Livelihood Of The Orang Asli Temiar Kampung Landap, Perak
Orang Asli which literally means “original people” or the “aboriginal people” in Malay. The official term used for the indigenous people of Peninsular Malaysia.
Orang Asli Temiar (Temiar) who are a Senoic group indigenous to the state of Perak. It is one of the largest of the 18 Orang Asli tribes of Peninsular Malaysia.
HUNTERS AND GATHERERS
The Orang Asli’s forefathers were nomads; hunters and gatherers in the rainforest and used to live in caves or rock shelter. They live in small tribes and each tribe has its own chief. Skilled as hunters, they hunt for food such as birds or little monkeys by blowing their bamboo blowpipes. This is deadly accurate and dangerous.
SUNGAI KORBU, PERAK
Sungai Korbu also was known as Sungai Kerbau starts as a stream from Mount Korbu. This pristine stream runs through idyllic Kampong Landap. The crystal clear waters are cool even in the hot afternoons. In the early mornings, the water is icy cold. Temiar children and villagers are seen bathing and playing in the river three times a day.
The Temiar tribe was relocated from the fringes of the rainforest to their settlement by Sungai Korbu. The new location of the village helped the Temiar receive government aid easily. That was thirty-five years ago. The general Malaysian’s knowledge of our Orang Asli is poor. To consider Orang Asli as being ‘uncivilized’ is a misconception that needs to be dispelled.
Traditionally animist, the inhabitants of Kampung Landap have been urbanized and have all embraced Islam and are practicing Muslims. Some speak fluent Bahasa Malaysia to visitors and converse in Temiar with each other.
He ambles around aided by his “snakehead” walking stick and gamely sat in, listening to his brother Nordin b Abdullah, 65 stories tell. Pak Nordin is fluent in Malay and speaks of his tribe proudly.
The writer, a Penangite was surprised when Pak Nordin could name some of the Chinese tribes in Malaysia. He cited the “Hokkien”, “Cantonese” and “Teochew” to her amusement.
Pak Nordin said they are grateful that the government built houses for them; however, they still feel more at ease living in the jungle where they belong.
“In the jungle, I know exactly where I am and know what to do, but if I go to the city I will have trouble crossing the road and be startled by the many cars traveling very fast’” said Pak Nordin with a chuckle. “We belong here, this is our home.”
The writer and her friends were invited by Tuan Speaker. The anthropologist, Tuan Speaker has been living in the midst of the Temiar for 9 years. Tuan Speaker and his KL volunteers have taught the Orang Asli about health, nutrition and the importance of hygiene. The women folk now go for postnatal checks in the government clinics and infant mortality has dropped.
The Temiar have for generations survived on a diet of tubers, especially tapioca and sweet potatoes and were mostly undernourished. Presently they are eating a more balanced meal with weekly groceries donations from volunteers.
For long-term sustenance, Tuan Speaker taught fish rearing and duck farming. These project will be an additional source of protein and income to the Temiar.
Economically villagers are poor and earn little income from the sales of rattan collecting and damar which is a resin obtained from the dipterocarp trees. They also work in the nearby estates.
Considered materially and technologically behind compared to the average Malaysian living in the city, socially the Temiar are more civilized and gracious than most of us.
We were invited by Tuan Speaker to join in the two-day celebration. It started with the “khatan” or circumcision for 30 Temiar boys recently.
On the day of the ceremony, five of the boys ran away to hide. However, the team was surprised when two adult male turned up at the eleventh hour for their circumcision.
ADAT NIKAH (MARRIAGE CEREMONY)
An “adat nikah” or solemnization of marriage ceremony was held for nine couples. This followed closely of a customary Malay wedding tradition. There was a mixed couple in the group. The wedding ceremony was held in a huge “Balai” hut.
The provisions we donated were all cooked in the wedding banquet. It was done, gotong-royong style with the young women and men taking the helm at the stove. The lunch was prepared for the whole village. It was indeed a wonderful “kenduri khawin” wedding party that spell joyous celebration by the entire community of people.
COMMUNITY LIVING IN THE VILLAGE
The Temiar are a happy, contented people who have lived this way of life for generations. They survive by living communally and contributing all they have for the good of the community. Their sense of freedom and oneness with nature is astounding,
Slowly our imposed values may come into their lives. Pak Nordin speaks of youngsters with their handphones and listening to music as all teenagers do universally. It is inevitable that the day will come when they lose their freedom and become civilized like us.
Photos by Mike Chee, Richard Ong, and friends
Read about Artist Shaq Koyok, who is from the Temuan tribe, an Orang Asli community from Negeri Sembilan in the story “Culture Attack” Art Exhibition.
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