An enchanting tale of travels among South East Asia's Sea Gypsies, scattered groups of semi-nomadic fisher people who occupy the spaces between the islands. A glance at the map of South East Asia reveals more blue than green, more sea than land. By separating the islands of the Malay Archipelago the sea has created diversity; by joining them together it has enabled trade and laid them open to influences from China, India and the Middle East. All Malays were sailors once - their ancestors reached the islands by boat - and the sea holds a central place in the Malay experience and imagination. The Sea Gypsies who still occupy this realm seem to live still in the hidden world of Conrad's tales. They form social co-operative groups, each with its own territory, and move between established anchorages within that range, following the changing currents, seasons and fishing opportunities, and are specialists at exploiting the coral reefs. They have an oral tradition which accounts for their origins with myths of floods and tidal waves.
Their hunter-gatherer lifestyle and a belief system that is at root a blend of animism, ancestor worship and sympathetic magic are characteristics they share with the early Malay cultures. Sebastian Hope travels and lives with groups of Sea Gypsies in both the east and the west of South East Asia, experiencing their subsistence lifestyle, unchanged for centuries. Travelling to fish and fishing to live, like the Sea Gypsies themselves he relies solely on his skills as a sailor and fisherman to survive.
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(197mm x 130mm x mm)
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Country of Publication:
UK Kirkus Review »
Every month hundreds of travel books of no great substance churn off publisher's presses. Most are soon forgotten. But once in many years there comes a book of such extraordinary perception that it stands the test of time. Hope's first work The Outcasts of the Islands: The Sea Gypsies of South East Asia is one such book. A chance meeting on the east coast of Sulawesi, Indonesia, led Hope to the little known clans of 'Bajo': sea gypsies. They exist now as they have done for centuries. An elusive people, shunned by the region's land-based tribes, they accepted Hope into their mysterious folds. During the months he lived with them, he learned of their precarious, nomadic lives. Day in, day out, he experienced the constant threat of hunger, disease and pollution, the worry of change. In the 1950s Wilfred Thesiger spent several years living with the Marsh Arabs of Iraq. He went there not with the intention of writing a book on the subject, but because he was fascinated with the age-old civilisation of the marshes. In the same way, Hope was drawn into the lives of the Bajo, never with the intention of writing up the tale of his adventure. Like Thesiger, he learned the language, put up with deplorable hardship, returned time and time again, and lived accordingly to the primitive nomadic routine. The result is a book of great richness and delicacy, which eases the reader through the waterways of the eastern archipelago, educating and amusing. The Outcasts of the Islands will undoubtedly become a classic, just as The Marsh Arabs did half a century ago. (Kirkus UK)
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Author Biography - Sebastian Hope
Sebastian Hope was born in 1964 and had lived in five different homes by the age of seven. He caught his first fish, a trout, before he was three. In 1986, after gaining a degree in English Literature from Bristol University he set off for Pakistan. Arriving on the Caribbean coast of Mexico two years later he decided on the toss of a coin to pursue a career in writing and photography. His travel stories and photographs have appeared in the Financial Times, the Daily Telegraph, Highlife and both Traveller Magazines, among others.