Number 23 – Temenggung Grip
Temenggung Grip belongs to the Orang Rimba tribe. They are a mobile, animist peoples who live throughout the lowland forests of southeast Sumatra. Kubu is a Malay exonym ascribed to them. In the Malay language, the word Kubu can mean defensive fortification, entrenchment, or a place of refuge. When a child is born to the Orang Rimba tribe of Indonesia, the umbilical cord is planted under a Sentubung tree. The child has a sacred bond with that tree for the rest of their life, and for the Orang Rimba, cutting down a “birth tree” is equivalent to murder.
The Orang Rimba are on the frontline in the battle to save what is left of Indonesia’s forests, and the people who call them home. All around the park are acre upon acre of plantations, mostly rubber, acacia for the paper industry, and palm oil. There is no undergrowth, no wildlife, just endless rows of trees and the occasional guarded checkpoint. As a visitor, you can’t help but feel intimidated at every turn, and the Orang Rimba feel this more acutely than anyone.
“In the forest we wake up with the sound of the birds and the animals but here…” says Temenggung Grip, pointing to the houses the government have built for his community in a transmigration site. “Here we’re woken by the sound of the machines, like a big motorbike exhaust, and we’re very shocked.”
Temenggung Grip is a powerful voice that needs to be heard now more than ever.
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