Saving Bajau Culture


A Bajau mother in Malaysia
Photo by Imran Kadir via Flickr

Christy Van Arragon and Bruce Gulland look at the culture of the Bajau people. They are trying to preserve their traditional culture in a modern world.

Transcript


Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Christy Van Arragon.

Voice 2 

And I’m Bruce Gulland. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1 

Imagine you are in the calm ocean water, breathing deeply into your lungs. The smell of ocean plants and salt air surround you. You take one last big breath and dive down.

Voice 2 

Then, you are under the water. You go down, down, through the blue. You avoid the tiny creatures that swim around you. Instead, you look around for something larger. Your lungs begin to hurt as you walk along the bottom, but you keep going. In the distance, you see a dark object moving. It is a very big fish. You hold your weapon and fire. A few seconds later, you are swimming toward the surface. When you get out of the water, you have the fish in your hand. This fish will feed your family for today.

Voice 1 

Today’s Spotlight is on the Bajau people, also called Sama. Their culture is very different from any other on earth. But today, modern culture threatens the Bajau’s traditional culture.

Voice 2 

The Bajau are a tribe of nomads. They do not settle in a single place. Instead, they travel, staying in each place for a short time. But the Bajau are unlike other nomads. Most nomads herd animals from place to place. Or they follow animals, for hunting. But all of these nomads live on land. The Bajau have always lived on boats, on the sea. They sail between Malaysia, the Philippines, and Indonesia. These countries are in the South China Sea. In the past, the ocean provided everything for them. Most Bajau spent their days fishing with special traps, or weapons called spearguns.

Voice 1 

This traditional Bajau life is a difficult one. The Bajau would take only what they needed from the ocean to survive. But this life was full of risk. Every time a person went into the water to catch fish, he risked his life. Many drowned, or were swept away by great storms.

Voice 2 

Today the Bajau have other problems. Many want the advantages of a modern life. But they do not have the technology or resources to make money. Their children cannot get the education that they desire.

Voice 1 

One solution to these problems is to move from the ocean to the land. Many Bajau have settled on land to make a better life for their families. They are still connected to the ocean. Some of them live in houses that stand above the water. But on land, they are closer to modern technology. The children can go to school.

Voice 2 

But not everyone welcomes the Bajau. They usually settle together in villages, like Rio Hondo in the Philippines. Most Bajau are still very poor. They may beg for food and money. Or they work for very low pay. Governments do not want Bajau people settling in their countries, and the local people do not trust them.

Voice 1 

In Rio Hondo, for example, the government forced many Bajau out of their homes. In 2012 there had been a fierce conflict near the town. Afterward, the city decided “internally displaced people” had caused the problem. This included many Bajau. And so the government emptied the village. The Bajau have lived there for a long time. They considered Rio Hondo their home. But many could not return after the fighting.

Voice 2 

These are serious problems. But many Bajau still choose to live on land. However, this choice creates another risk. By living on the land, the Bajau are forgetting a lot of their culture. At the Peoples of the World Foundation, it says that:

Voice 3 

“The Bajau are also beginning to lose their identity. They are becoming more like the people in their land-based communities. Even the most traditional Bajau are losing the ability to make boats. They replace their lipa-lipa boats with boats made by machines. There is a yearly festival celebrating traditional Bajau culture. The lipa-lipa boats are an important part of it. The Bajau paint and decorate the boats. They race against each other to celebrate their culture. No one knows how long this celebration can continue.”

Voice 1 

Other Bajau have changed their traditional methods of fishing. They use a chemical called potassium cyanide. This modern poison lets the Bajau catch fish easily. It makes the animals unable to move. The fish simply float to the surface. And there, the Bajau can gather them into their boats. It is easier than catching fish in traditional ways.

Voice 2 

However, these methods are very harmful to their environment. The cyanide does more than kill fish. It also kills other animals, called coral. These animals form the rock hard reefs that the other ocean animals use for shelter. Destroying the reefs means destroying the environment of many animals that live there. Johnny Langenheim writes for the travel website matadornetwork.com. In a story about the Bajau, he wrote:

Voice 4 

“When it comes to destructive fishing, the Bajau have been some of the worst in the area. The town of Torosiaje used to have healthy coral reefs, full of fish, all around it. Now there are only wastelands of broken coral. This story is a common one in similar communities around this area. Communities destroy the environment that keeps them alive, driven by global markets.

Voice 1 

However, the Bajau now understand what destructive fishing can do to the reef. Organizations like the World Wildlife Foundation and Conservation International have started programs to help people understand destructive fishing. Members of the Bajau often lead these programs. In the traditional Bajau religion, the ocean was holy - a living creature. Now, the Bajau are trying to find a place for this traditional belief in the modern world.

Voice 2 

Today, the future for the Bajau people is not certain. Many Bajau want to save their culture and way of life. Most importantly, they need a way to support their families. Some Bajau people think that it is not possible to continue their traditional way of life. They say that the world has changed too much.

Voice 1 

There are also signs of hope for the Bajau. People from all over the world are working to save the reefs. And Bajau children are now learning to read and write. Many of these children return to their communities with an education, and with hope. They plan to make their homes better places to live. Perhaps they will find a way for the Bajau culture to survive in the modern world.

Voice 2 

The writer of this program was Dan Christmann. The producer was Bruce Gulland. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, ‘Saving Bajau Culture’.

Voice 1 

We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

Question:

Is it important to preserve parts of traditional cultures? Or should these cultures just begin to live in a modern world?

Comments


JoaoVBR's avatar
JoaoVBR
said on March 31, 2015

It’s sad know about this situation of Bajau people. My opinion is that the culture of them must to keep alive! All the knowledge and traditions developed for hundreds of years must stay alive and, if bajau culture adapt itself with modern world, probably it will lose many cultural aspects, as the example of their boats.
Great program, Spotlight Team =D

Severino Ramos da Silva's avatar
Severino Ramos da Silva
said on April 24, 2016

From: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (Severino Ramos)
To: spotlight
Subject: answer to the question above
Date: Sunday 24, April 2016
São Paulo SP Brazil

Dear Christy Van Arragon, Bruce Gallund, and Dan Christmann:

First of all, I want to thank to develop more one great article for us readers and learners of Eglish.
Yes, It is very important to preserve our traditional culture because we grew up in it and than we have to live in it. No, It should not. The cultures should be preserved in the environment

Yours regards,
Severino Ramos
Brazil