Tourists from China taking photos with the women from the Mah Meri tribe.
THE history and cultures of two orang asli tribes in Malaysia were showcased over two days at the Orang Asli Craft Museum.
Organised by the Museums Department, the exhibition was an effort to raise awareness of the unique cultures, namely the Semai tribe from Pahang and the Mah Meri tribe from Pulau Carey.
In line with the theme “Semarak Muzium” (lively museum), there were many interactive displays and activities lined up for visitors such as cooking demonstrations and cultural performances.
One of the displays showed how traditional orang asli clothes were made from tree bark.
Tree bark is stripped and pounded on a hard surface to soften its texture and make it flexible. It is then left to dry before being used as hats, skirts and capes, among other things.
Visitors were also given the opportunity to try out the sumpit (blow-pipe) by shooting at balloons, which turned out to be a popular activity.
Members of the orang asli tribes performed several traditional dances as part of the showcase.
The Mah Meri tribe, also known as the “jungle people”, was distinguished by the hand-carved wooden masks they usd in the dance performances. The mask is worn to portray the ancestors whom they worship.
One of the Mah Meri tribe dancers, Jali Adam, 47, explained that the dance was the tribe’s significant feature.
“It is something we do on special occassions for special guests. But traditionally, the dance is performed during the harvest and fruit seasons as a sign of gratitude to our ancestors and to ask them for blessings and an abundance in produce.
“One of the dances is performed during our Hari Moyang festival to worship our ancestors,” he said.
During Hari Moyang, villagers would gather around an ornament, known as Spirit House, decorated with flowers, incense and food, to worship the ancestors.
The ornament is later set on fire and the tribe believes the smoke and scent would summon the spirits to accept the gifts offered.
For details on exhibitions, visit www.muziumnegara.gov.my