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Do you know that Malaysia has indigenous community who first arrived to this land 8000 years ago?
I bet you don’t, as I myself only found out recently when I visited Orang Asli (Indigenous People in Malay) Museum. Its location tucked away along KL-Gombak trunk road towards Bentong, Pahang (appx 9Km from exit to Karak Highway from Kuala Lumpur). Do not let the simple design and small size of this museum deceive you as this place stores plenty of information and displays about the tribal community which will impress. Some of the details of the people I will share with you below plus plenty of pictures 🙂
There are 3 main tribes of indigenous people of Malaysia, the Negrito, Senoi and Proto-Malay. The Negrito tribe is the first to arrive in the peninsula 8000 years ago with 2 different theory of how they came about. One theory suggest they traveled from Indo-China (now somewhere Cambodia/Myanmar) and the other theory says they started their journey in South Africa and ended up here. True to their African origin, Negrito ethnic have frizzy hair, dark skin and broad nose. Senoi, the largest group, came later about 500 years ago from Indo-China and they inhabit some parts of Titiwangsa Range (mostly can be spotted in and around Cameron and Genting Highlands). Proto-Malay who resembles modern Malay with taller, fairer and straight hair physical attributes was said to have originated from Yunan, China. Most of them migrated from neighboring Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Riau-Lingga and made Southern part of Peninsular mainly state of Johor and Singapore as their home (there’s a place in Singapore named after indigenous tribe ‘Seletar’)
The indigenous tribe live as hunters and gatherers but nowadays more and more are into farming activities. An interesting practice of Orang Asli people is that they do not eat animals that they rare themselves. These animals such as goats, chicken and pigs are purely for financial resources (buy and sell) or exchange with other animals from outsider.
Main mode of transportation is the prahu (small dug out canoe) and rakit (raft made out of a collection of bamboo bound together using rattan). This enable the community to visit each other and transport goods. The Proto-Malay who lived along the coastal used prahu for fishing in the sea.
As most of other tribe people around the world, the ethnic Negrito, Senoi and Proto-Malay adorned themselves with colored sap from forest tress. They also pierce their ears (also during wedding for the bride and groom) and place colorful flowers and leaves on the hair for the womenfolk.
The home for each ethnic tribe is depended on their taboo beliefs, type of daily activities and safety concerns. As such, Negrito lived in the simplest form of house made out of a collection of leaves and bamboo poles placed together in a form of shelter. The Senoi is more organized with homes made higher above the ground to avoid wild animal disturbances, woven leaves for the wall and sometimes live in long houses (rumah panjang) with communal area for social activities. The Proto-Malay lived in houses similar to Malay houses (still can be found in areas far from Klang Valley)
There are many more important details can be found about Malaysia’s first occupants like their beliefs (taboos), healing rituals, wedding customs, death and Arts and crafts which are very interesting and intriguing. Now I am more aware of the beginning of my country and appreciates that these community still exist till to this very day.