Thursday, May 31, 2012

Culture and tradition come together at Lawas Festival

LAWAS Festival or "Pesta Lawas" is a major event in Sarawak. On the sidelines of the celebration held last week was the 'Gerai Komuniti' or 'community stalls'.

Alongside the regatta activities, the Lawas Festival has become the platform that brings together the different races and indigenous groups to showcase their culture and traditions in a creative manner.

Over 20 stalls participated in the gerai komuniti coming from communities of different ethnic backgrounds. Even on the final day of the festival, one could see the gerai komuniti area still bustling with life. It was one of the most colourful areas of the festival as communities from the different areas in Lawas displayed their more cultured side with traditions filled with colours, music and art.

The gerai komuniti not only aimed to bring the different Lawas communities together but also to provide knowledge and information regarding the different traditions, culture and lifestyles present in Lawas.

Lawas, Sarawak's northernmost town usually suffers desertion due to its location, size and infrastructure. But the Lawas Festival is one which attempts to promote Lawas and the unique features of its people.

The 65-year-old Mahidin Mat Zen was in charge of the Kampung Luagan stall which showed handicrafts of women from the Luagan community.

"To me this community project is important because it mainly brings together the different communities in Lawas. This project will bring us together, let us learn about each other from each other's culture and traditions," said Mahidin in an interview with The Brunei Times.

The handicrafts produced by the women of the Luagan community was environment-friendly as the products were made of old newspapers.

Munga Suut is a 38-year-old Lun Bawang woman. She represents the younger generation of the Lun Bawang community, also known as the Murut indigenous group.

Serving as a role model for the next generation of the ethnic group, she sells different products made by the Lun Bawang people.

"The products we have are handmade by our very own people. It is important to show what our culture can offer so it does not vanish," said Munga.

The products sold included a traditional vest-like piece of clothing worn by the Lun Bawang men called the Taklun, which is usually worn during traditional events and gatherings. Also on sale were traditional handicrafts and hats made out of tree barks, roots and rattan.

The Lun Bawang community is not keen on the name Murut which was given by the British colonists in the past.

Albert Ajing, a proud member of Lawas' Iban community, says that the community project is important to expose the traditions and way of life of the small Iban community of 600 people.

"There are only three long houses in the whole of Lawas. To support this event, Iban communities from other parts of Malaysia came to support our presence," said Albert.

For Albert, the community project is not only to expose the Iban community but to also be a source of knowledge for the younger generation to ensure the Iban way of life is kept alive.