RU  UK  EN
Articles  >  Imagine  >  Bajau: Sea gypsies of Southeast Asia

Bajau: Sea gypsies of Southeast Asia

Author: 16.02.2018 | traditions, society, Malaysia
Small ethnic groupshave been always interesting for scientists and artists, who sought inspiration in their lifestyle. The Bajau Sea Gypsies who formally can be correlated with Malaysia, are one of the most popular ethnic groups today.

This tribe, numbering a few thousand people only, is noteworthy by the fact thatthey spend nearly their entire lives at sea.Their amazing boathousesknown aslepa-lepaanchor at shores only to replenish fresh water or to bury the deceased. They say bodiesof the Bajauare not adapted to life on the big land. Excellent swimmers and free-diverswith good health, they become landsick and grow decrepit quickly if spend on the shore longer than usual time. This phenomenon has not been explained by science yet, so even in the 21st century we have to relay the legend of the past, because according to them, the tribe got into water after Islam began to spread in Asia.

Photo kykyryzo.ru

As pagans, sea nomads were not willing to accept a new religion, so they chose to move into sea. However, they do not have a permanent residence to this day, so their boathouses can be found not only in Southeast Asia, witnesses say that sometimes lepa-lepas even show up off the coast of Australia. It is hard to believe, because the distance between the continents is giant, and thosefragile and unreliable at first glance boats seems to be no good for long-distance sailing. However, when you learn a little more about these seafaring Southeast Asian nomads, you start to believe even in the more amazing things...

Photo iloveasia.travel

Several hundred years spent away from the coast, changed them both mentality and even physiology. They can hold their breath for 5-7 minutes and catch fish at a depth of more than 20 meters and their vision increasesmuch under water. Since the fishing is the main activity of the Bajau, even kidsare wonderful fishhunters. Reselling their catch to enterprises and large vessels, calculatedly, the ethnos provides significant amounts of seafood to inhabitants of Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. Therefore, even though the Gypsies are sometimes called poachers, their work can hardly be overestimated.

Photo iloveasia.travel

But sometimes due to lack of adequate equipment, the Bajau disrupt fish with dynamite, that their tribe learned in the years of the World War II, or poison the water with chemistry. It is a vicious circle, because the population falls, the reefs are decimated, and at the pace soon the whole tribe will be outside the law. Therefore, some representatives, overcoming themselves, become employees of the huge farms and corporations, and even migrate to the land. However, such cases are rare: the majority of the Bajau continue to fish either with hands or old-school methods, fewer for sale, but only to provide themselves with food.

Photo kykyryzo.ru

After talking with the Sea Gypsies, you will be surprisedby their conception of life; it seems that their minds are pure, like water expanses of the region. What is a passport, how old they are, how to use the electronic devices – they only slightly smile at these questions. They don’t have surnames, but always add to the name "son or daughter of…". The main judge, the prosecutor and the president for them is the headsmen, who is calledpanglima. At the same time,the Gypsies are friendly and in spite of lifestyle remote from civilization, they are always friendly, happy to pose for the cameras, and invite to dive together. This, by the way, is not recommended as a health hazardous, since carried away, one cannotnotice how deepa dive is, and at the ascentone may have problems with pressure. The Bajau are not threatened, they even intentionally rupture their eardrums at an early age in order to facilitate diving and hunting at sea.

Photo vokrugsveta.ua

Often having problems with the law because of poaching, the services of a tribe are used by criminals, who for tiny fee engage nomads in the smuggling of alcohol, cigarettes and drugs, since divers are often elusive for border guards. In addition, maritime peopleare forced into the illegal production of pearls. Surprisingly, even those who are engaged in this craft professionally using special modern devices and sensors for the detection of pearls, recognize that the Bajauwork no less well relying on their own instincts and intuition. It seems that the water itself tells them where to dive.

