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Thursday, 18 May 2017

BHF, 9 Years and Going...

Borneo Hornbill Festival has always been my muse ever since joining its pageant six years back in 2011. Why is it my muse?

First of all, it has always inspired me to do more exploring, digging, seeking on what is Iban all about. The fact that there are many pageants in Sarawak, to-date I think that Borneo Hornbill Festival is the only one that tasks their contestants to do research only any topic that is related to their roots and yes, present it during the indoor judging. Whereas, many other pageants would just be, at the most explaining about the costumes being worn and displaying it to the judges and viewers, and finally the question and answer session.

Old Folklore from Bidayuh Biatah tribe

An Old Baju Burik
That is how the indoor judging looks like,
quite intimidating, no?

Young team of indoor judging judges from various backgrounds and ethnicity

This year’s BHF had opened my eyes as one of the indoor judges on the art of Tuak making and also creating new variety of tuak by combining it with different ingredients in order to have a more unique taste of tuak, for an example by adding the “kelulut” honey or the honey from the stingless bee. One of the contestants from Sabah displayed her costume from the 1940s and the history behind it besides playing the bamboo flute as her talent. 

Research on Tuak Kelulut
Research on traditional clothing of Dusun Tindal Tribe

How about the art of making Nuba Laya? Yes, one of the finalists’ presentation was about the history of the Lunbawang people and she demonstrated to us on how to make Nuba Laya or rice wrapped in a special leaf which is native to the Lunbawang people. Of course being not a Lunbawang I would only know how to eat Nuba Laya but not how to make it, and that is my friends that makes Borneo Hornbill Festival being unique from any other pageants held in Sabah and Sarawak.

The Making of Nuba Laya

Presentation on Kelingai Iban (Iban Tattoo)

Baju Burik costume (Iban Kapit Tribe)

This brings to the second reason on why BHF has always been my muse; to see the younger generation preserve their age old culture by bringing them back to life. Most of the indigenous traditional knowledge have become almost unheard of or even extinct due to the word globalization and its relevance to the current world. There is nothing wrong to discover what history was because history is what shapes the future. I myself would not want my children to not know what a “ngepan” (Iban traditional costume) is, or how our forefathers came up with Iban law of Tusun Tunggu. Law, culture, clothing, food are among the components that created the society at that time and to understand how people live long time ago would create the awareness on how we behave now. Therefore, I really love watching the younger generation contestants who presented their research and relate it to our current life.

Finally, having given the opportunity to speak to the younger generation contestants gives me the inspiration to be more open to accept their ideas and perspective in traditional culture because this is the platform where we can share ideas of the traditional knowledge and create something creative and new in order to make it more relevant without leaving behind the root of the original idea of the traditional knowledge. Most of the contestants of BHF are eager to share their knowledge just that what makes one more outstanding than the other is on how deep their understanding of the subject. So, the more you read and research, the more you understand and up to my fifth year of being one of the judges I can roughly gauge who did their research well and sincere enough to show the knowledge.
Giving moral support to especially those who never joined pageants in their life

As BHF bids adieu every year there will always be unhappy spectators or even contestants. Most of the time they would blame the organizer and the judges for not choosing their favourite, but do they know the organiser’s criteria or objective of this event being held at the first place? That is the question that you need to answer before giving rants of unsatisfactory and negative thoughts. Yes, we might be a young team of judges, we do make mistakes but we try to be stronger by learning from the mistakes.

A beautiful contestant may wear the winning costume but is it enough to make her as the Kumang? That is for that contestant herself to answer and for us to see, whether she is well equipped with the knowledge of her subject matter of that traditional knowledge, whether she is sincere enough to present it or it is just a matter of winning a title and not contributing to the community after that. "Tepuk dada tanya selera".

I wish all the best to the London Qualifiers of BHF 2017, may you shine bright in London and show the best of what you are.
Male London Qualifiers 
Female London Qualifiers

Photo Credit to Mr. Anderson Kalang, Mr Paren Nyawi, Mr. Ricky Racha' Kimwah & BHF FB Page.