Customs still vital part of life for orang asli
THE orang asli population in peninsular Malaysia constitutes slightly more than 0.6% of the population, or 178,197 people, in a 2015 document at the Rural and Regional Development Ministry.
Department of Orang Asli Development (Jakoa) officially lists 18 communities, divided among the Negrito, Senoi and Proto-Malay groups.
Selangor has 74 orang asli villages, with 5,073 Senoi people comprising the Mah Meri population and 12,512 Proto-Malays from the Temuan tribe.
The Temuan language is closely related to Bahasa Malaysia, although one can find local differences between one Temuan community and the next.
In Bukit Dugang, near Putrajaya, villager Nuar anak Pah recalled the lay of the land before development.
“It was forest all the way from Jeram Hilir. No one would leave the village unless there was a big event such as a wedding or a funeral, or when we had to buy salt and other basic necessities,” he said.
And even though he and other villagers have jobs, the forest serves as a “filter” to get away from the pressures of modern life and connect with their roots.
Living along Selangor’s coastline towards the Banting area, the Mah Meri are well-known for their elaborate masks and wood carvings on Carey island. The Mah Meri are a part of the Senoi ethnic group.
One notable event in the Mah Meri calender is their “Ari Muyang” or Ancestors’ Day, a wellknown three-day event especially celebrated on Pulau Carey.
The event is celebrated with food and incense offerings to the ancestors, while a wakil moyang, or medium, also communicates between the living supplicants and the ancestors in the world after.
Raman Kasim, 60, said visitors usually came asking for help and guidance on various issues during the festival.