Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Swamp Aborigines of Malaysia

The magnificent-looking Chief of the Swamp Aborigines
Welcome sign to the Village: "Charcoal Junction Village"
The jetty at our yard bordering the swamp

Big Stork standing on roof of house

Just caught: A Civet Cat

Mangrove wood for making charcoal

Aborigine children eating their meal

An Aborigine child

Bitter Gourd stuffed with fish and shrimp meat

Making charcoal from Mangrove wood

Mother and Baby
Idyllic vilage scene
Wild jungle flower
Wild Boar Soup with White Peppercorns
Wild Boar Trotters in Black Vinegar and Soya Sauce
Woman collecting mangrove wood
The oil rig yard we are constructing in Johor, Malayisa is near a mangrove swamp. The swamp is well-preserved and teeming with wild-life. A community of Aborigines belonging to the Seletar tribe of sea aborigines live in a village called Kampong Simpang Arang or Charcoal Junction Village. The tribe earn their living by making charcoal from the hard Bakau or mangrove tree wood, and by catching Crabs, Fish Shrimp and Shellfish for sale in the local market. Though touched by civilization, they retain some of their natural instincts and prefer not to work in the factories and shops downtown. Still, signs of modernization are everywhere and some of the village houses have TV as well as
motor-cycles and cars. In many cases, the richer aborigines are those who have inter-married with the local Malays and Chinese. The aborigines are called Orang Asli which translates into "the original people", and under the Malaysian government's Bumiputra ["sons of the soil"] policy, the aborigines together with the Malays enjoy certain privileges and financial and land benefits . This led to some pecuniary Chinese who do not have Bumiputra privileges to marry aboriginal women! And in the village you see the beautiful children of these odd marriages. The jungle also teems with Wild Boar, Civet Cats, King Cobras, Crocodiles and Monkeys which are a source of protein for the aborigines on the occasions that they are able to catch and eat them. In our shipyard, we had a good lunch with Bitter Gourd and Wild Boar bought from the aborigines.
The Mangrove tree or Bakau is a very hard wood and is used in the making of charcoal and the construction of houses. In fact Bakau is so hard that it is used as piles when piling is required in laying foundations for construction.
Though the pictures here may look idyllic, the other side of the story is the filth, flies and mosquitoes that one has to cope with on a visit to the village. The meal of fish curry and rice gruel that the children are eating in the picture above, would make your stomach churn what with all the flies flying about.

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