Orang Laut’s plight documented

Posted on September 17, 2010. Filed under: Indigenous People |

-The Star-By BRENDAN VIVE SUPPIAH newsdesk@thestar.com.my

THE plight of the Orang Laut or better known as Orang Seletar, one of the orang asli tribes in Johor facing challenges due to the rapid development in Iskandar Malaysia economic growth corridor have been documented in photography by four amateur and one professional photographer.

They spent the whole day capturing the day-to-day life of the Orang seletar at their village at Kampung Bakar Batu in Perling and Kampung Simpang Arang in Gelang Patah and ended up with 500 images of these people.

One of the amateurs, Dennis Yan who is also a lawyer, said the group decided to photograph the ethnic people as ‘a picture speaks a thousand words’ to create awareness on the plight of the Orang Seletar who have been suffering in silence due to lack of publicty or news about them.

The future: This picture shows children of the Orang Laut Seletar.

He said many are not aware that the livelihood of the Orang Seletar, majority of them fishermen, were badly affected from water pollution due to land reclamation activities in the Danga Bay waterfront opposite Kampung Bakar Batu.

Yan said the fish population has declined in the area due to the loss of mangrove trees and breeding ground for fishes, ketam bangkang (mud crabs) and prawns.

The public now have the opportunity to view the works by these photographers. 24 photographic prints are on display at an on-going exhibition at the Lost Malaya Gallery until Oct 23.

A picture says a thousands words: Most of the Orang Laut Seletar earn their livelyhood as fishermen.

Yan said they are hoping to raise funds from photographs that are up for sale with prices from RM150 to RM600 per piece and the proceeds will be donated to the Orang Seletar.

One of the Orang Laut, fisherman Jahan Tom, 43, said his earnings are affected due to a lesser catch from the sea and to be able to get RM500 a month was a blessing.

The father of 12 said he is not able to send his children to school because he could not afford to pay the school fees and books.

Laidback: One of the photographs of the Orang Laut Seletar being displayed.

“I have to provide for my family, pay bills and fuel for my boat to go fishing but with a meagre income, how am i going to survive,” said Jahan.

He said the Orang Seletar have lots of stories about their hardship but lamented nobody was interested to listen or even share their problems.

Fellow villager Bajum Awang, 28, said things have gotten from bad to worse as he could not afford to provide medical attention to his children whenever they are sick.

The good old days: Some Orang Laut Seletar looking at photographs of the people from their village.

“We hope the relevant authorities will look into our hardship and give us some kind of assistance including ensuring our fishing grounds are not polluted,” he said.

Event organiser and Malaysian Society of Marine Science council member Choo Chee Kuang said the society would organise a cultural night performance featuring activites such as folk songs, dances, and handicraft for the Orang Seletar at the gallery.

For details on the photo exhibition and the cultural show, contact Choo at 019-9815940 or email msms.gef@gmail.com or visit the Lost Malaya Gallery at 9, Jalan Skudai, Johor Baru (next to Johor Japanese Club).

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