“Orang Asli means original people” Libby tells me over a morning coffee in the only open cafe we can find over Christmas/New Years of 2018 in Mangawhai, New Zealand. She has just returned from a one year trip to Malaysia. Predominantly a resident of England, Libby has ties to New Zealand after attending high school in Cambridge for a few years. She is a photographer, visual artist, traveler and poet. While visiting Gua Musang in the Kelantan region she unexpectedly set out on a photo journalism trip deep into the Malaysian jungle, which is one of the oldest in the world. “At the time I was just hanging about [Kuala Lumpur] with my artist friends and then the news kind of grabbed me, the logging that was happening at the time. I wanted – just to know more.”
Libby kept a travel diary documenting her experience with the indigenous from her mother’s homeland, Malaysia. It would turn out to be a magical trip, a once in a lifetime experience she won’t forget. Logging photos of her experience, the post is a nostalgic throwback and a beautiful account of a spiritual experience that I fully recommend!
EXCERPT FROM LIBBY’S TRAVEL BLOG:
“The sacred site we were soon to visit is a large cave, further into the jungle, called Gua Janggut. The hallowed space is revered, not only by the Temiar but also the Negrito community, another Orang Asli group that live within the area. They speak a separate language known as Mendriq, and there are about 220 of them left, making this a very endangered language. Before heading to the cave, we visited the Mendriq village and we received another blessing from their local elder in order to enter. They too, used a Tualang candle. “
Check out the rest of her diary HERE.
“There are various gateways named here; Pintu Raso, Pintu Sindat, Pintu Haluan, Pintu Kong connecting to the other worlds. It was a quiet and potent sensation simply being in this space. Although I was given permission to take photographs here, it almost felt wrong. Only the Shaman can enter the deepest parts of the cave.”
” The earth here is a deep and vibrant red. When it floods, it’s like blood. The Temiar referred to the floods that abolished their housing and brought disaster to the whole of the Kelantan region as the infamous Bah Merah (red floods). As trees are cut, they no longer soak up the rainfall. Silt and other debris is carried downstream by the flow of rainwater into the rivers. Eventually the rivers fill with silt and burst their banks. The ‘killer’ Bah Merah of 2014 rose thirty meters above the level of the river. “
“Much like the beliefs of the Temiar, the Mendriq also explained that if the construction of the hydroelectric dam was to continue, flooding over Gua Janggut, terrible consequences would take place as the balance of nature is disturbed further and the forest spirits are angered,” Libby writes.
At the beginning of 2019 Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke in the session Safeguarding Our Planet alongside broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough, Ardern was asked by former US Vice-President Al Gore what she would say to world leaders who don’t believe the climate crisis is real.
“I wonder whether or not I would say anything or if I would just show them something,” she said. “It only takes a trip to the Pacific to see that climate change isn’t a hypothetical, and you don’t have to know anything about the science … to have someone from the Pacific island nations take you to a place they used to play as a child on the coast and show you where they used to stand and where the water now rises.”
East Asia is another area of the world feeling the affects of climate change.
In the past year alone there were typhoons in Japan and East Asia, flooding in Japan and China and drought in Central Europe. Commercial logging and deforestation on the continent contributes heavily to this damage.
“Malaysia has one of the world’s highest deforestation rates. These are valuable ecosystems and are the most ancient and beautiful, tropical forests I’ve ever seen. We must fight this before it is too late. As Orang Asli are displaced from their land because of logging, they are abject to poverty. The once clear river water is now polluted and floods will only worsen. We must learn from the native people and also become guardians of the forest and it’s creatures. Soon, all we will have are these fake paintings, towering over like imprints of a forgotten past.
“As the shape of the Malaysian jungle shifts, so do these cultures.
I am fascinated to see how their values take form in the moving landscape of their lives.”
On January 18th 2019 Reuters reported:
In an ancient area of the world, now functioning amidst a quietly raging money machine intertwined with corruption, there is hope that although indigenous people and their values have been compromised within these societal ‘upgrades’, the now-visibly damaging effects on the earth by these processes, can be restored or at least healed using the values of the very people in which industrial destruction has disregarded. Even in the face of a) extinction for animals and b) genocide for people. Although it is widely accepted among indigenous and other minority cultures, when sacred sites and ancient graves are destroyed for example, there’s nothing that can rectify some spiritual damage, simultaneously it is clear the only way to survive harmoniously is to have a conversation and gain an understanding in order to work together going forward. It is obvious that the earth as a vessel is angry with humanity in its current state, changes must be made. Share some of Libby’s journey into the Malaysian jungle and her experience with the Orang Asli or ‘original people’ below:
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And check out her art on her Website.