“Bo Lobung”: Documenting the Moken Spirit Poles Ceremony and Material Knowledge

By Jacques Ivanoff
, Maxime Boutry, Fabienne Galangau-Quérat, Khin Maung Htway | 15 October 2021

This project will document the material knowledge system relating to the fabric of the lobung, wooden poles representing Moken’s founding ancestors. The Moken are an Austronesian nomadic population, living in the Myeik Archipelago (Myanmar). Every year at the transition between the dry- and rainy-seasons, Moken subgroups perform a “bo lobung” (“making the lobung”) ceremony, during 3 days. Amidst a growing pressure on land and sea-based resources from fisheries and development projects (aquaculture, hotels), the Moken way of life has been enduring drastic changes since the 1990s, putting an end to hundred years of nomadism on-board their home boats, known as “kabang”. The “bo lobung” ceremony and related material practices is the main material knowledge system remaining in this society. Though these ceremonies are still well alive among certain Moken groups, elders fear new generations will lose the knowhows (especially shamanism) necessary to perform these rituals. Interestingly, lobung’s shapes and decorations have been evolving through time, but also from one sub-group to another, notably to reflect changes in the Moken way of life. Through both fieldwork documentation (360° video, video, photos, sketches and roadbook) and interviews about the Moken Alive Museum archives, the project will look at the set of know-hows that lobung-making involves, who detain these knowhows and how the material knowledge system evolved through time and space. Doing so, this project seeks to understand its role in maintaining Moken identity, while allowing the expression of change (social, cultural, economic).

 

PI:
Jacques Ivanoff

Collaborators:
Maxime Boutry, Fabienne Galangau-Quérat, Khin Maung Htway

Location of Research:
Myeik Archipelago, Myanmar

 

Top Banner Image: A shaman performing the lobung ceremony. Photo: Laurent Parienti