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Orang Asli in Malaysia confront the curse of palm oil

Scene from the video “The Curse of Palm Oil”

This is not a video that I’ve shot but it is such an excellent way of showing a landscape and presenting the voice of Peninsula Malaysia’s Orang Asli.  I want to make sure that it has as much exposure as possible.

WIt is particularly important that the Orang Asli, the Indigenous people, are heard.

The Curse Of Palm Oil from Contrast VR on Vimeo.

My current project

I presently working with a colleague on a resource that covers some of the issues raised in this video.  We will be going a little deeper than this video but in a different medium.

This project began as fiction, as a fusion of the problems confronting a variety of Indigenous people in Sumatra. As we’ve gone deeper into the project it has tended to focus more on one group, though the issues they confront are similar to the issues confronted by Indigenous people all over the world. Ultimately we want to visit the Indigenous people we are writing about.

The myth of emptiness

In an earlier blog post, I wrote about the myth of emptiness. The myth was doctrine termed Terra Nulius by Australia’s European colonisers. Whatever the specific terms employed by a nation-state it is predicated on the failure to recognise prior customary rights to land. Both before and after independence Indonesian governance was preoccupied with the problems of the densely settled core, Java, Madura and perhaps Bali, and saw the empty spaces beyond as ripe for resettlement.

Peninsula Malaysia

In peninsula Malaysia, where this video is set, the development of the rubber industry in colonial times and the subsequent development of the oil palm industry in post-colonial times, showed insufficient regard for the customary rights of the Orang Asli.

It’s pleasing to hear their voice, but I suspect that in this case there remain few opportunities for them to enjoy the closeness to the land and nature that gave rise to their culture.

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