As time passes, we learn new things and things around us change. Unnoticed, they either evolve or disappear, culture included.
As an ever increasing number of us migrate to the cities from rural areas, leaving the older generation to tend the “kampungs” we came from, we gradually just end up waiting for our annual gatherings during the festivities of Cheng Meng, Gawai and the like to return; our cultures slowly being left behind all for but once a year.
At Tenun, we seek to break the chains of what we see as a dilution of our cultures. Most projects of today are too focus-centric on reminding people of the culture that is prevalent in our communities. We, on the other hand, believe that culture should not be a remembrance or reminder – rather, it should be practiced, and lived. Our cultures are still very much alive, they still flow deep in each and every one of us; albeit in major need of transformation; and what we need as a people is not to just be reminded of what defines us as a race, or ethnicity through events and community outreach – but really of what we do right now that really makes us… us.
Growing up as a Kelabit-Chinese, I faced an identity crisis whereby I was often unsure of my own race, my own cultures and roots, often asking myself ‘Am I a Kelabit or am I a Chinese?’. When asked, I would proudly announce that I am a Kelabit. Then, learning how to play the piano seemed more important than learning to play the Sape’. However, growing up as a Kelabit, I had always envied how other kids within our extensively extended family could have proper Kelabit conversations with our grandparents while I often felt left out not understanding what was being said, sometimes feeling ashamed to be called a Kelabit but knowing very little about the culture and traditions that came with it.