Goodbye and thank you: Muncok, 193* - 2013

My dear friend Muncok died yesterday around 11 am. I had been expecting it for some time but had hoped for a bit more time. He is one of my oldest Batek friends. Below is a commemorative collage from previous postings:

A posting from February 2010, on our first meeting in seven years: Muncok, probably the best known Batek man in Taman Negara national park, Malaysia... When I arrived in Taman Negara..., I was anxious to hear whether Muncok and his family were around. Yes, at Kuala Yong, people said. We went there and my heart sank when I found a seemingly empty settlement (as it turned out, everybody was in the forest or at work). But an old man was seated by himself in the far distance -- Muncok. He greeted me as though no time had passed since our last reunion (other anthropologists have told stories of returning to the field after a long absence to be greeted with, "oh, it's you"... well, that's how it was with me and Muncok).

He is the grandfather or great-grandfather of all the children pictured in these earlier postings. I've known him since my first fieldwork, in 1993. He is old now and suffering from TB, but his personality is as ever. He has largely retreated from leadership roles but still has great influence, and is well-known to local Malays and the wildlife rangers of the national park. The last time we went anywhere together in the forest, in 2003, I was huffing and puffing behind him as we clambered up a forest ridge to reach his camp, but he was as light on his feet as ever. He is one of those indestructible people I know has made my life immeasurably richer, and I dread the day when one of his grandchildren tells me that he is gone.

Postscript: Well, that day has come.

Muncup at rest

October 1996

moving to Tom Liwin
August 1996, geared up for the fruit season

Muncup and I
21st September 1996, on the Tembeling River. Photo by Colin Nicholas