Getting to Know the Bajo Tribe, the Sea Nomad Which Becomes the Inspiration for Avatar: The Way of Water



26 December 2022 12:01 WIB

TEMPO.CO, JakartaThe film 'Avatar: The Way of Water' directed by James Cameron, managed to amaze the audience with the plentiful action done by renowned actor Sam Worthington and actress Zoe Saldana. Behind the scenes in making of the film, the director himself stated that his inspiration came from the Bajo Tribe, a nomadic sea tribe that spread across the eastern Indonesia archipelago.

Quoting from National Geographic, Cameron stated to have done extensive research to build a world for his film. He examined many local traditions in Polynesia and Southeast Asia that are rooted in maritime traditions. He is said to have been inspired by the Bajo people who live in the sea on stilts and rafts.

The Bajo or Bajau tribe, according to Haerullah et al in a journal entitled Cultural Identity and History of Suko Bajo Post-Nomaden Island, is a tribe that utilised the sea as their main source of livelihood. They spread across Southeast Asia, from Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Their way of living in the sea is the reason why they were often referred to as a sea tribe. Their ancestors are said to be the commanders of the fleets to the Sriwijaya Kingdom and the Malacca Sultanate.

In Indonesia, many Bajo people live in Bajo Pulo, Bima Regency, West Nusa Tenggara. The Bajo people of Bajo Pulo spent most of their time doing activities on the sea coast. To earn income, the Bajo work as fishermen, providing sea transportation and fish farming such as raising groupers, lobsters, and other fishes.

Bajo tribal children on Papan Island are seen playing with kites at the 2018 Togean International Oceanic Festival (TIOF) in the Togean Islands, Tojo Una-una, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, on Wednesday, August 8, 2018. TEMPO/Nita Dian

The fishermen of the Bajo tribe were able to obtain up to 946 tons of fish per day. One of the main commodities of their catch is sea cucumbers. They usually market sea cucumbers through collectors before distributing them to Chinese traders in Bima, Lombok, Bali, and Java. Apart from being used for consumption, sea cucumbers can be used as medical ingredients.

Since a long time ago, the Bajo people have utilised simple tools to catch fish, and most of the catches that they have obtained are rarely used for commercial purposes. The fish that they have obtained are used for personal consumption. This system lasted until the introduction of the Rupiah currency in Indonesia.

As Cameron said, the place where the Bajo people live is very typical of a coastal community. They live in stilt houses that build among the coasts and generally face toward the sea as the Bajo believe that a house facing the sea can bring blessing.


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