Eggi's Village

Life in a Modern Matriarchy

Peggy Reeves Sanday is an anthropologist, author and academic. "Eggi's Village: Life Among the Minangkabau of Indonesia" is a collection of photographs from a West Sumatra village, taken over a fifteen-year period. Below, Ms. Reeves describes her project, "Eggi's Village." Visit the online exhibition, published by the University of Pennsylvania's Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology, here.

My goal in this photo essay is to convey, through the eyes of a cultural anthropologist, daily life as I experienced it living in one Minangkabau village where I developed a relationship of unusual intimacy with one family representing four generations of women. These women chose to name one of their children after me. Born on my birthday, she was named, "Peggi Sandi," a mispelled version of my name. Everyone calls her by her nickname, Eggi--hence the title of the exhibition.

Throughout my anthropological career I have been interested in the meaning of "matriarchy." From the theoretical point of view, I was curious about the nature of social structure, gender meanings, aesthetics and worldview in so-called matriarchal societies. Questions about the quality of interpersonal interaction also intrigued me. Would there be more or less interpersonal violence, more or less domestic and child abuse in a matriarchal society? There is also the question of "female rule" that accompanies discussions of matriarchies. How would political power be expressed where women ruled? Would women be more comfortable and social life more peaceable? Where do men fit in such a society, and how do the sexes interact?

The exhibition attempts to answer my original questions through photographs. To help me in my research I took pictures of just about everything I saw so that I could remember the scenes of daily life and ask questions about things that I didn't understand. I also took pictures of Eggi from the time she was born so that I could follow her lifecycle. The result is a unique photographic record of a young girl growing up in a matrilineal society. To Eggi's experiences I have added the most important life cycle events facing men and women in her village. With this record it is possible to elucidate what the Minangkabau mean when they refer to their social system as a "matriarchate."

Eggi's Village: Life Among the Minangkabau of Indonesia


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