‘Ruai Penemu,’ a cultural group promoting Iban traditions, recently held an aram begulai (let’s mingle) session at the Old Courthouse. Many Ibans and non-Ibans participate in and celebrate the race, as if they were in the longhouse.
Bringing the longhouse feel to town
Modernity necessitates newer adoption within local society. Older practises will inevitably fade away as newer trends and lifestyles replace them.
As a result of this culmination, the younger generation forgets or dismisses their cultural roots.
Understanding this sentiment, ‘Ruai Penemu’ was established in January 2022.
Aware of the current issue among young Ibans, the group laments the fact that the younger generations have abandoned good values that can be adopted in today’s modern society.
Members of ‘Ruai Penemu,’ a project initiated by the non-governmental organisation (NGO) group DoGood Malaysia, are both Iban and non-Iban volunteers.
The project aims to foster a love of good values derived from Iban culture, as well as to preserve it while educating the public on positive Iban customs.
In the Iban language, ‘Ruai Penemu’ means ‘knowledge zone.’ The brand name was chosen to represent a space where the general public can learn more about the culture.
Keeping traditions alive
In order to preserve Iban traditions, ‘Ruai Penemu’ shares healthy, informative, and educational activities on a regular basis.
The team would often post Iban literature, riddles, and motivational quotes such as ‘Entelah,’ ‘Jaku Sempama,’ ‘Jaku Ajar,’ ‘Jaku Peransang,’ and others on their Instagram and Facebook page (@ruaipenemuswk).
With their motto “Enti ukai kami, sapa agi deh” (If not us, then who else?), they hope that by teaching these cultural lessons, they can pass on the value of the race to future generations.
“We are looking forward to seeing the growth in the community in terms of Iban education and customs that hopefully will last for generations to come. We are here to provide guidance where necessary, to promote the good values that the Ibans possess and should possess while learning more about the culture ourselves. ‘Agi Idup, Agi Ngetan ka Bansa Iban. Ooouuu-hhaaa!’.”
Fitting in modern society
Diversity is what makes the world beautiful. The melting pot of different cultures is what makes Sarawak a harmonious state.
Holding onto a quote — “Cultural diversity is a huge part of what makes the world and travel inside it an interesting place, yet many of the most unique cultures on our planet that have existed for thousands of years are being wiped out by globalisation, technology, climate change, a rapidly changing economic landscape and a certain type of tourism that has sought to package cultures into see-able bites without sensitivity to their differences and needs” — by itmustbenow.com, the team behind ‘Ruai Penemu’ realises that many ancient tribes are being forgotten.
“This leads us to believe that the Ibans will suffer the same consequences if we do nothing to protect what we have. Because of the knowledge context that we have, the Iban culture is considered relevant in the modern world.
“Some Iban pagan practises must be abandoned depending on our religion and beliefs; some continue to practise them to “bless” ceremonies, but the majority simply follow basic customs that bring good values to the community.
“Since we are a civilised race, the Ibans are no longer headhunting enemies’ heads, and most of the hunted heads that used to fill our longhouse’s ceilings are now being stored in a better storage room.”
“Aram begulai ba ruai penemu” event
The team behind ‘Ruai Penemu’ had the opportunity to experience Gawai in a few longhouses in June of this year. The ‘niki pengabang’ (a journey of walking from one end to another in the longhouse using traditional costumes) tradition enhanced the experience.
The experience was heartwarming and filled with pride as they immersed themselves in Iban culture during the harvest festival.
The team was inspired by this experience to bring the longhouse feel and tradition to those in Kuching.
‘Ruai Penemu’ organised their first physical event at the Old Courthouse to replicate the feeling of being inside a longhouse during the festival.
The event, which took place on October 29, was organised in collaboration with What About Kuching 2022.
The event, supported by the Sarawak Dayak Graduates Association (SDGA), aimed to bring everyone together, regardless of race, ethnicity, or religion, to learn about Iban culture through ‘Jaku Sempama’ (Iban proverb), traditional games like ‘Batak Lampung’ and ‘Bibat Lengan’ for the guys, and a ‘Ngajat’ dance workshop for the ladies.
The event also included mingling sessions over Iban desserts — kuih tapai and kuih penyaram.
Overall, it was a success as participants got to experience kampung life in the city.
With resounding music playing cultural songs in the background, everyone enjoyed their time with new memories from the reflection of the longhouse held by ‘Ruai Penemu.’