To begin with, the Moken are far from being a community in perdition, excluded, atomized, wandering or even desperate and isolated in its archipelago of the end of the world. It is a complex, mobile group, very organized and with very lively traditions. The rites develop on a territory composed of islands and vast marine areas.
Scattered over a large part of the Mergui archipelago, they settled in beautiful sites and built houses that were a bit wobbly, but facing the sea. The whole form of small paradisiacal villages on the water’s edge. The arrival of the Burmese fishermen and their settlement have nevertheless disturbed, at certain sites, this apparent tranquility. However, even here, the Moken are facing the sea.
Their poverty is, at bottom, quite relative. The hammocks attached to the pilings of the houses, the small terraces, the windows decorated with shells, straws or pieces of cans reworked. The time they spend with their children and the late afternoons facing the sea would make many Parisians dream with their 3h of daily transport. Neighborly relations seem peaceful and friendly; When there is food, a Moken shares it. We do not put aside, we do not spare, we do not make provisions: besides the kitchen does not seem made for that, nor the rest of the house, no overload.
Children are the kings and children of everybody. They are everywhere at home; Masters of the beach, they only bathe when they are allowed. You must have seen their joy when they finally have the right to undress running towards the sea. It goes soft but it also laughs a lot: in the water, a plastic bag is transformed into traditional clothing with a vegetable belt, a board Wooden boat, a plastic bottle in jellyfish aquarium. Sometimes they go to school, but not all and not always, and as the period of the rituals corresponds to the great holidays, they are present during the « festivities »: dances, preparation of the meal, sacrifices … they see everything and learn rituals and Sing the traditions.
For the Moken, the sea is also their « highway », they move quickly and easily. During the period of the feast to the poles to the spirits, before the rainy season, they are one day in this island, the next day in another. You must know how to follow them if you lose them, they will find you. It is this game of track that loses the observer and puzzles the developers. It is perhaps around this mobility / ritual freedom that one must think for a museum open in the archipelago. Men, women and children also embark as easily on their boat as a Parisian family in their car for the weekend at Aunt Amelie’s.
Special thanks for Jacques Ivanoff and is team of anthropologist and scientists which allowed me to meet the Moken.