Mah meri spirit statue - Moyang Puting Beliung
The word 'Mah Meri' means the people who live in the forest. Like other indigenous tribes in Malaysia, the Mah Meri have long depended on the forest and the sea to survive. Terminologically, Mah Meri also means bersisik (scaly) or Persisir (Coastal).
Known also as the 'Masked Men of Malaysia', the Mah Meri tribe is widely regarded as one of the best mask makers and woodcarvers globally, with many of their handiworks receiving the Unesco Seal of Excellence.
The word Moyang refers to the ancestors who are believed to be the guardians in safeguarding the people and in meting out punishments such as sickness, difficulty in hunting and poor crops. These expressive masks are worn during dance rituals to represent ancestral spirits.
To the Mah Meri, everything – whether living or inanimate – possesses a spirit. These are reflected in their carvings made from Nyireh Batu trees (Xylocarpus moluccensis) found in mangrove swamps.
In most cases, Mah Meri's spirit sculptures are made out of one piece of wood. And crafters are only responsible for building the same Moyang and take it as their life-long mission.