Come Aug 9, indigenous communities all over the world will celebrate The International Day Of The World’s Indigenous People. The annual event is aimed at promoting and protecting the rights of the world’s indigenous population, which is fast losing its identity as urbanisation seeps in.
In Malaysia, the Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (JOAS), in collaboration with Tourism Selangor, is organising a two-day event to showcase various cultures and traditions of the people in line with this year’s theme “Back To Roots”, and is in conjunction with the worldwide Land Rights Now campaign that is set to protect and increase global recognition over indigenous peoples’ land rights.
The two-day Selangor International Indigenous Art Festival 2016 tomorrow and on Aug 7 will feature performances by various indigenous tribes, exhibitions, traditional games and other interesting activities. It’s a great opportunity to get to know the orang asal of Malaysia and join them in celebrating their handicraft, traditional foods, sports, music and dance.
Joining the local groups at Taman Botani Negara Shah Alam, Selangor, this year are indigenous representatives from Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam.
Every community has its own set of traditional games and sports, many of which are still being played, especially among the tribes living in remote areas.
We visited the aboriginal Malay sub-group Temuan in Kampung Orang Asli Bukit Damar, Dengkil, Selangor, recently and these people were more than happy to showcase a few of their games, which will be demonstrated at the upcoming event. Since the village is located on the fringes of the city, the games have also been modified with modern elements thrown in.
Community elder Ayon, 51, who has been residing in the village since 1988, walked us through the basics of these five games.
Instead of using the sumpitan (a kind of blowpipe) for discharging arrows to hunt for animals or defend oneself, the weapon is now used to hit a polystyrene foam board, which resembles an archery board.
“The blowpipe is usually made of bamboo, while the arrow or damak, is made of wood but we don’t apply poison to the tip. You have to position yourself so that you use both hands and hold the weapon straight and parallel to the floor as you aim for the board,” explains Ayon.
The game organiser determines the length and thickness of the blowpipe, and the distance of the target board.
Since men were traditionally the ones out hunting, the game is only played by males.
He says, “There is a belief that if a woman uses the blowpipe, it will break. It’s a game loved by men because they want to show they can still be a warrior and proudly take home ‘trophies’, despite not being in the jungle! We focus on the board and target the bullseye. It’s syiok as it gives us a competitive spirit.”
Each player has three tries and menyumpit can be played individually or in a group. The one with the highest score (as in archery) is pronounced champion. Menyumpit is a mainstream game among the Malaysian tribes.
This game is the traditional version of modern bowling but instead of using balls made of polyurethane, plastic or resin, a coconut is used – not just any coconut but mature coconuts that have fallen from the tree.
One doesn’t know the weight of the coconut until he places it in his hand. The coconuts come in various shapes and sizes.
“What makes this game so interesting is that it is played on an uneven surface with an uneven-shaped coconut. We use 12 pins, not 10 like they do in bowling. The pins comprise water bottles (filled for added weight), beverage cans or chopped wood.
“And none of us has ever been to a bowling alley so we’ve devised the game based on what we’ve seen on television. We determine the distance of the ‘lane’ ourselves,” Ayon says.
It’s definitely not easy as none of the demonstrators managed a strike even after repeated attempts. Holding the coconut in hand is already a challenge, since it has no holes for grip.
This is a race to arrange tiny beads using threads in the fastest time possible.
Ayon says, “In our community, women are the ones entrusted to make necklaces and bracelets so they do this best. Each player is given a colour-coded pattern to follow. For example, the organiser may use three red beads followed by four whites, and the colours are repeated. There is a time limit and the player who has beaded the longest chain or bracelet wins the game.
“If there is a mistake in the pattern and there is time, the player can re-bead or he loses the game. It’s a test of hand and eye coordination.”
In the past, the beads were obtained from the lancang tree but since these are hard to find in the forests of Selangor, Ayon says the beads are purchased from shops.
Kupas batang kantan
A male game using only fingers, the goal here is to peel old wild ginger shoots in the fastest time possible, according to layers.
“We obtain the ingredient from the jungle or in the garden. Each ginger shoot has around six or seven layers, depending on the rind. The player has to peel it to perfection without destroying the layers. Usually, they are given three minutes to finish peeling as many ginger shoots as possible.”
Although womenfolk are the ones using young ginger shoots in cooking, Ayon says old wild ginger is hard and difficult to peel – a task easier for men.
All of us are familiar with the primitive catapult or lastic, made of wood and tough rubber. Using rubber bands, we’ve pelted birds, lizards and tin cans. This game is a version of that but uses small stones or pebbles to bring down a water bottle that is hung from a tree.
“Experts can do this without aiming at the target. Because the rubber is tough, you cannot stretch and hold it to position. You’ll just tire yourself. You have to rely on your hand-eye coordination and shoot. The stronger hand pulls the rubber and lets go of the stone.
“The winner is the one who can bring down the bottle in the minimum amount of tries,” Ayon says.
The Selangor International Indigenous Art Festival 2016 (SIIAF) will be held tomorrow and on Aug 7 at Taman Botani Negara Shah Alam, Selangor from 10am to 5pm. For more information, check out www.facebook.com/events/2056259441266099.