Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Magic Borneo Beads - Using art as a medium to instill pride and sense of identity of Sabah’s natives

Eleanor Goroh is very passionate about  things connected with indigenous culture and arts. A full-time craftswoman for Magic Borneo Beads (a homegrown dealer of beaded ornaments ) and an artist by profession, this 31-year-old Dusun-Lotud woman believes in the power of arts in reaching out to the rural community.

Tapping into her own roots, she believes that beadworks are a vital part of the Rungus and Lotud indigenous identity.

It all started with a project-based contract under the Indigenous People Network of Malaysia (JOAS), which is a non-governmental organization aimed at representing the Malaysian indigenous communities in striving for indigenous rights and advocacy. The three-year project gave Eleanor an in-depth exposure to the lives of the indigenous people in the rural areas of Malaysia.

While she does not consider herself as a social activist, Eleanor realized that there is a way to spark native enthusiasm for their own culture through arts. Today, when she isn't at her studio assembling her beadworks, Eleanor would be conducting a beading workshop somewhere.

She hopes that by making villagers aware of the cultural significance of the beads, she could  instill pride and a sense of identity among them.

"Many people think that beaded ornaments are just for adornment, not knowing that each pattern and colour tells its own story. In the olden days, beads are even used as currency," said Eleanor, adding that there is so much to learn about the traditional Borneo beads.

Apart from designing beaded knick-knacks to be sold individually, Eleanor also creates special art pieces to be auctioned off for charity, thus giving her a deeper sense of purpose and satisfaction in her work.