To fence ethnos from illegal activities, the United Nations assisted in granting them special status of citizenship, which operates in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines and licenses for fishing to a limited extent. Nevertheless,watching the Bajau,it seems that all of these legal acts and the laws for them are just incomprehensible paper, the meaning of which no one is going to study.

Photo vokrugsveta.ua

However, despite the various problems and not the most comfortableaquatic way of life, the Bajau do not complain. The Sea Gypsies consider themselves happy and independent people involved in what the soul desires. They do not imagine themselves to live in large cities, and even in villages. On lepa-lepasthey have everything they need: beds, fireplace, mini-gardens where women manage and grow vegetables and fruit. In the evening, joining several boats, they arrange festive dances, pray for their pagan gods, and look forward to tomorrow when once again it will be possible to dive deeper, and forgetting about everything, go fishing, harmoniously co-existing with the underwater world, which they enjoy much more than we enjoy our lifestylewith papers, documents and schedule of "work-home-work-holiday"...

Main photo vokrugsveta.ua

It will be interesting:
Women's adornments in India: Sacred meaning
Upon hearing word combination “Hindu woman” an image of a beautiful woman wearing sari and definitely with numerous adornments and pictures on her body emerges in our imagination. Where does passion for body decoration come from in national traditions of this people?
On the Move. Street food from around the world. Part 2
Do you happen to get hungry? That is great as we go on with our story about the most popular street food from around the world. It’s freshly cooked - fall to, you guys! Let's start with the South Asian countries, namely Singapore - seafood-rich in vitamins and minerals occupy a key place in the diet of residents ...
Azerbaijan inside out: Henna Nights
We continue publishing author’s column of Sabina Safarova on traditions of Azerbaijan.We have already learned about the matchmaking and the engagement, and now OUTLOOK proposes to plunge into the traditions of rituals and xinayaxdi – henna nights ceremonies which precedes the wedding itself.
On the Move. Street food from around the world
Experienced tourists believe that one of the best sure-fire ways to quickly tune into the beat of another culture is to try local food. In order not to be at a loss when choosing dishes and save precious time for spiritual food, Outlook gives you selective advice on street gastronomy from seven spots of the globe.
26 terrifying facts about Holocaust
Holocaust is one of the most atrocious tragedies where humanity has been involved because of biased views on the supremacy of one race over another. It hides inhuman pain, tortures, and sufferings. Condemned people have not given in easily, and world knows a great deal of bravery acts on the edge of death.
Desperate Futurism: Japan. Part 1
OUTLOOK journalist Elena Rasenko came back from Japan and launches a special series of articles devoted to this country. Warning for very sensitive readers: Beware! After reading, you will get a keen desire to break away, buy a ticket and fly to such a marvelous and fascinating Land of the Rising Sun!
Video: Craft of Uzbekistan. Golden-stitched embroidery
OUTLOOK was lucky to visit hospitable Uzbekistan and get better acquainted with crafts of this amazing country. Today we'll tell you about art of golden-stitched embroidery that has long been considered the art of the nobility. We will tell you about mediums artisans use, secrets and unique distinctives of this craft. Feel the world with us!
SPECIAL PROJECT: The Ambassadors tell about New Year's and Christmas traditions
All over the world, winter brings bright celebrations to people's homes, the traditions of how to celebrate them are born. The customs of one state differes from the other but people from different corners of the planet are equally waiting for miracles, pleasant surprises and a good fairy tale. On the eve of the New Year holidays, we decided to ask the diplomats about the peculiarities of New Year and Christmas celebrations in their countries.
Tea empire of the world
Few of us, while our favourite tea is steeping, are scrutinizing about the way this drink went through to get into our mug. Of course, stereotypically, we know that most likely it came from India or China, but in fact origin can vary. In the world there are about 30 countries which are very seriously engaged in tea business, and within this community a very clear hierarchy emerges, headed by the so-called Big Tea Seven.
Azerbaijan inside out: Small and big matchmaking
