Sustaining Borneo Highland’s cultural heritage through music | WWF Indonesia

Sustaining Borneo Highland’s cultural heritage through music

Posted on 11 July 2010
The annual Rainforest World Music Festival held at the Sarawak Cultural Village is now in full swing with festival goers flocking to the Sarawak Cultural Village. Many are here to enjoy not only the music and workshops but also to visit the various exhibition booths scattered around the village.

One of the booths features Central Borneo’s indigenous cultural traditions with the participation of FORMADAT (Forum Masyarakat Adat Dataran Tinggi Borneo or Forum of the Indigenous Peoples of the Highlands of Borneo) a grass-root, cross-border, organisation representing the Indigenous Peoples of the Highlands, in the Heart of Borneo (HoB).

FORMADAT is a trans-boundary community forum established by the main ethnic groups in the area – the Lun Dayeh/Lun Bawang, Sa’ban and Kelabit. They number around 25,000 people of whom 75 percent are on the Indonesian side of the border. The highlands of Borneo, which comprise the sub districts of Krayan Selatan and Krayan in East Kalimantan, Indonesia, Bario, Ba’Kelalan and Long Semado in Sarawak, and Long Pasia in Sabah, constitute one geographic, environmental and cultural land inhabited by people who share a common origin.

The FORMADAT exhibition booth presents an opportunity to promote local products using the ‘Green and Fair Products’ branding, a new initiative supported by WWFIndonesia and WWF-Malaysia to grant fair recognition to local products and support sustainable livelihoods.

According to Cristina Eghenter, WWF - Indonesia’s Social Development Advisor, a range of high quality highland products, such as Adan rice, mountain salt, wild cinnamon, indigenous handicrafts and musical instruments are on display and sold at the festival.

“Cultural performances and poster exhibitions in and around the booth captures the beautiful landscape and culture of the land of FORMADAT as well as promote eco-tourism destinations in the highlands,” she said.

“Music and lyrics have the capacity to bind people together with a shared understanding or vision.

In many ways, this is exactly what FORMADAT represents. It hopes to raise awareness of its existence within the community and its vision and commitment to protect and sustainably develop the common cultural heritage of the land that lies within both Malaysia and Indonesia in the Heart of Borneo.” John Terawe, FORMADAT’s Malaysian Coordinator, said that another objective of FORMADAT is the preservation and conservation of the ethnic culture and identity of the groups it represents.

“The idea of coming to the Rainforest World Music Festival is to publicise and promote our beliefs and to create awareness of the ‘Heart of Borneo’.” The Heart of Borneo (HoB) is the only remaining place in South East Asia that still holds huge tracts of continuous pristine forest. It straddles the transboundary highlands of Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia that reaches out through the foothills into the adjacent lowlands.

Meanwhile, FORMADAT legal advisor Gerawat Gala said that it is a network amongst all the ethnic communities who are coming together. They share a common interest being the communities who are living in the Heart of Borneo (HoB). “These communities, the Dayak, Kelabit, Saban, Lun Dayeh and those from the Kalimantan side all share similar heritage and culture. It is important for them to ensure they share the heritage of the highlands through preservation and conservation. FORMADAT brings these communities together for the common good as we are of the same stock, same origin with a common aim of promoting Borneo highlands.” “This is the first time we’ve had a booth at the festival. It is to get a feel for all the participants who came from different areas such as Ba’ Kelalan, Long Semadoh, Bario and Kalimantan. They have all looked forward to being here. Hopefully, we can continue to participate in the festival on a bigger scale perhaps in a year or two on the musical stage because we have a rich musical heritage,” he said.

The New Serawak Tribune; Download (pdf)