Traditional Forging Profession of Ma People in Lam Đong
Aug 15th 2015.
The Ma is one of the indigenous inhabitants of Lâm Đồng province. Through the ups and downs in history, their economic life has constantly been changed and developed, besides, their cultural identity has been shaped and created unique characteristics, contributing to Việt Nam’s rich cultural heritage. The Mạ formerly led a nomadic life, their main economic is from burning – off and shifting cultivation, in addition, other economic activities such as animal husbandry, farming and hunting, gathering also play important roles in their lives. To meet the requirements of productive labor and daily living needs, traditional handicrafts have been formed, of which is the forging profession of the Mạ.
Mạ’s forging profession developed rather well and has contributed an important role in their lives, almost all Mạ tribes and Mạ’s families can do forging. Since forging profession is a heavy job, it is done by men, mainly after harvest time or when there is demand for use of products. . Their products serve basic needs of the community, partly in exchange for things needed by ethnic neighborhoods.
Mạ’s traditional forging is made in a closed process, from the selection and processing of ores to forging and finishing products.
The tools used in relatively simple forging include: furnaces, retracted bellows, pliers, tongs, anvils, hammers, gutters to harden products …
Forging products not only serve the needs of production, but are also used in spiritual ceremonies. Products used in daily life include: long – handled axes, long spears, knives, hammers, axes, arrows …
Products used in the spiritual life include: ritual axes and spears. These items are meticulously and thoroughly forged, with high durability and aesthetic values. In the Mạ community, ritual items are considered to be homes of gods, so they should only be used in agricultural rituals, life cycle ceremonies, community rituals … After the ritual is concluded, these items will be washed and carefully kept without use in daily activities to show respect to gods, in the hope for good weather, good harvest, peaceful community and good health, …
Previously, forging operation was fairly common in Mạ communities but now it exists only in some villages. Due to many different causes, Mạ’s forging profession is still active but the scale is shrinking and fading out. Many trade secrets and techniques, experiences accumulated from many generations have gradually fallen into oblivion, and replaced by new techniques without inheriting and promoting traditional values. Therefore, the preservation of the value of Mạ’s forging profession is very necessary.
By Ha Hanh