Mahat China

Mahat China, whose nickname is “Akiya,” comes from Kampung Erong, Ladang Ulu Bernam, in Perak state. He has been a published writer and poet for several decades. describes his background and his development as a storyteller and advocate for Semai culture. He was the first-born son, in 1953, of a family living in the forests of Perak. As the oldest child in the family, he soon learned about responsibilities for younger siblings and the work involved with survival in an aboriginal community. He worked in rubber fields, collected rattan, and helped around the house. He finally started attending school at the age of 10.

Perhaps most importantly, he listened to the stories of his mother, a traditional, expert Semai storyteller, a cermor, and he later wrote them down. When he went off to secondary school, he was inspired by a teacher to begin writing his own stories. He rebelled against outsiders telling the history of his people and he decided he should tell them himself. He wanted the truth of the aboriginal experience to not come from others—he could write it better, he felt.

He published books of poetry, short stories, and finally a novel, Perang Sangkil, which was published in the Malay language by PTS Fortuna, in Selangor, in 2007. In 1976, he discovered that he also wanted to capture the experiences of the Orang Asli in photographs as well as in his writing. He started collecting photographic equipment and taking pictures, capturing the ordinary daily events, celebrations, joys, and tragedies in the villages.

Mahat is now retiring from his chosen field of Radio Broadcasting which he has enjoyed for over 35 years, speaking in his native language to uplift and educate so many Orang Asli on the world outside as well as on events and happenings of more local interest. At last, he is free to write and “click” in celebration and loving portrayals of those places and those people of his heart, always creating and always making the outside world more aware of Aboriginal Life and Aboriginal Issues.