Midweek Reflections #5: Youth Cultural Practitioners (Part 2)

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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.

Timothy Sebuang Dian
18 years old

It has been more than a month since the MCO (Movement Control Order) started. I was supposed to start my driving lesson on the first day of MCO but then I suddenly got a text from my instructor saying that my lesson has been postponed for 2 weeks. Besides that, I was also supposed to spend my time with my friends as we already have plans of what to do during the time of waiting for college and university offer letters. 

If I only have one thing to say about this year, COVID-19 is the biggest bummer of 2020.  

(2020 is officially cancelled for me 🙁 ) 

Looking at the bright side of this lockdown, I have been doing a lot of things from the first day. From cooking in the kitchen to painting my own room. I’ve also been doing some updates to my YouTube channel.

Basically, all I have been doing this whole lockdown was trying to grow my YouTube channel to a bigger audience by uploading more content (besides Netflix all-day all-night LOL). The only thing that was holding me back from creating more content and having a constant upload was my lack of gadgets and software as my laptop is broken. Other than that, I was also trying so hard to balance the time between chores, family and other things.

But on top of that, I was also able to sharpen my sape’ skills during my free time. Addition to that, thanks to technology today, I was able to socialize with my fellow Kayan from Kalimantan Indonesia and Baram through WhatsApp. We talked a lot about our cultural and heritage. Comparing the lifestyle, culture and historical background of the Kayan from Medalam, Mekam, Balui and Baram.  Due to this, I was given the opportunity to learn more about my own ethnicity despite the global pandemic being still in the heat of the moment. 

Moreover, Tuyang Initiative has given me the opportunity to deepen my knowledge about my own culture and heritage. Not only in the form of sape’ but also in the form of other aspects such as art, tradition, customs and history. Earlier before the MCO started, I was supposed to do a vlog together with other community practitioners and one of the community manager which is a friend of mine, Adrian Jo Milang

As a young boy who was raised and grown up in the longhouse, I was exposed to the Kayan tradition and customs. My late grandfather was a temenggong and my dad is a maren uma (longhouse chief). For the sake of that, I began to have interest in our customs and traditions. At a very young age, I have already shown my interest by wanting to dance the traditional ngajel dance, listening to stories from elders from my longhouse and paying attention to my dad and my late grandfather talking or giving speeches during tengaran (longhouse meeting).

As a result of that, I developed the feelings of the importance for us to keep our customs and tradition as said in Adat Perpatih that goes like this, “biar mati anak, jangan mati adat”. 

Looking at the fact that we are in a lockdown in another perspective, the advantage of this lockdown was I get to spend more time with my loved ones. In my 18 years of living, I have never ever felt a very close bond with my parents and my siblings. Even though seeing the faces of both my sisters every day is driving me insane, but I’m glad that I had a great moment with them since I will be going to college very soon.  

Little do we know that this pandemic is a blessing in disguise. Not only to us humans, but also to the environment as people tend to minimize the usage of vehicles including public transport and the activities of industry is also restricted which releases harmful gases to nature which can lead to pollution.  

Although, I do miss going out whether it be hanging out with friends or drinking teh c peng at your favorite kopitiam. But one thing is for sure – I am longing to entertain and share my culture with people through my sape’. I also miss meeting other sape’ players. As a SPM graduate, and unemployed 18 year old, performing the sape’ for various occasions was one source of income (beside the allowances given by my parents). 

Nevertheless, we are all in this together for the better good. As a matter of fact, the lockdown ensures the safety of public health. So, in order to break the chain of the virus a lockdown was required to prevent the virus from spreading throughout the world. I believe that if everyone is doing their part in the force to stop this pandemic, be it an average joe staying at home, or the brave frontliners fighting to save those with the virus, we could defeat this pandemic together regardless of our skin color, race and religion. As the saying goes, “bad times bring us closer together”.

Above all, the most important part of this is we all must take care of our personal health, hygiene and the cleanliness of our house. Stay safe and stay home everyone.

We all can end this together.


Sayu kenep.

Timothy Sebuang Dian

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