Negrito / Pangan / Ngò' Pa
|Regions with significant populations|
|Batek, Lanoh, Jahai, Mendriq, Mintil, Kensiu, Kintaq, Ten'edn, Malay|
|Animism and significant adherents of Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, or Hinduism|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Negritos, Orang Asli (Cheq Wong people)|
Name and status
In Malaysia they are officially called Negrito (Orang Negrito in Malay language) or Semang (Orang Semang in Malay language). The first term has an outright racial context, as Negrito in Spanish language means "little negro". In the past, eastern groups of Semang people have been called Pangan. Lowland Semang tribes are also known as Sakai, although this term is considered to be derogatory by the Semang people.
Malaysian Semang people are included as part of the Orang Asli; where various groups of indigenous peoples of the country that still maintain a tribal way of life. Orang Asli includes 18 officially recognized tribes that are divided into 3 ethnic groups namely the Negrito, Senoi and Proto-Malay (Aboriginal Malay). The group of Negrito consists of 6 tribes that are known as the Kensiu people, Kintaq people, Lanoh people, Jahai people, Mendriq people and Batek people. All Orang Asli are under the care of the state government, namely the Department of Orang Asli Development (Jabalan Kemajuan Orang Asli, JAKOA); whose goal is to integrate indigenous populations into the wider Malaysian society.
The three category division of the indigenous population was inherited by the Malaysian government from the British administration of the colonial era. It is based on racial concepts, according to which the Negrito were seen as the most primitive race leading the vagrant way of life of hunter-gatherers. The Senoi were considered more developed, and the Proto-Malay were placed at almost the same level with the Malaysian Malay Muslims.
In Thailand, the term Orang Asli is not used. There the Negrito people are usually called Sakai or Ngopa (Ngò 'Pa or Ngoh Paa, which literally means "curly/frizzy (haired) people"). The first term is negatively perceived by the Semang people themselves, it has Malay origin and used to refer the Semang people and other Orang Asli groups as savages, subjects or slaves. In Malaysia, this term has been denied.
The Thai government does not recognize the Semang people; just like the rest of the other national minorities, the indigenous people of the country who are considered as Thais. However, the existence of the Sakai people, is an exception, and are recognized at the official level. This is due to the fact that this small ethnic group is under the personal protection and patronage of the royal family of Thailand. The Thais perceive the Semang people as primitive and a backward group of the population.
The Semang people differ from their neighboring ethnic groups not only in terms of lifestyle, but also in terms of anthropological grounds. They belong to the so-called Negrito race, where the main features of which are such as short stature of growth (150 cm in men and about 140 cm in women), dark skin (the color varies from dark color of copper to black), curly hair, wide nose, thick lips, round eyes and low cheekbones. Other representatives of this race are the indigenous inhabitants of the Andaman Islands in India and the Aeta people in the Philippines.
Semang people is an ethnic group that are only conventionally united on the basis of racial and cultural characteristics. They do not have a sense of common ethnic identity like the Semang or Negrito people in Malaysia or Sakai in Thailand.
In total there are at least ten tribal groups of the Orang Asli ethnic group that are classified as "Semang" in Malaysia (not all of them are officially recognized by the Malaysian government):-
- Kensiu people, live in the northern part of Kedah, near the borders with Thailand. Most of them settled in the district village, Kampung Lubuk-Legong, which is in Baling District, Kedah.
- Kintaq people, also have only one village, which is located near the city Gerik in Hulu Perak District, Perak. Traditionally they wandered around Klian Intan in Hulu Perak District and near Baling District in Kedah.
- Lanoh people, is located in three villages situated in the Hulu Perak District in the northwest of Perak near Gerik. Among this people there are also distinct tribal groups such as the Lanoh Yir (probably nomadic), Lanoh Jengjeng (semi-settled) and possibly others.
- Semnam people, are not included in the official list of JAKOA, however they are grouped as part of the Lanoh people. They live near Kampung Kuala Kenering in the Hulu Perak District, west of Gerik.
- Sabub'n people, are also grouped together with the Lanoh people. The remnants of this nearly extinct tribe, along with other Lanoh people groups live near Lenggong and Gerik in Hulu Perak District.
- Jahai people, live in the mountains separating the states of Perak and Kelantan, at south of the borders of Thailand. This is the only mountain that the Semang people inhabits. Their settlements mainly along rivers or near lakes. In Perak they live along rivers such as Sungai Banun, Sungai Tiang and near Temenggor Lake in the Hulu Perak District. In Kelantan, the Jahai people are concentrated along rivers namely Sungai Rual and Sungai Jeli in Jeli District.
- Mendriq people, they live in several villages along the middle reaches of the Kelantan River in the remotes of Gua Musang District in the southern state of Kelantan.
- Batek people:-
- Bateg Deq people, live mostly at the Aring River in southern Kelantan, partly in the neighboring districts of Terengganu and Pahang. JAKOA does not distinguish between different Batek people groups.
- Bateg Nong, is another Batek people group, that live in the Jerantut District of northern Pahang. In total, there are 7 villages in the Pahang state, of which 5 of them are in the Lipis District and the other 2 are in Jerantut District; while in Kelantan there are 4 hamlet villages in the Gua Musang District.
- Mintil people, are the most isolated of the Semang people, live along the riverbanks of Sungai Tanum near Chegar Perah in north-central of Lipis District, Pahang. Officially, they are recognized as part of the Batek people.
A few smaller groups of Semang people are in the southern provinces of Thailand. These nomadic groups mentioned under the names such as Tonga, Mos, Chong and Ten'en. They call themselves Mani people, but their linguistic affiliation remains uncertain.
Because of the small number of some of these Semang people groups, they are on the verge of disappearance.
The Semangs live in caves or leaf-shelters that form between branches. A loincloth for the men, made of tree bark hammered out with a wooden mallet from the bark of the terap, a species of wild bread-fruit tree, and a short skirt of the same material for the women decorated with segments of bamboo in patterns to magically protect its wearer from disease, is the only dress worn; some go naked although not customary.
Scarification is practised. Young boys and girls are scarified in a simple ritual to mark the end of their adolescence. The finely serrated edge of a sugarcane leaf is drawn across the skin, then charcoal powder rubbed into the cut.
The Semang bury their dead on the same day itself with the corpse wrapped in mat and the personal belonging of the deceased kept in a small bamboo rack placed over the grave. Only people of great importance, such as chiefs or great magicians are given a tree burial.
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