World Indigenous Day Celebrations 2012

After a long hiatus from working with my friends from the Indigenous Peoples Network of Malaysia (JOAS), meeting them during the World Indigenous Day Celebrations felt like a big family reunion.

I would be lying if I said I did not have my ups and down working with the network. Like with anything you feel strongly about, there are bound to be times of despair and frustration. But all that accumulated tears and sweat just makes the good times even better and the little achievements even more celebrated.

The little achievement during this event for me would be working with the media team to document and update the Center for Orang Asli Concern (COAC)’s Facebook page with same day/ next day photo and video updates. Although I went to Miri without a designated team, everything just sort of went into place organically and an impromptu team worked together to get the job done while having a great time.

It means even more to me because the capacity of the team to do it I feel has much to do with the community-based documentary training done between 2009-2010 to produce Towards Sustainable Forestry (Ke Arah Hutan Lestari). Apart from learning a whole lot from the project myself as one of the facilitators, quite a number of indigenous youth videographers were trained up and continue to document every World Indigenous Day Celebrations since then. It is so fulfilling now to see the continuity from the project applied.

This year, for the first time ever, we uploaded live updates of photos, videos and articles on the Center for Orang Asli Concern (COAC)’s Facebook page.

Here are some highlights from the annual celebrations:

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The event was held at Balai Raya Taman Tunku, Miri (Sarawak) after being rejected from 3 other venues. Here’s Pakcik Arom from Kelantan leading the Peninsular Malaysia group in an Orang Asli sewang performance.

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The opening day was officiated with an Iban Miring ceremony.

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The “Bebiau” ceremony.

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The chicken sacrifice.

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Traditional sports competition such as blowpipe, opening a coconut and tug of war with rattan instead of rope, as always, gathers the most excitement and noise from the crowd.

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Photography competition

It’s my second year with the honor of being one of the judges for it, and I must say, I’m blown away by the improvement in submissions. It was a really tough call this year and in the end Sharis bin Shafie won it, followed by Serengeh anak Useh, Freddy James Tonius and Henry John taking second, third and fourth place respectively.

And of course, each night we were spoilt silly with beautiful dance performances from all 3 regions, Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak with the participants dressed in their respective traditional costume.

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Buah Sumbeh used as face paint.

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Ayon (left) and Rokiah in traditional Orang Asli costumes.

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The Sarawak group preparing for their performance in the tent outside.

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Preparing to put on the “Sugu Tinggi”

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Marker pen tattoo. Why not.

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Traditional drinks (rice wine of course) served at night while participants watch traditional performances and listen to community leaders share their plight and successes.

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Dancing together

On a more random note, I’m not often in Sarawak so it took awhile for me to adjust to working around all the feathered headgear and avoiding getting my eye poked out by them.

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Check out the full updates; photos, videos and articles/ news updates on Center for Orang Asli Concern’s Facebook page here.

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The media team! (from right): Jenita, myself, Yein, Kar Lye, Serengeh, Didi, Kato, Gabe, Leonard, Irene, Nasiri and Dumay. Not in photo: Ros, Shirley, Patrick, Jef and Jubi (Photo taken by Edwin Meru).

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