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

 
 

After studying in Basel and Munich, he obtained his PhD at the University of Basel with a dissertation on the art styles of the Sepik District of New Guinea (1965).  Over the course of his career, he conducted several extensive periods of fieldwork in Indonesia, primarily among the Sakuddei of Siberut, Mentawai Islands. He has a long-standing interest in material culture, art, and vernacular architecture, particularly that of Southeast Asia, which has been the subject of his many scholarly publications and museum exhibitions.  He has made two television documentaries on Mentawai, that have been aired in Europe and the U.S.  He is a former chairman, and an honorary member of the royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV).

 

This beautiful figure of a bird carved by my friend, Amanpabubukerei is especially precious to me. Here, he has given the common pose of a bird in flight a quite novel and perfect form. As a friend's farewell gift, his 'toy' is standing, vigilant, expectant and alive -- as if to ensure that our moment of parting, and indeed future events, are under his watchful eyes and caring account.

 

"What is the meaning of these wooden birds?"

"They are toys for our souls.  When we call our souls, which perhaps have gone far away, they come and see the beautiful birds and enter the house.

We must always behave so that our souls like to stay with us.  If we don't take care of our souls and don't make feasts, they fly away to the ancestors and we die."

Amandumatkerei, Sakuddei 1974

 

Reimar Schefold has written and edited numerous books on tribal traditions in Indonesia, including Ein bedrohtes Paradies; Meine Jahre bei den Sakuddei in Indonesien (Berlin 2017), Aku dan Orang Sakkudei (Jakarta, 2014), Eyes of the Ancestors (Dallas, 2013), Indonesian Houses (two volumes, Leiden, 2003 and 2008), Treasure Hunting? Collectors and Collections of Indonesian Artefacts (Leiden 2002), Mainan bagi roh (Jakatra, 1991), Lia, Das grosse Ritual auf den Mentawai-Inseln (Berlin, 1988), and Banua Toraja. Changing Patterns in Architecture and Symbolism among the Sa'dan Toraja, Sulawesi, Indonesia (Amsterdam, 1988).