Abd Karim on why Sarawak’s cultural heritage must be preserved

Karim (right) in a photo with Peluk Apeh, one of the last five remaining ring ladies of Kampung Semban.

By Karen Bong

KUCHING, Dec 29: Protecting and preserving Sarawak’s diverse and unique cultural heritage for the next generation is a collective responsibility of everyone, including the state government, leaders of both political divide, community leaders and people, in general.

In highlighting this, Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth, and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah warned that a tradition and heritage could easily die and be lost if they were not properly preserved and protected.

“I hope to see more efforts by all quarters in this society in ensuring the cultural heritage in Sarawak will not be swallowed up as modernisation changed the way we live and the city continues to grow,” he told a press conference to introduce ‘The Last Ring Ladies’ produced by NG Picture at the Old Courthouse here today.

“It is time to seriously care about documenting and putting into records our diverse cultural heritage. There are officially 27 ethnic groups in Sarawak, each with their own distinct language, culture, tradition and lifestyle, thus making this state unique, diverse and colourful,” he said.

Documentation, he elaborated, was essential to protect the identity of each and every community in Sarawak for the future generation. This is because tradition and culture are only alive in the hands of practitioners.

“I believe the young generation, even from a minority tribe like the Penans, will want to be in the city instead of living in the jungle. This is the reality that we can’t avoid, so it is our responsibility to make sure we can find a way to preserve it, whether it is in their food, clothing, instrument or lifestyle,” he added.

Abdul Karim, thus, urged people, especially the younger generation, to learn to appreciate and value the existing heritage of ethnic groups in the state.

Rings Lady of Kampung Semban Peluk Apeh (second right) presents a souvenir of a handmade woven basket to Karim. Also seen is Ng Picture’s Director Goh (left) and Line Producer Evangeline Thian.

“I hope the ring ladies live a long life so that their heritage can continue to be valued, appreciated and seen by our community and also the world. That’s why I am encouraged and happy to see this documentary produced by Sarawakians and, more importantly, shared their story with the world,” he said while congratulating the big achievement by the NG Picture team.

Noting the challenges and complications faced by the film crew, Abdul Karim expressed regret that due support from the state government had not been forthcoming during the filming process that started four years ago.

“No one is to be blamed, and I only took over this ministry a year ago. I have apologised and promised such a thing will not happen again if I helm this ministry because I treasure our heritage very much.

“But from here on, as the team will have to market and promote the film or perhaps they may want to take another project up to feature the Penan, Kelabit or Kedayan, my ministry will assist,” he assured.

He also pledged to assist the villagers of Kampung Nyegor and Kampung Sting to further strengthen the eco-tourism products there.

At the press conference, Abdul Karim announced a grant of RM10,000 to assist Kampung Nyegor to build a church, while NG Picture presented RM5,000 for the same purpose.

NG Picture’s shooting of ‘The Last Rings Ladies’, a documentary about the last five remaining ring ladies from Kampung Semban, was completed last month. — DayakDaily