Jacopo Della Valle – Waterworld
For almost 10 years I have been traveling the world in search of all those little-known ethnic populations and minorities, often invisible to our society, who still survive globalization trying to keep alive their characteristic ancestral traditions.
Off the coast of the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia live the Bajau, indigenous peoples, nomads and stateless people also known as sea gypsies.
Distrustful, because they are used to living isolated, they are often treated with indifference or denounced because they are considered illegal immigrants on the mainland, in fact they are not recognized by any State and have no fundamental rights.
In the past they moved freely in the seas of Southeast Asia while today they are more sedentary, but still live closely linked to the sea in small wooden stilts built on the shallow water or in boats called “lepas”, far from the mainland and its society.
They have an unparalleled knowledge of the Ocean and their life passes slowly, marked by the rhythms of the tides.
Expert freedivers, they learn to swim as soon as they are born; fishing and the collection of shells and shellfish represent the main source of livelihood of the Bajau, who reach the coast only to trade their products or to shelter from heavy storms.
Salis, a Bajau fisherman, introduced me to his community by acting as an interpreter and allowing me to photograph their lifestyle and habits.
He told me that he tried to move to the mainland to work in the city, but after a few months, the nostalgic call of the sea was too strong and he returned to live in his stilt house, escaping from the routine and everyday life of a settled life.
Tighter controls, gradual decline in marine wildlife and restrictions on their movement are putting Bajau’s survival at risk, but moving to land and abandoning their way of life is not yet an option.