The generation of today is living in a world where they are offered a vast array of choices, whether in music, pop culture or dance. With that, comes the decline of interest in traditional arts, culture and music. It’s inevitable, as things are everchanging.
The custodians of traditional culture are gradually declining, as fewer and fewer young people take it up. The great teachers are slowly dying away, bringing their technique with them to the grave. The traditional is often perceived as boring, old and sometimes embarassing. We have begun to be ashamed of our culture, yet we condemn and ridicule others not of our kind who make an effort to learn it.
Unlike our counterparts in Kalimantan who excel and have carried Dayak culture far ahead and established it as a dynamic art form, over here, we are lagging behind, stuck to the old ways, doing the same thing, unappealling to the masses of younger generation.
From my personal experience, I’ve always found traditional dance to be somewhat outdated and reserved for the experts. So I never bothered to learn (and too embarassed to take lessons). My excuses were shame, two left feet and fear. But once I started, I got hooked. It was an incredibly liberating experince for me, even with all the mistakes I made. There’s a whole new world out there that we, as the modern generation, can carry on, make tweaks and still maintain it’s authenticity. What I mean is that on the one hand we have the traditional, slow ones, on the other, the faster, upbeat yet still derived from the orginal steps but improved (purists would not agree, however). Same goes for music.
There’s something about doing something that has been done for generations, slowly refined with the times. With the advent of Malayanizing everything (since it’s Malay-sia), the Dayak culture has slowly been eroded of it’s authenticity (Islamization). We can take a leaf from our incredibly pro-Dayak neigbours, who has stood by their identity with pride.
For example, in most dance competitions held in Sarawak, Malay elements has to be incorporated (to win) which is not only so homogenized, it clashes with the more spontaneous art of Dayak dance. Some competitions require that you do a Malay dance! While in the rampaian kreatif (Creative Dance Medley), the costumes are of the bright, shiny Malayic type, incorporated with many Malay moves. (Imagine someone wearing a chawat doing the joget, urgghh!) If you have the time and opportunity to watch a Kalimantan creative traditional dance, you’d be blown away by how Dayak (and beautiful) it looks.
I’m not just talking about boasting how powerful your ancestors are going mengayau (headhunting), or how good they are at drinking. That is a thing of the past. It’s no longer relevant today. Instead, think of how you can do your part by learning something about the history of your culture and it’s traditions. Part of the reason why our Dayak identity is eroding is because we have forgotten what makes us Dayak. Our language, dance, music, rotting by the wayside while we pursue the modern lifestyle (which is not wrong, not saying you have to hunt for food and wear a chawat). How can you be proud of your identity when you have nothing to show for it but the race stated in your birth cert?
It’s time we remember who we are and be proud of our own Dayak identity.