The barge slowly approaches, and you are greeted by children singing in English – Another head hangs lowly, Child is slowly taken and the violence, caused such silence, Who are we mistaken? –
They are the voice of a people living among the islands of the Mergui archipelago on the border between Thailand and Burma. Immersed in the myths of water and wind, he lived following the flow of the sun and the lunar cycle, far from our time, with his own oral culture.
At sea for most of the year, they only stopped on the islands from May to October with the arrival of the monsoon. Fishing is their main source of livelihood. Their homes are wooden boats called Kabang.
Without nationality, the ‘Nomads of the Sea‘ have often been exploited and persecuted by neighbouring peoples and their way of life severely threatened. With the arrival of the 2004 tsunami, the security measures taken by governments intensified. The restrictions imposed on fishing and the use of trees for Kabang construction make it increasingly difficult to pass on their knowledge. Forced to abandon their boats, they now live on land, in reserves, frequented by curious tourists.
You can’t breathe, no fresh wind.
Yet the Moken had foreseen the arrival of La Boom – the great swallowing wave – thanks to their profound knowledge of the sea, saving themselves and many islanders and tourists.
Then upon them, threatening to sink them, came modernity.
The increasing exploitation of the Andaname Sea, between tourism, drilling and the fish market, has forced many of them to integrate into neighbouring societies. For those who resist pollution and rampant alcoholism.
Changed is their perception of the world, changed are their customs, yet the ancestral bond they have with the sea is not broken. In these dull waters, the little Moken live their first steps, dive, swim, play, and for one day I dive with them.
A towpath pulled me into a world still suspended between a fascinating past and an uncertain future.