands of years. The traditional spirituality of Siberut Mentawai was based on pantheistic beliefs, allowing all things a soul including plants, rivers and natural forces. Daily life involved a balance between the world of the living and the supernatural realm inhabited by the ancestors. Village medicine men or shaman are responsible for maintaining the balance between these worlds and may be called upon to perform extensive rituals in times of death and sickness. Whilst good relations were kept between uma in the same catchment area, head-hunting was common up until the early 20th century when the Dutch colonial administration established a military outpost.

Surf Tourism is the travel and temporary stay undertaken by a surfer, involving at least 1 night stay away from home, which is undertaken with the primary expectation of surfing waves. With the increase in crowded spots in a surfer’s local break, surfers continue to adventure to new locations in search of their perfect paradise location with unbelievable surf, tropical weather and cheap living.
The form of technology I wish to use in executing this story is through a short 2D Animation using linear narrative. I plan to illustrate my characters and scenes using Photoshop and illustrator and then use after effects as my primary animation program.
Satire is the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule in exposing, denouncing or deriding vice, folley, etc. Satire is a good way of expressing a serious issue without coming across as a preacher. In a light hearted manner I hope to accomplish what South Park and The Simpsons do with political and informational episodes.
The precedents I have chosen are works created by artists and academics that have all covered the topic of surf tourism and sustainable tourism within the Mentawai islands.

The Golden Pig is a documentary about the island of Nias, created by Australian film director Joel Peterson. The film showcases the dangers of modern surf colonialism, focusing on the impacts it can have on native populations. The Golden Pig highlights incredible early footage from surf explorer Kevin Peterson along with "first contact" interviews with locals of Nias. There is no question that surfing had a profound influence on this community. I plan to interpret some of the stories from this film into my own work.
The Gods Must Be Crazy, a film by Jaime Uys, that shows how a small tribe of bushmen who rely solely on their natural environment, “what the gods have given them” to live. One day a new object they believe has been given to them by the “gods” appears and the whole community becomes enamored by it and all of a sudden “needs” it. The group begins experiencing jealousy and greed, emotions they never felt before. They surmise that this object is evil and they must travel to the end of the earth to get rid of it. I have chosen this film as precedence because of its ability to show how such a small addition into an indigenous community has been to create such negative effects and although having the object was helpful, its overall impact was not worth the benefits of having it. Similarly with Surf Tourism, although the benefits are apparent, they have not proven to be worth the destruction of tradition it has created. However, this small community of Bushmen were able to stop the corruption of their family by disposing of this object, the Mentawai people have not been able to stop the influx of tourists arriving to their islands.
In his thesis “Managing the Mentawai, And Examination of Sustainable Tourism and the Surfing Tourism Industry in the Mentawai Archipelago, Indonesia” for his PHD, Jess Ponting explores the social construction of contemporary surfing tourist space involving an analysis of the development of surfing tourism. “Nirvanic imagery has been found to be extremely effective marketing tool for an astonishing range of consumer goods and services (including tourism products) based upon its association with freedom from the constraints of contemporary society and the implied access to a perfect life through consumption. The surfing industry has unapologetically become a component of the hegemony of global capitalism (Buckley, 2003; Hammerscmidt, 2004). As a result of the growing success of the global surfing industry and the popularization of surfing as a recreational activity, growing numbers of remote communities in less developed regions find themselves as unwilling hosts to a surfing tourism industry from which they are, sometimes pro-actively, marginalized. Given the massive changes that surfing tourism is bringing to remote destination communities in less developed regions of the world (c.f. T. Baker, 2006, 2007; Barilotti, 2002; Lovett, 1998, 2005) the nature of the surfing tourist space created through the marketing discourse of the surf industry and its interactions with local spaces.
South Park and The Simpsons are American animated sitcoms that have become infamous for their crude, surreal, satirical, and dark humor that lampoons American culture, society, television and many aspects of the human condition. Their interpretations of real events are both educational and comedic and are the tone I wish to use to express my animation.

What do you think? Are the Mentawai Islands and people blessed to have surfers, corporate run boats and resorts, competitions, the global surf media, aid organisations etc..? There are many stories of injustice and corruption that have fuelled the stakes to own and occupy this new surf destination, I will attempt, in time, to explore this further, and hopefully some of you reading will have insight or contributions that are useful.

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