Thursday, July 11, 2013

Culture is the widening of the mind and of the spirit

Salaam to all lovely readers.

Last week, I have had the chance to work with Borneo Hornbill Festival 2013 (BHF2013). On July 5th till 7th, 2013, I was invited to be one of the judges. I really appreciate the chance that I have been given not only as one of the judges but also to learn about the uniqueness and diversity in Borneo culture (specifically Sabah and Sarawak). I feel that it is an honour to be invited as a judge for the event. That shows people actually acknowledge your opinion. Thank you Persatuan WarisanSarawak Kuala Lumpur and Selangor. Next year invite lah lagi ya (-:

It is always a challenge to choose a winner as most of the contestants are really well prepared, gorgeous with sparkling smiles, looking resplendent in their traditional attires and deserving to win the title, too.  As there can only be one winner for each categories (Miss Sabah ethnic, Mister Sabah ethnic, Miss Sarawak ethnic - Iban, Bidayuh, Orang Ulu and Mister Sarawak ethnic - Keling), others would of course feel very disappointed. Please don't be. There is always next time. Rezeki belum tiba, fikir positif ya.

To be honest,  I do receive the odd request from some 'intruders' for so and so to win this and that. Well, unfortunately, they've asked the WRONG person. A contestant may be my friend (good friend to be exact) but if I feel he/she doesn't deserve to win, then they will not, and not even landed in my shortlisted winners/potential winners.  The end-results of course must be a consensus by the panel of judges (there were 7 of us) and audited by the BHF2013 committee.

My experiences as a beauty pageants' judge, be it for just a small fashion show, or moderate scales pageant,  never fail to diminish my fascination for the contestant who vie for these pageant titles. Are these participants attracted by the prizes? Hmm...look back at the main objective of this event and do a muhasabah diri ya. It is not all about the prizes, but to the wider extend - the main purpose of BHF2013. Why is it held, the significance, positive outcome and what not. Anyway, I do admire their courage for without them, then there would not be any competition. You think it is easy to prepare a full traditional attire? If you don't have one, then you should do one, by all means! Renting or pinjam is yet to be another issue lah..

BHF2013 have done their best to look for credible judges. The appointment of judges for this event is usually given a lot of thought.  The person should be someone known to have integrity, have some social standing in society or someone knowledgeable, experienced or involved in aesthetics beauty. And if it involves traditional costumes, then at least one judge should be knowledgeable on the traditional costumes. The line-up should be from diverse background, geographically distributed and have different professions and that they should have some experience in appraising the ideals of the pageant.  This would eliminate if not all, some degree of biases. So, do I look like I possessed one of the mentioned criterias? Tepuk dada, tanyalah selera. Certainly, BHF2013 committee knows best and I feel so honored to be part of the event. Shukur, alhamdulillah.

They were 7 of us, and all of us have different approaches. Yes, we were provided with the judging criteria, but let me just say this, we need a person(judge) who is capable to interpret the scoring scheme into something reasonable and closer to reality. When we talk about the originality of each traditional attires, they reflect the identity of a people and are usually associated with a period in history. In Sabah, for example, costumes were worn after the introduction of full body garment for women and loincloth for men. Necessity and fashion for clothing of yesteryear were the forerunner of the traditional costumes we see today. Such garments have evolved by leaps and bounds and nowadays, we can see them being diversified and beautifully made with machine (sewing machine et cetera).  The debate of 'originality' and 'authenticity' will never end. How can one define the originality of each traditional attire by just looking at old photos? Books? Museum? Portrait of old generations? Our great great grandma? Lucky for you if they are still around. So, all these, should be discussed in a NEUTRAL WAY and not necessarily through PAGEANT, alone! In the case of Borneo Hornbill Festival, we are looking for ideal representatives who possess all qualities and choose the perfect winner to implement the responsibilities and carry out the right duties at the right time and in a right place. Don't be too overshadowed by  the traditional attire alone.  Let me repeat - A.L.O.N.E. Of course, there are certain portion in which the costumes are being evaluated. The contestant may not be wearing the most ideal traditional attire in recent days, but their effortless initiative in providing and presenting the CLOSEST LOOK to their respective ethnic/culture should be praised. Even though you are wearing a 100 percent costume similar to the pre-historic era, but you are not able to 'carry' it and lack of knowledge, certainly your marks will be deducted. In another version, if you don't possess the right costume (example you are Dusun, but wearing a Murut attire), but you have a strong knowledge about what you are wearing, the culture, the folklore, the dance, the foods, and well-versed in your communication/native language - I don't see why you shouldn't be awarded with flying color marks! Well, that's just me, being realistic, not too orthodox and not an overdose modern youngsters, like you, you and you. But, when it comes to my ethnic, Dusun Lotud, jangan main-main! Jangan bilang lilimbo, kalau botungkat pun kamurang inda tau macam mana mau eja, siap kena sogit! Let us look more to the positive side, and put aside the (ethnic) differences. Living in unity IS the best approach.

“The biggest negative impact on our traditional culture now is the invasion of modernization where most of the traditional attires are contemporary." 

Pictures below: Thank you to my co-photographer, Mr. Tim Anderson and Mr. Ben Ben for the marvelous pictures. 

