Borneo Hornbill Festival 2012 by Warisan Sarawak

Keling 2012 Ricky Jores wearing the ethnic Bidayuh warrior’s costume (finally a Bidayuh won!)

Congratulations to the winners of the Kumang, Keligit and Keling of Borneo Hornbill Festival 2012 and the dancing teams this year. May the event run for years to come and be successful!

Kumang Bidayuh: Theodosia Elicia Wilrode (Winner), Jessica Go (2nd place), Magdalen Patrick Bejig (3rd place)

Kumang Iban: Gloria Jimbai (Winner), Suzzy Ramli (2nd place), Darwina Entaudu Maringgal (3rd place)

Keligit (Orang Ulu): Karen Laleng David (Winner), Esther Paya Avit (2nd place), Penelope Ering Laing (3rd place)

Photos courtesy of Persatuan Warisan Sarawak.


Gawai Tourism 2011 at Annah Rais

It was a rainy day on the 3rd of September 2011, all the way to late evening. Maybe that’s why the turnout was low, even with free food. The event started early, by noon many villagers opened up their stalls selling food, drinks and crafts. This year is the 2nd year it’s held, this time in Kpg. Saba (translated as the upper village) longhouse.

By 7.30 PM, the VIP arrived, YB James Dawos. It was so 1Malaysia, national anthem, 1Malaysia song etc. The programme began with traditional performances by the villagers and the invited dancers from Kpg. Semban, the ones who still wear the brass coils around their legs, arms and stomachs.

After the first biranggie (traditional dance), the VIP gave his speech. And what a long winded one it was. Of course, I should have expected it. I have yet to listen to a short, simple and to the point speech given by a local politician, Sadly, it’s publicity time! He’s repetitive, boring and has the least inspiring voice I’ve ever heard. Halfway through it people were beginning to nod off and play with their apps.

While the MC decided to speak only in Malay, so I’m guessing the foreigners just try to make the best of what’s going on.

What’s with the smoky stage effect anyway? It stinks, and the older dancers cringed whenever thick smoke started to engulf the stage. Not to mention the lighting (those big concert lighting) which blinded the poor ladies.

The last event is the joget time, with a live band and guest star Claudia Geres. Still much to improve, but it’s still in its second year. Great effort, although I wished it was more encompassing so that the Bidayuhs from other regions can join in and promote their own brand of culture.

What’s your ROOTS man???

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.

Borneo Hornbill Festival 2011: My Anak Borneo Story


I was missing for some time, busy with work, dance practices and my recent trip to KL with Anak Borneo. We participated in the Borneo Hornbill Festival 2011 in the dance category, doing a Memaloh Dance and a second Dance Medley, Borneo: The Land of Gawai Aramaiti.


Those who know me would be surprised as to why I’m even interested in dance, traditional some more. It was a coincidence I guess. I’ve always wanted to learn, but too embarassed to. Then I met some friends who wanted to go for the Borneo Hornbill Festival 2011 in KL, and willing to take on newbies (who has two left feet). Besides, it’s a dying culture. So why not? Thing is, once you’ve tried it, you kind of get addicted to it. There’s something about doing something that your ancestors did, different from the rest and in touch with nature. Sorry, I’m rambling again.

Anyway, the Anak Borneo group consists of ten people with members from Limbang, Miri, Kalimantan border, Betong and Kuching. It was fun meeting everyone, learning something new. It felt like the old days of secondary school when we went on trips for competitions to far off lands (back then it sure seemed so).

3Iban, Selakau, Kadazan, Kenyah, Kenyah, Bisayak, Memaloh, Tindal, Murut, Suluk

Of course, with any groups there’s bound to be problems but we got through it. We didn’t win anything, but I’m guessing most of us expected that. We didn’t perform as well as we expected, but all in all I had a great time. Made friends with some of the other teams too.


The dances were interesting, some a bit boring. The Kumang Keligit Keling was nice, some coming up with as much accessories as possible.

For the ethnic dance category, 1st place is Sanggar Budaya from Miri, 2nd ASWARA, 3rd Kampung Benuk (proud of you!). Whether or not they deserve to win is subjective since I’m not all that versed in dance.


My only solo part and I screwed it. Missed the ballon, the arrow hitting the shield so hard it took awhile to pry it off. There’s a hole now in the terabai. Plus the wound on my feet which I guess came from somebody’s sword who dropped it.


On another note, the Borneo Hornbill Festival, organised by Warisan Sarawak is a great concept, with great ambitions, but ultimately fell flat when it came to implementation. The tickets were expensive, low turnout due to lack of promotion (there wasn’t even a banner in front of the building except a small one when you actually walk in), draggy shows (the Kumang, Keligit, Keling dragged on till 2 A.M), unorganised, messy schedule (clashing rehearsals that wasted our time), ignorant MCs (this one pisses me off the most) with stuttering speech who don’t seem to know a thing about what they were talking about,  and odd showtimes (who’s going to come on a weekday to the centre of KL??)

But the festival is a laudable effort by the organisers. The stage, lighting and audio were awesome. The prizes were extremely awesome too (Grand prize 3.5k + trip to Melbourne).

Like a journalist who was asked how the festival fared this year compared to the last, he answered, “It’s improving.”


I’m not sure I’ll be joining next year (maybe Keling, if I ever get a bit more beefier lol), but I hope they learn from this and improve. It’s one thing to delegate, it’s another to delegate and monitor.

Find a cheaper venue, charge less for the tickets (RM 70 is a lot of money for two days), promote it aggresively not just through the internet, but through travel agencies, radio, physical banners or buntings, at the airport, invitations to various ethnic associations (maybe ask them to endorse). If possible invite our Kalimantan Dayak counterparts as guest performers. New categories like folk song and instrumental would be good. Stay punctual according to schedule so as to not waste our limited time.

Provide a basic, affordable package that includes transportation and accommodation to and from the venue for teams that come from far, like many international festivals.

Find knowledgeable MCs on Bornean culture preferably from Sarawak or Sabah who don’t stutter. Confine the festival to the weekends or at least start on Fridays to allow more people in central KL to come. Cut out unnecessary parts of the show. Ideally it should end latest by 11 AM (many use public transport).

Define in the rules what the dance must be (especially the rampaian etnik), while part of the jury (ideally 5 people) should be real experts on not just dance but the culture itself because dance evolves, and there are many dances that aren’t known which might be construed as too creative.

Great time, great friends, a memorable journey in something new, and an exciting way to learn about your own culture and those of others.

Tarian Hudoq Bahau


From The Star 27 June 2011: Author extreme right

Anak Borneo made an appearance at the annual Miri Red Crescent Dance for Humanity 2011. They brought a Bahau (of Kalimantan) dance, the Tarian Hudoq.

The Hudoq dance is also practiced in Sarawak by the Dayaks, but not as widely or as intricate as the Kalimantanese. Hudoq means ‘mask’. It represents the spirits or gods of old that came down to the world in the form of animals like birds, pigs, crocodiles or wolves. The dance is for the paddy planting ritual or for scaring and entertaining kids. The dancer’s body is covered with banana leaves, or sometimes coconut husk or mats.