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mercredi 15 décembre 2010

Mah Meri Orang Asli Indigenous Peoples Malaysia

They are one of the 18 groups of Indigenous peoples who inhabited Malaysia before Malays, Chinese and Indians arrived on these shores. Their linguistic connection to Austronesian Languages and MonKhmer languages show their ancient connections to others in the greater Asian Mainland.
Just outside the city of Klang in Malaysia, there is a large island, Carey Island which is home to Mah Meri Orang Asli, one of the many branches of the Senoi group of people. Their language is different from the major groups of Senoi or Temiar. The physiognomy reveals a long admixture with the invading races, such as the Malay. But they have maintained their distinct cultural identity and religious beliefs. Like everywhere else when outsiders come into the territory of the indigenous people, there is a pressure to change religion and Malays are no better than the White colonialists, forcing Islam on to the Orang Asli.
Yet, most of them maintain their ancient belief system and would openly tell you that their moslem names were given to them at school and their real names by which they are known are what they are proud of.
The government is trying to integrate Orang Asli into the mainstream Malay life and thus the Malaysian life. Their villages are tidy and when you meet them there are signs of material wealth among them. The older men are fisherman and strong. there are about 2000 mah meri.
They are good wood carvers. Despite the loss of the habitat of their favourite wood for the ubiquitous palm trees, they manage to create intricate works of art, depicting various members of their spirit pantheon.
I was lucky to meet Samri, an internationally known wood sculptor and his father, Jaukin who is a fisherman. They were very generous to answer our questions and i preferred them to talk and they told a lot of stories about the various animals and how many of the spirits were born in the ancient times.
Samri had been to UNESCO in Paris where he represented Malaysia for an exhibition and recently he went to Shanghai to represent Malaysia at the Expo 2010. Before leaving he said, in the typical fashion of the indigenous people, he would ask the ancestors to protect him and beg spirits to follow him and bring him home safe.
The couple of hours we spent with Samri and his father left us feeling richer and more connected to this land called Malaysia. Having worked all my professional life with Indigenous peoples, I can see the universal cries among them and the ethos of their living, their concern for animals and plants and true to their name, People of the Forest, their concern for the trees and the forest.
I happened to have a replica of Eiffel Tower on my person and Samri was delighted to have it as his own souvenir from his visit to Paris had been lost. For the sake of Cuba, I also gave him a 3 peso coin with the visage of Che and told him a little about this great Cuban who cared for Indigenous people as well of another continent. Samri is universal as many indigenous people are when it comes to the indigenous peoples elsewhere, he had no doubt relating to the North American Indians, to whom he may be distantly related. I would like to hear them speak, perhaps they speak like us, he wistfully added.
here is a story which appeared in the local newspaper about Samri.

Yet another gift to me, from this country, Malaysia, a country which I have come to love..
In one week, I had met an ancient inhabitant of this land, spent time with President of the International Society dedicated to the greatest Admiral, Zheng He who had visited Malacca on his many visits in the 15th centuries and wanted to spread harmony among various peoples.. A small but beneficial meeting was with the Spiderman of Taiping , the local expert on Insects of Malaysia who has a near full collection of Butterflies of peninsular malaysia...
If you look hard enough, you will find interesting people all over the world.. but you have to learn to look without judgement...