Closed-door judging with fellow judges

Closed-door judging with fellow judges

Closed-door judging with fellow judges

Cleopatra Sandud during closed-door judging
Judges appreciation segment by Dr. Lawrence, the advisor of Borneo Hornbill Festival
Cleopatra Sandud during closed-door judging

Cleopatra Sandud during closed-door judging

Erma Fatimah Stiling during closed-door judging

Best in Traditional Attire - Miss Sarawak ethnic (Bidayuh)

Best in Traditional Attire - Miss Sarawak ethnic (Iban)

Best in Traditional Attire - Miss Sabah ethnic

Best in Traditional Attire - Mister Sabah ethnic

With range of cultural influences, Malaysia is among most diverse countries in Asia. Two of Malaysia states - Sabah and Sarawak are located in the island of Borneo. Borneo is the third largest island in the world.  Although an overused term, the island of Borneo truly is a melting pot of cultures, customs and religions.  It is also a melting pot of peoples who have inhabited the island for thousands of years and intermarried with those who arrived in later waves of migration. With a varied ethnic composition comes a great diversity of cultures and religions. Borneo is still largely unpopulated, with the coastal regions being the most developed.

The most populous native ethnic group in Sarawak is the Iban, in Sabah the Kadazandusun, in Labuan the Kedayan and the Brunei Malay. There are numerous other smaller groups each with their own unique traditional way of life, customs and traditions. In addition, centuries-old trade ties with China and the colonial importation of labour for plantations and mining, account for the large Chinese population in many coastal towns in Malaysian Borneo.

I captured these pictures in several different occasions - Borneo Hornbill Festival, Sabah State Level Kamaatan Harvest Festival, Unduk Ngadau pageant, Putrajaya Botanical Garden and Putrajaya Wetland.

Young ladies of Dusun Lotud ethnic, Tuaran, Sabah, Malaysia.

Ladies of Dusun Liwan ethnic, Ranau, Sabah, Malaysia. In this photo - Ellyanti Nelson D Kanju (Centre) and the traditional dancers.

Cleopatra Sandud (winner of two subsidiary titles, Borneo Hornbill Festival 2013) in her authentic Dusun Tindal traditional attire.

A Rungus ethnic lady in her traditional attire. In this photo - Erma Fatimah Stiling, top 11 finalist of Runduk Tadau category, Borneo Hornbill Festival 2012 and also first runner-up/Best in Traditional Attire, Borneo Hornbill festival 2013

With range of cultural influences, Malaysia is among most diverse countries in Asia. In this photo, from left - Cleopatra Sandud (top 11 finalist of Runduk Tadau category, Borneo Hornbill Festival 2012 & winner of two subsidiary titles, Borneo Hornbill Festival 2013), Suzzy Ramli (first runner-up of Kumang Iban category, Borneo Hornbill Feestival 2012) and Erma Fatimah Stiling (top 11 finalist of Runduk Tadau category, Borneo Hornbill Festival 2012 & first runner-up/Best in Traditional Attire, Borneo Hornbill Festival 2013)

Picture above: Linangkit - a traditional form of embroidery made by several native tribes in Sabah, most notably the Dusun Lotud of Tuaran.

Pictuce above shows a lady from the Iban ethnic of Sarawak (Borneo island) walking on a bridge. Fascinated by green virgin forest, this lady enjoys the panoramic views of the forest in an Iban traditional attire. In this photo - winner of Kumang Iban category, Borneo Hornbill Festival 2011 and judge for Borneo Hornbill Festival 2013, Veeky-Leonora Andria.

Changing cities, building opportunities. In this photo - Ricky Francis Stephen, winner of Keling Category, Borneo Hornbill Festival 2012.

Looking for a rain spirit. In this photo - Robson JeelianFirst runner-up, Keling category, Borneo Hornbill Festival 2011. 

Kadazan ethnic traditional attire of Penampang.

Winner of Bidayuh category, MizTheo Eli Yanz

Miss Karen David, winner of Orang Ulu category, Borneo Hornbill Festival 2012

Mister Paren Nyawi, winner of Mister Brilliant Smile, Borneo Hornbill Festival 2011.  He is also one of the  most active member/director in Borneo Hornbill Festival committee. 
Finalist, Unduk Ngadau Kaamatan Klang Valley 2013.

2011 Sabah State Level Unduk Ngadau Kaamatan winner, Bo Tiza Disimon-Bosuin of Kadazan ethnic from Penampang, were joyfully celebrated by popular MTV/Chanel V host Denise Keller.

Top Seven winners, Unduk Ngadau Kaamatan KDCA Johor State Level 2013
Dianni Murni Kayar (right) and Jacqueline Joan(left) wearing the Dusun Lotud traditional attire.
The finalists, Unduk Ngadau Kaamatan KDCA Johor State Level 2013

Maaf atas sebarang salah dan silap. Feel free to give any comments/suggestions. It is sahur time. Happy eating and later fasting. So, happy ramadhan kareem to all Muslim. Salaam.


Anonymous said...

Baguslah karangan awak ni. Awak pun juri rupanya. Hmm...jarang ada orang muda ada pemikiran macam orang tua ni...hihi..joking!

Good job!!!

Bunga Kemboja said...


Baju tradisi skrg mmg kebanyakan dah diubah-ubah ikut citarasa. Tp, jgn lupakan yang lama...

Adam LL said...

Stevie! Nice write-up!

joseph telajan said...

Nice....more n more entry please!!

krissy jane said...

Very very good writing. So, you are a photographer, a writer and you look handsome too. I think I love you! Hehe. Keep writing. Never ever stop! Regards.

marky ismed said...

I teringin nak gi sbh swk... cantik2 org kat sana. Wpun x paham bahasa org sana, tp kita ttp anak malaysia.....