“We, as people from the communities ourselves, have the burden of responsibility to ensure that our cultures are maintained and protected so it can be passed onto future generations.”
Juvita Tatan Wan
Co-founder, Juvita Tatan Wan, had the privilege of sharing a keynote at the inaugural International Heritage and Cultural Conservation Conference (InHERIT) 2018 at The Waterfront Hotel, Kuching on 4th December.
Sharing the stage with esteemed researchers and academicians, Juvita talked about “Responsible Promotion & Development of Dayak Cultural Heritage” in the Nusantara segment of the program.
Some key excerpts from her keynote speech here:
On meaningful inclusivity:
“Having preconceived notions from the eyes of a dominant social group, without the necessary experience of immersion inside a community, or having true understanding of the nuances such as community values, language, way of life, these proposed “solutions” or “stories” carries certain biases. It in turn, moulds narratives on behalf of the communities, which may or may not be accurate. When steered by those with societal power, especially directing narratives where communities are exoticised, or positioned in a non-dignified way, it perpetuates a gap and isolation from the rest of the world. It does not provide real insights to these communities, who, people on the outside sometimes forget, are made out of real people with real challenges.”
“In areas of music or the arts, artistic directors and programmers who wish to incorporate traditional Dayak stories, music or talents (especially in Sarawak and Malaysia), most have a preconceived, stereotypical idea of how it should be done. Dayak talents or art practitioners are often directed or told that they can, or should, only deliver certain aspects of their art form due to “creative licenses” or budget or production constraints. The lack of opportunity given to community talents or practitioners in playing a proactive role through meaningful dialogue or participation in the developmental stages raises the question – who is driving the story or the art form in the context of authenticity, or selecting the appropriate dialogues or themes?”
On policies which empower and protect:
“Despite the clear commercial value of Dayak cultures and its contribution to a wide range of industries including Tourism, Arts & Craft, Academic/Research, Advertising, Film and more, there is no legal framework which provides recognition and protection, particularly to own and control representation and dissemination of our stories, knowledge or other cultural expressions.”
On sustainability and transparency in action
“Simple decisions such as, inviting actual Dayak community members to perform their own cultural dances at events, or inviting community acknowledged experts as cultural consultants in advising on cultural protocols and use of cultural materials, is important so that the community feels valued, protected and respected. Doing this makes the intent of the work transparent, and is a simple sign of good faith and mutual respect. It also subsequently provides opportunities for community members to play an active role in their cultural heritage, while benefiting socioeconomically.”
On the importance of professional representation, with heart
“From arts managers, researchers, performing artists, programmers, artistic directors – the people who want to work with aspects of Dayak cultural heritage, while are experts in their fields, must also have meaningful understanding and a certain depth of knowledge of the different Dayak culture and transmissions of it.
There must be a level of respect and acknowledgment that the beautiful culture goes beyond just mere content to feed hungry consumers.
We dance because it tells stories of our experiences with our lands and the environment. We sing because we are celebrating our ancestors while teaching us our languages. We tell stories because that is how we learn about our lives, society and the politics of our people, of past and present. It goes beyond aesthetics, and more people need to understand that. Hence the importance of more professional representation.”
All photos credit to Muhammad Khairi Ismail of University College of Technology Sarawak.