Mah Meri Ancestors Day Celebration

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Approaching the celebrations, we were intrigued by all the leaf weavings adorning the people and huts.

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This is a representation of The Mountain of Love. Circling it purportedly brings true love. Bern was careful to steer clear, having recently realising girls are different.

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The sacred hut and food were painstakingly adorned with woven ornaments. The Mah Meri used to have lots to work with but the encroaching palm plantations have eliminated much of the local fauna they have used for hundreds of years.

The singing and dancing began at 10am. I was sceptical about what they would achieve with a couple of violins and bamboo instruments. And my jaded self was pleasantly mesmerised by the quiet soulful songs the women began to sing. The violins were somewhat off key but it added to the authenticity of the event; these people were honouring their ancestors with what meagre resources they had.

I loved how visitors were invited to dance along after the first couple of displays. The kids and some tourists jumped right in. I watched from beneath a tree, nursing a mild headache from the heavy incense that was permeating the air.

We left soon after people began to eat. We had brought food to be shared (it was criticised for not being shareable) but I was uncomfortable at what appeared to be local politicians and a photo OP. Some women also started giving out cheap board games and (maybe) sweets, stationary and clothes to the kids. It seemed a little condescending so I opted to remove my cynical self from the vincinity.

The experience has left me with lots of questions. Do they still use their language? How can their local craft and culture survive? What do they need to face a future that almost inevitably spreads uniformity and annihilates the small, unique and unknown?

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