The Semang are a Negrito ethnic group of the Malay Peninsula. Lowland Semang tribes are also known as Sakai. They are probably the indigenous peoples of this area, and have been recorded to have lived here since before the 200s. They are ethnologically described as nomadic hunter-gatherers.

They are thought to be related to other Negritos, such as the natives of the Andaman Islands, and the Aetas of the Philippines. Their languages, however, are Aslian, in the Mon-Khmer family.


The men average about 153.6cm (5ft 1/2in), while the women are 142.7cm (4ft 8in). Their color is a very dark brown or black. The shape of the head is round, or intermediate between round and long. The forehead is low and rounded, and projects over the root of the nose, which is short, depressed and pyramid-shaped. The eyes are often wide open and round, even at times showing no obliquity, the iris being of a very rich, deep brown. Lips vary from moderate to full, the mouth is rather large, and the jaws are often slightly projecting.

The hair is very dark-brown black, never blue-black as among Chinese and Malays. It grows in short, spiral tufts, curling closely all over the head.


The Semangs live in caves or leaf-shelters formed between branches. A waistcloth for the men, made of tree bark hammered out with a wooden mallet from the bark of the terap, a species of wild bread-fruit tree, and a short petticoat of the same for the women, is the only dress worn; many go naked.

Tattooing, or rather scarring, is practised, by drawing the finely serrated edge of a sugarcane leaf across the skin and rubbing in charcoal powder.

They have bamboo musical instruments, a kind of Jew's harp and a nose flute. On festive occasions there is song and dance, both sexes decorating themselves with leaves. The Semangs bury their dead simply, food and drink being placed in the grave.


See also

Further reading

  • Bernatzik, H. A., & Ivanoff, J. (2005). Moken and Semang: 1936-2004, persistence and change. Bangkok: White Lotus. ISBN 9744800828
  • Gomes, A. G. (1982). Ecological adaptation and population change: Semang foragers and Temuan horticulturists in West Malaysia. Honolulu, Hawaii (1777 East-West Rd., Honolulu 96848): East-West Environment and Policy Institute.
  • Human Relations Area Files, inc. (1976). Semang. [Ann Arbor, Mich: University Microfilms.
  • Rambo, A. T. (1985). Primitive polluters: Semang impact on the Malaysian tropical rain forest ecosystem. Ann Arbor, Mich: Museum of Anthropology, University of Michigan. ISBN 0915703041

External links

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