Selangor has all the trappings of a modern metropolis. You would least expect to know it has an enchanting cultural feature; the last remaining sea gypsies, the Mah Meri tribe.
Their ancestral worship especially the ritual Dance to the Dead is a ceremony most welcomed to herald in a good year.
The Mah Meri tribe which inhabit Pulau Carey island is renowned for their masterful woodcarving and expressive masks worn during dance rituals to represent ancestral spirits.
On Aug 5 and 6, 2017 in the Taman Botani Negara state capital Shah Alam, the Dance to the Dead came alive at the annual Selangor International Indigenous Art Festival (SIIAF).
The annual festival which features exhibits, a cultural night, and a carnival, is organised by Tourism Selangor and Orang Asli Network in collaboration with Asia Independent People’s Pact.
Also showcasing other indigenous dances are the three tribes, namely the Temiah (from Kelantan), Seletar (Johor) and the Bukit Terang (Perak).
The groups will don traditional attires and show their masked dance moves to display acts of homages to their ancestral spirits.
Aside from local groups, SIIAF also serves as a platform for regional countries such as the Philippines, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Indonesia to showcase their own rich cultural diversity.
Booths selling handicrafts are aplenty for visitors to bring home adornments and souvenirs as keepsakes.
Tourism Selangor Corporate Communications Manager Nazri Tashriq Rahmat said SIIAF is aimed at raising the awareness about the steep cultural history about the indigenous people, especially in Selangor, the most populated state in Malaysia.
“Their performances will go a long way to promote the living heritage tourism from various states nationwide,” he said.
In its third year running, the festival with the theme ’Cultivating the City’ is staged in conjunction with the Global World Indigenous People celebration that happens in August annually.