Recipient of 2018 Shell Sustainable Development Grant: The Tuyang Artistry Programme

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The minority Dayak communities of Sarawak grouped under the term “Orang Ulu” (Kayan, Kenyah, Lun Bawang, Kelabit and more) are culturally rich communities. You can see it in the elaborate bead and weave work, the fierce steps of the Warrior dance, the many folksongs sung.

They have practiced it for generations, surely the communities can share it with the world and earn fair and sustainable income from it? But yet, why is it so hard for the communities to play an active role in the value-chain of sharing their cultural heritage to the world? Instead, why are others, especially people from dominant cultures in urban centres are taking over (or advantage) of this?

It was through this discovery that the idea of  The Tuyang Artistry Programme was born. Upon the realisation that the rural Orang Ulu communities, while innately skilled in the arts and their cultural heritage, are challenged in three key areas:

  • Tools to compete in the market
    // Have a wealth of cultural or tradition-related skills.
    // However, due to a combination of culture of the communities and also not necessarily having the right hard or soft skills, including focus on craftsmanship, it makes it hard to compete on a level-playing field in the market.
  • Disadvantaged due to locale or market access
    // As most talent & practitioners are in areas 5-10 hours away from the closest towns, most are challenged geographically to sell their products or get their talents noticed.
    // Rely heavily on middlemen due to lack of network and knowledge on sales channels.
  • Culture & tradition de-prioritised
    // Even if skilled, living beneath the poverty line, talents choose to focus on work that garners immediate returns e.g. farming, working in closest towns or cities
    // This means that talents do not have a safety net to hone their craft even if they wanted to

In today’s globalised market, on top of the above challenges, it is also simply not enough to have beautiful, unique products or just be highly skilled. Practitioners of the arts, including from various disciplines in the indigenous communities have to be Marketers.

Working closely together with industry experts from around the region, we aim to build strong and dynamic training modules in both crafts and performance arts to meet the above goals and the Tuyang vision. These modules will also be catered to both artistry leaders as well as general practitioners in order to have meaningful longterm and bigger scale impact.

We are are proud and grateful to be one of the recipients of the 2018 Shell Sustainable Development Grant . This will go a long way in helping our work in building the right modules that will help create sustainable alternative income opportunities through cultural heritage, but which will also lead to the development and preservation of tradition, art & culture.

Stay tuned for progress updates!


We would love to talk to as many Industry Experts who have experience or work in areas of:

– Talent Development (Performance Arts)

– Craftsmanship & Design (Fashion, industrial/product design)

– Policy for indigenous cultural heritage

– Training (various levels)

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