Thursday, June 21, 2012

Mystical creature is mascot of Sabah International Folklore Festival

KOTA KINABALU: A mystical creature known as “siwat dalan” was yesterday unveiled as a mascot of the Sabah International Folklore Festival (SIFF) 2012, which will take place from July 8 to 17.

According to Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun, siwat dalan is the name in Tuaran Dusun dialect of a small creature that is said to kidnap children who are out in the streets.

The creature, which is also known as “kalindahou” in Bahasa Brunei, has huge breasts, and is said to be active in the evening.

She will grab the child and hide him under her breasts, rendering him or her invisible to the naked eye.

Because of this, as evening approaches, parents would warn their children not to play outside as the creature would kidnap them and spirit them away.

Masidi, who officiated at the SIFF 2012 mascot launching ceremony, said that last year, the organizers introduced the “bal-bal” or the Orang Sungai community’s shaman as its mascot and it is joined by siwat dalan this year.

“Our hope is that when we extend the theme to one that is based on legendary and mystical creatures in Sabah, we can one day hold a ghost festival, as books and movies nowadays are mostly based on that theme,” he said.

“Should it materialize, the festival will be more towards mystical creatures based on our culture and not ghosts that are depicted in horror stories.”

Masidi said the Sabah Cultural Board received applications from 72 countries to participate in the SIFF 2012 but due to financial constraints and because the organizer had to choose the countries which can really reflect the variety of cultural performances, only 20 countries were selected.

“Finland and East Timor are among the new countries participating this year,” he said, adding that 12 of the countries had sent their travel itinerary and the first participating country, the Czech Republic, would be arriving on June 30.

“The whole idea actually is, other than just a cultural exchange sort of extravaganza involving many countries in the world, we want to provide people an avenue to visit Sabah and at the same time participate in a cultural activity,” he said.

“I believe the most effective way of selling Sabah is by word of mouth. Those who have come here to experience what Sabah has to offer are the best ambassadors to sell the state to the rest of the world,” he said.

Masidi explained that SIFF is not a competition for the participants although recognition will be awarded to those which the panel of judges deems to have given the best performance.

“Sabah will not be participating because we do not want to be the host and also the winner.

“Sabah is too good (and) it is very difficult to be humble when you are really good and I think we are good,” he said.

“This is not a competition, it is more of a festival. To us, all those who participate are winners because we gain victory through our good relationship with the other countries,” he said, adding that every country has its own culture and therefore no one could claim that their culture is better than others.

Meanwhile, the SIFF 2012 will kick off with a ‘KK City Folklore’ parade on July 10 in conjunction with the city’s 12th anniversary.