The ancient Mah Meri tribe, sometimes referred to as the “Masked Men of Malaysia”, is one of 18 indigenous communities living in Peninsula Malaysia.
They are widely regarded as some of the best mask makers in the world; some of their handicraft have been known to fetch thousands of dollars.
While many of the natives have assimilated into modern life, with jobs in nearby plantations and farms, much care has been taken to ensure that their ancient rituals and customs are documented and preserved.
There is a small gallery/museum and traditional house in the village compound that is open to visitors.
The village is open throughout the year, but the best time to visit Pulau Carey’s Mah Meri Cultural Village is during Hari Moyang (Ancestor Day), which takes place around March or April each year, Puja Pantai (Oceanic Healing) or during a wedding ceremony.
During the festival, the tribesmen and women wear intricately carved masks and perform the mystifying Tarian Jo-oh (Jungle Dance) and Tarian Topeng (Mask Dance), which are main features of the festival repertoire.
Genuine crafts purchased at the Cultural Village or National Museum bear the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Seal of Excellence and come with a certificate of authenticity.
These crafts are handmade out of a rare, reddish swamp hardwood called Nyireh Batu. Each piece has its own story that is related to their ancestral legends.
The Mah Meri tribeswomen are extremely adept at palm weaving. Over here, visitors get to assist them at making headdresses or other decorative items made of palm fronds.