Mah Meri Ancestor Day (Hari Moyang)

Members of the Mah Meri tribe of Malaysia have just completed their annual ancestor-worship ceremony, an elaborate ritual involving dancers with intricately-carved masks who perform the historic Main Jo-oh dance for the annual Hari Moyang festival in Pulau Carey, 90 miles from the capital Kuala Lumpur. The local people use the festival as an opportunity to offer prayers and blessings to their forebears, as well as thanking ancestors for good fortune in the past and hoping for future prosperity. 
Pix by SYED AZAHAR SYED OSMAN.

Payang or shaman is regarded as an important person in their social structure as he is among the conduits to the unseen beings.


In terms of their beliefs, Mah Meris practise animism. They turn to the forest, sea for their source of livelihood and spiritual life. These will be realised the form of figurines, which would be connected to their ancestors and natural environment.


There would often be two forms- the good or the bad. This is the reason why they conduct various ceremonies as a sign of respect and to appease the spirits or even unseen beings who they believe are responsible for structuring as well as meting oul punishment on their life. 


The Jo'oh dance is a ritual dance performed on the Hari Moyang (ancestors' day) by the Mah Meri community in Carey Island, Klang, as a form of ancestor worship to ensure their happiness and good fortune. In this dance, the dancers, who comprise Mah Meri girls, would dance around the resam tree or ant hill three times using different hand movements right up to the ninth turn. The Tok Pawang, wearing the Moyang Bojos mask and believed to be possesed by that very spirit would join in the dance with the girls. The rhytm of the music played during this ritual is known as'cekak musang'.


Apart from its ritualistic function, this dance is also performed as a form of entertainment during gatherings such as weddings and when receiving outside guests. In the latter, a poem of love would be sung in the spirit of festive bantering. 


An elaborate ritual involving dancers with intricately-carved masks performed Jo-oh dance.