Midweek Reflections #3: Mathew Ngau Jau

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“Midweek Reflections” is a space for team members and cultural practitioners of The Tuyang Initiative to share their thoughts, fears and dreams. For feedback, please email hello@thetuyang.com.

Hello! I hope everyone is keeping well, staying safe and healthy. It’s been a funny time for myself, as I am sure it is for a lot of people too. While I am keeping well with my wife and kids, limited movement in our living space is something…not very normal for me.

I suppose through the upbringing in my community (Kenyah), I enjoy the freedom of movement. Growing up in Long Semiyang, a peaceful village along the Baram, meant that I would wake up in the morning and venture down to the river, or go deep into the jungle – with absolute freedom!

Being based in Kuching now, which is seeing some of the highest numbers of infections in Sarawak can be quite scary. All the more reason for me to stay vigilant for my sake, and the sake of my family. 

The upside of staying home means I get to spend time with my family. As a parent, I get to spend more quality time with my children, expose them to the Sape’ melodies or watch me draw and paint kalong, and practice with them. Maybe that is part of the blessing in disguise.

I also have more time to continuously practice playing the Sape’, be it revisiting old melodies or coming up with new ones. One can never have enough practice!

However, I do miss being able to venture out into the land, to find and harvest raw materials. Be it to get tree bark (of breadfruit trees) to make the canvas for my paintings, or in search of wood to make Sape’. I also miss playing the Sape’ and singing at shows, small or large, locally or internationally, for new or old audiences. I miss teaching students who are keen to learn about Sape’ origins, and its beautiful melodies. I miss meeting and interacting with people at my homestay or showing people how I make Sape’ in my humble workshop!

But I understand that this is necessary. And my hope is that, as you are sheltering at home, you won’t forget about me!

The team at Tuyang are working hard to try and ensure that you won’t forget about the likes of me, and the cultural practitioners who are affected by this, both emotionally and financially. We will continue to find special ways to share about my culture, as well as the many other beautiful Dayak cultures and people – with you! 

Expect to see more videos, or stories, and even a few online shows.

Our collective hope is that you will continue your support, the same way you would come to our shows, attend my Sape’ classes, or acquire my handiwork (be it one of my Sape’ or art pieces!).

Here are some of the things that you could hopefully look forward to within the next month:

  • You will be able to watch a live performance of mine via Facebook. Stay tuned to my page for updates. 
  • You can also book a virtual seat or a ticket for our Kenyah-Kayan musical-theatre show titled, Kelunan, a show that debuted last year and one that I am very proud of.
  • Pre-orders for custom kalong art pieces by me
  • And more

(Tuyang Team says: Detailed updates to come!)

So friends, I am optimistic that things will look up. 

I am looking forward to a healthier and safer environment for all. I am looking forward to playing the Sape’ and singing in person to a live audience again. I am looking forward to venturing out in search for wood and tree bark again. I am looking forward to hosting you at my humble homestay. Or teach you in one of my classes.

And most of all, I am looking forward to being on the road to see you, my old friends! And making many new ones, once again.

In the meantime, don’t forget us, okay!

Tiga tawai (thank you).

Mathew Ngau


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