Indonesia. The delicate art of Sumatran tiger shamans

This Sunday afternoon, Sarwani Sabi and his team have just set up a vegetable trap for tigers in the village of Simpang, in the district of Eastern Bakongan, in the south of Aceh. For the past week, an adult tiger has been constantly entering the plantations of the inhabitants. Sarwani came to catch the beast to take him back to the forest.

With the last strength of his increasingly aging body, Sarwani is always there when the “king of the jungle” enters the cultivation areas or the villages. I ask the tiger to return quietly to the forest. He knows human language. With the permission of Allah, he does what I ask of him.” says Sarwani.

It was from his father that Sarwani learned, when he was 8 years old, the art of pacifying tigers. His love for these felines pushed him to leave the school benches and choose the truancy of the tiger shamans. At first, Sabi, his father, forbade him to walk in his footsteps, but in view of his unwavering determination, the master eventually passed on the knowledge to his son.

From 1945 to 1960, Sarwani followed his father in mediating conflicts between tigers and humans. He was not only his son, but also his disciple and assiduous assistant. When his father died in 1960, Sarwani was only 23 years old. He in turn becomes a tiger shaman. Since then, he has lost count of the beasts he has taken back to the forest.

When we destroy the forest

He doesn’t do this job to make money, but to help people. Day to day, he earns his living as a farmer. “My father always told me, like an oath, that being a tiger shaman is a priesthood, it’s serving others without ever asking for anything in return”, explains Sarwani.

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Source of the article

Compas (Jakarta)

Founded in 1965 to oppose the communist press, written in Indonesian, “Boussole” is the largest national daily, the reference, with in-depth investigations on social events and reports on the “outer” islands, Indonesian but often forgotten by the center, Java.

During the first years, many saw in this title the contraction of “Komando Pastor” (“commando of the priests”). During the thirty-two years of the new order, the regime of General Suharto, “Kompas” rarely took risks in the processing of his information, under the surveillance of power. However, it regularly opened its pages to the country’s intellectuals, becoming a platform where courageous ideas were expressed, which it still is.

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Indonesia. The delicate art of Sumatran tiger shamans

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