Juvita recalls the conversations that sparked the idea of The Tuyang Initiative.
- Inspired by her fond memories with family in Long San, upper Baram.
“I vividly remember the times as kids, when we would go back to visit grandpa, grandma, our aunties and uncles in the longhouse. This was from the 1990s-2000s.We would sit at the ruai, talk, watch my aunties bead intricate traditional craft pieces. The men would be talking, drinking their burak and smoking their rolled tobacco. We would also run up and down to longhouse, pop into relatives lamen to just say hi and announce that we are home. When it started to get dark and the generator got turned on, we would have a communal dinner followed by a night cap at the veranda, which came with some ngajat and singing. Things felt simpler and happier then”.*Burak – Rice wine, Lamen – A family’s unit in a longhouse, Ngajat – Traditional dance
- Watching it deteriorate was painful.
“But during my most recent trips back home, the feel just isn’t the same. Doom and gloom clouds the place. Our old longhouse had burnt down in Christmas of 2005. While most have managed to rebuild their lamen, some have not, even till today. Some due to lack of funds, some due to the fact that they feel like they don’t need it anymore as they’ve settled down in Miri or surrounding towns. Because of that, the longhouse isn’t a longhouse anymore. It’s built like a terrace housing with gaps due to affordability or just won’t be filled.It’s disheartening that the tight community spirit I remember, is not there anymore.I understand why so many had to leave, to earn a decent income. But at what cost? Also, communities don’t leave fellow community members behind.”
- Let’s do something about it before it’s too late.
“I see our eldest uncle, uncle Jalong who’s 86 this year. He’s so sharp in recalling the odd jobs he did during the White Rajah era. How they would all pool together whatever little money they have to help a community member. The folk songs that they used to sing before our community embraced Christianity. And I thought to myself: So, what story will my generation of Kenyahs pass on to the next? I felt terrified at the prospect of losing our culture, our way of life. Our strength lies in our upper Baram locale, our arts & culture. Also within the community members themselves.
And today, with the assistance of digital technology – I believe that there’s very little that can’t be done. We need to find a way to ensure that on one hand, we are economically sustainable while balancing it so that our community’s way of life, art & culture thrives. And not just survive as memories.”