“The Sounds & Sights of the Orang Ulu” at Yayasan Sime Darby Arts Festival 2018

“The Sounds & Sights of the Orang Ulu” at Yayasan Sime Darby Arts Festival 2018

The Tuyang Initiative was a proud program partner of this year’s edition of Kuala Lumpur based, Yayasan Sime Darby Arts Festival.

This biennial festival returned in full swing on 18-19 August 2018, at KL Performing Arts Centre (klpac) and drew more than 17,000 attendees across the two days.

As program partner, Tuyang curated a showcase around the “The Sounds & Sights of the Orang Ulu”, whose purpose was to showcase the lesser known, minority ethnic groups of Sarawak. Orang Ulu or “upriver people” is a politically coined ethnic designation to group approximately 27 ethnically diverse Dayak, or indigenous people, of Sarawak.

Festival directors, Ian Chow and Evangeline Lim sung praises for The Tuyang Initiative and the showcase:

When Juvita (co-founder) first knocked on our door, we were very certain at that time tat we wanted to partner with Tuyang due to the content they have to offer, and we did not regret that decision. Especially for folks here in West Malaysia, this sort of cultural/arts programme is not something that we experience regularly; and indeed, the entire curation that happened during the festival finale was an eye opener to a lot of the festival-goers.

Throughout the entire process, Tuyang’s team was very professional and well-organised. They were prompt, and despite being based in Sarawak, we were kept updated at all time on their progress. As any festival organiser will know, this eases the worries of the organiser, help alleviate potential miscommunications and at the same time, ensuring things planned are on track with the festival direction and commitment.

It was a real pleasure working with The Tuyang Initiative!

Festival Directors
Yayasan Sime Darby Arts Festival 2018

Photo exhibit from “Sounds & Sights of the Orang Ulu”.

For the Tuyang’s showcase debut, the communities highlighted were the Kayan and Kenyah. Both communities originate in central Borneo, and are found in both Sarawak, Malaysia and Kalimantan, Indonesia’s Borneo. These communities are known to be fierce warriors, former headhunters, physically identified by their elongated earlobes and have rich traditions and art forms such as music, crafts and tattoos.

The first component of the showcase was a mixed media photo exhibit. Attendees got a glimpse into Pusau Anak, a traditional child naming ceremony, which is one of the integral social events that has existed for generations in the Kenyah community.

Attendees admiring the photos and the festivity props.

The showcase also consisted of a music demonstration, hands-on weaving class and a talk on traditional storytelling methods. All of which was delivered by masters and practitioners from the communities.

For the craft segment, Rose Belarek, who is a Kenyah Jamok, introduced attendees to weaving methods and shared the significance of weaving to the community. During the one and a half hour class, participants were taught to weave a coaster from bamboo strips. Most completed their piece with Rose’s guidance, and were pleased that they got to take home their handiwork!

For the music segment, Sape’ master, Mathew Ngau Jau, a Kenyah Ngorek shared the cultural significance of the instrument to the Kenyah community. He also demonstrated a few traditional Kenyah folks songs, and inevitably got the audience to join in a “long dance”.

Mathew also conducted “Introductory Sape'” classes for both children (age 9-12 years old) and adults, which gave a preview to the instrument and what it means to learn it.

21-year old Adrian Jo Milang, a Kayan, talked about his community and its oral tradition, Parap and Takna’. As a young practitioner, he shared his ongoing journey of documenting the tales from his elders, and the process of learning this rarely heard art form. He also shared his hopes for the future. Adrian also delivered an impromptu demonstration of the Parap with help from his mother and Kenyah elders for the audience present.

Apart from that, attendees also got a chance to purchase art and craft made by community artisans, some who were present to talk about the pieces presented.

This current format of “Sounds & Sights of the Orang Ulu” is just one of the multitude of methods to share the diversity of the Orang Ulu communities and their wealth in art, tradition and culture. The hope is to scale this to cover even more communities and their various art forms. Our goal is also to take this showcase format on tour, so more people around the world will get acquainted to the smaller communities that exist on the beautiful island of Borneo. If you are interested in partnerships, sponsorships or to host our showcase, please reach out to: juvita@thetuyang.com

The Tuyang Initiative would like to extend our sincerest gratitude to:Yayasan Sime Darby Arts Festival for believing in what we could deliver as a small team in this massive event.

CENDANA (Cultural Economy Development Agency) for supporting us via the Emerging Artist Incubation fund, which goes into pre-production efforts in putting this showcase together.

Vignes Balasingam (Director of Obscura Festival of Photography) for advice on how to better tell our stories through the beautiful Pusau Anak photos we were entrusted with by Howard Koons.

Softpillow Mollycoddle and Co for providing remote event setup (and emotional) support.

Cabreney Johnny for the awesome work on our website and onground photography & videography support.

Alena Murang & Ilu Leto for trusting us and the attendees with your beautiful and precious Sape’s for Mathew Ngau Jau’s workshops.

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