“People cannot live entirely at sea without some access to the land and its products,” writes John Mack in his book The Sea: A Cultural History, and adds:
“Perhaps the closest to the exclusively maritime culture is that of the Bajau Laut, the so-called “sea gypsies” of the waters of south-east Asia. Their life is led almost entirely on boats or in houses raised on stilts above salt-water estuaries, exploiting the resources of the surrounding lagoons and reefs and moving goods from place to place. There are very few occasions on which they are obliged to set foot on terra firma.”
John Mack. The Sea: A Cultural History. 2011
Bajau people is a nomadic tribe without citizenship. Their state is the sea. Bajau children don’t go to school. Their classroom and playground is the sea. Smiling sea gypsies don’t really know, how old are their elders and how young are their young ones. They don’t use calendar, but watch the stars and observe changing seasons to know, but not record, that another year has passed. They live in the continuum of present moments and in harmony with cycles of nature.
Born to free dive, they catch fish to feed their big families. Bajau bring the catch to nearest fish markets too. With money they make they can buy medicine, as they avoid hospitals; and also many Western goods – bright colored clothes, make-up for the Bajau girls and all those guilty tummy pleasures. But not out of necessity of course. The sea provides all they need to lead a happy life. They eat and sleep at their crowded boat houses and always look so harmonious and filled with love they share with their family.
The love floats around them in turquoise.
Some of Bajau people are beginning to settle on coast and find jobs in the city. But many still stick to the traditional nomadic lifestyle – they stick to the sea. Sea gypsies never bury their dead ones at sea, only on land, always. The sea is a celebration of life.
I borrowed that beautiful picture above from the French photographer Réhahn. Please do visit his page to see many more moments of these mesmerizing marine people: