Tuesday, June 5, 2012

RENCANA YANG TELAH DISIAR DALAM AKHBAR TEMPAT NST [22 MAY 2012] KUALA LUMPUR (May 22, 2012): "I want Malaysians to accept the Orang Asli for what they are, regardless of their ideology or religion," pleads the budding Orang Asli writer Mahat anak China. "Get to know them, learn of their psyche – this is what I am trying to do through my literary works," says Mahat, who writes under the pen name 'Akiya.' Mahat, who hails from the Erong Orang Asli settlement in Hilir Perak, is the only Orang Asli from the Semai tribe to be seriously involved in the literary field. His works depict the struggle, history and heritage of the Orang Asli, which he considers extraordinary, though it is largely ignored even by members of his own community. “Let the true picture come from an Orang Asli. The Orang Asli too have their ways to convey their side of the story; this is where my works fit in,” says Mahat. Mahat wants his writings to be accepted and read not only by the Orang Asli but also by all Malaysians. “Few Orang Asli are keen to become writers. Therefore, I hope that my works are received by the readers of the country,” adds Mahat. His works also attempt to rectify the negative perception of the Orang Asli harboured by the society, such as their being a backward community. Mahat is hopeful that his works will uplift the spirit of Orang Asli youths to prove that their community can stand at par with the rest of society. Much of the Orang Asli literature has been verbally handed down through the generations and has not been documented. “It is important to record the events and history relating to the Orang Asli, which will help the mainstream society understand the culture, history and life of the Orang Asli,” he continues. Mahat is well aware that even among his brethren, there are many who lack clarity regarding their community's past and their future direction. Through his literary works, Mahat attempts to connect the Orang Asli history, heritage and future with the mainstream society. “There was a time in the past when the word 'Sangkil' ('slave' in the Orang Asli language) sent fears into the hearts of the Orang Asli, till they even lost their appetite. To them, it is better to die than to live with the shame of being a Sangkil. "Sangkil are not seen as human, though they share similar origins with the people of the region.” These lines are from the historical novel 'Perang Sangkil' (Slave War) penned by Mahat under his pseudonym Akiya. Perang Sangkil narrates how the Orang Asli were enslaved by the Malay aristocrats in the 1870s and the terrible atrocities that they had to endure as slaves. "The history of slavery is recorded in the novel 'Perang Sangkil,' and it is a tragic event that went unrecorded in history,” Mahat laments. Apart from historical novels, Mahat has penned two creative works: 'Tuntut' (Claim) – an anthology of Orang Asli short stories published by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka – and an anthology of poetry entitled 'Perjuangan Warisan Orang Asli: Suara Dari Dalam' (Orang Asli Heritage Struggle: Voices from Within) published by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM). Mahat notes that his short stories and poems revolve around the current woes that haunt the Orang Asli, whose culture and heritage are threatened by modernity. He plans to publish a book entitled 'Hamba' ('slave' in Malay) and several other manuscripts including 'Diari Kehidupan' (Life's Diary) and 'Wira Kecil' (Small Hero). Mahat is increasingly gaining recognition in the literary world, with the discussion of his works in February during the 'Bicara Karya Mahat a/l China' programme organised by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka in collaboration with the Orang Asli Development Department. The discussion, held at Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Tapah, Perak, has garnered recognition for Mahat and proved that nothing will stop the Orang Asli from earning a place in mainstream society. Mahat calls upon the members of his community to overcome their inferiority complex and show their hidden talents, including in literature, for their own benefit and that of their community. He has also been invited by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka to attend a Multiracial Literary Seminar earmarked for September. Mahat's works are sure to add to the nation's rich literary heritage and provide an avenue for the Orang Asli community to showcase their aspirations and hopes for the future. – Bernama

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