A Ukrainian woman with Azerbaijani blood Sabina Safarova respects her family roots and, being a member of the Union of Azerbaijani Youth in Ukraine, popularizes the culture of her country. Today, the story of a girl about one of the most interesting traditions of Azerbaijan - matchmaking, we are launching her author's blog, which will be filled with cognitive facts and subtleties of manners.
Gagauzians: Ethnos of white rooster
"A poor peasant lived in a remote Gagauzian village, and wealth of his was his three sons ..." so begins one of the folk tales composed by the Gagauz people. This Turkic people really lived a not wealthy life, roamed the villages, feed sheep... When a family gathered together to have some rest, old and young composed legends in their own way explaining the phenomena of nature noted by a curious and observant eye: why crows are afraid of people, why geese gabble, why an ant has thin waist, and what happens when you put fox and wolf in one harness.
What do they eat: Rome’s cuisine
Outlook often tells about the kitchens of the peoples around the world, but when it comes to Italy, writing about the country should be a crime. Each of its twenty regions has its own culinary world with the subtleties and specialties. Let the title of gastronomic capital of Italy be Bologna, its official capital - Rome, too, has something to boast about. We are telling you what is remarkable about Roman cuisine and what dishes are worth trying in the Eternal City.
Crafts of Uzbekistan. Straw Items
OUTLOOK was lucky to visit hospitable Uzbekistan and get better acquainted with crafts of this amazing country. Today we tell you about art of straw work, about materials that craftsmen use and what secrets and unique features of this craft are. Feel the world with us!
Not Just Oil and Tourism: Safari from African Employers
In almost every large Ukrainian city – especially if it is “spoiled” with number of educational institutions – there is a small district called “campus” among locals. Dormitories, dining halls, libraries, university buildings here and there and… dark-skinned guys that exchange currency. This is the way students of Ukrainian high educational institutions earn a bit on the side and manage to obtain aspired degree at the same time. After that some of them stay and others go back home – to Africa. Now, what do people on the sunniest continent do, including those who return to native shores as “bankers” with dimplomas?
Everything on sale: Worlds's best markets and bazaars
In this day and age, it is difficult to surprise anyone, especially an urban resident, with some large department store or market, since nowadays one can buy everything from a humble convenience store next door. However, the iconic bazaars and flea markets are still operating across the globe, they are famous in legends and described with delight. Well-known is that they turn shopping into a cultural exchange and are much more than just a commercial place for the sale of goods.
Eastern music of Sufi: Qawali
‘Love evolves when one looks in the eyes of the person beloved seeing there God’, in such a way the lines of some Arabian song called Qawali is translated. The authorship of this chant is ascribed to Eastern strangers Sufi who tending to find the sense of existence strolled around the half an Earth bare-footed. In the travels they composed songs where they told narration describing what they had to endure.
Ankara is the capital of…
Because of different reasons, mainly due to its travel population and size, Istanbul is perceived by the majority of tourists, even by those who had been to Turkey, as the capital of this country even though it is verily Ankara. We are going to talk about this city that is so Turkish and international simultaneously.
Thorny path of flower
Traditional Japanese kabuki theatre has always been a mystery to the European mentality: only an expert on the culture of the Land of the Rising Sun can understand a play without guide’s tips.
Don’t break the tongue: The hardest languages in the world
It is said, the easier it is, the better we feel, however, is it always like that? We know that not all the nations follow this principle. Outlook has found out the strangest, toughest and hard in articulation international languages and would like to share it with the readers.
Tasty Japan: Give the country a try
Ice cream with a taste of horse meat, pickled insects, fish with deadly venom, etc – Japanese cuisine has things to surprise, amaze and shock you with. And truth be told, enumeration of these dishes doesn’t help my appetite at all. But we are not after exotic stuff. True culinary tourism is an attempt to comprehend mindset and feel national distinctive color through traditional cuisine – not try most exotic dishes. Parts of people’s souls, its history and culture are actually concentrated in national dainties.
Close
Outlook facebook page