Testimonials: Pan Borneo Road Trip [Artists]

Testimonials: Pan Borneo Road Trip [Artists]

Mellory Sze

[Featured Artist of BAC]

 

---Story of involvement---

It has been awhile since I kept in touch or studied about Borneo Arts after my graduation. I always think that Borneo is a unique island with great hidden gems, and I'm always curious about the culture and heritage that lays in Borneo. I think they are interesting. One day, my friend Marcos called me and introduced to me Wendy's online platform about Borneo. I felt that was a great idea. He also reminded me of what I did for my final year project - Exploring Kuching City Central (featured on BAC). Later, Wendy found me and shared with me the idea of Borneo Art Collective. After understanding what the platform is about, I felt like 'ya, Borneo needs this'. This is really amazing that everyone has a passion for Borneo Art, and this is how I got to know about Borneo Art Collective.

--Role and perception--

Borneo Art Collective is an interesting platform. Starting from small tiny stories to arts and passion. Every month you get to know something about Borneo. It is like connecting all the stories, cultures, arts and passion towards Borneo. Whenever I go through Borneo Art Collective, I can see the burning flame in them. This is really amazing. I'm not sure why. I think this may be due to the research work i did in my University. I sent questions to a few of my classmates, schoolmates and friends who studied in west Malaysia and Overseas.The answers I received to one of the questions in my questionnaire about Borneo Art shocked me - "I do not know what is Borneo Art" or "Never heard of it" or "What is Borneo?" This always stuck in my mind. Perhaps it was because the question I wrote was not clear enough.. During the times I helped out in my parents' shop, foreigners, travelers or backpackers always refer to this place as Borneo, and not Malaysia. That was the time I got to know the word 'Borneo'. In another set of questionnaires I did for my final year degree project, I went through cat city and distributed it to people from overseas. I am glad that some of them shared with me their thoughts about Borneo. I can see that actually Borneo is a very unique island with great hidden gems. Many stories are actually hidden in this beautiful island. For me, Borneo is like beautiful mysterious soul. This is why I think Borneo Art Collective could be a channel to voice out, encourage and gather the young generation and people with passion for Borneo to work together.

--Why this is important--

I hardly need to explain why this PAN BORNEO ROAD TRIP is important. Why not, if you can do it? Actually, there are a lots of stories, heritage and arts to be discovered in Borneo. A way to do so, is to go through Borneo, to see it, feel it and listen to it. Sadly, there are not much records about them and some are already lost. I remembered I heard from a friend tell me that Borneo been rated as the biggest island with the oldest rainforest in Asia. There are also many undiscovered tribes/natives, stories, heritage, artifacts and culture - these are like a treasure / hidden gems. We will never know how rich this island is. We will never know when these art, heritage, culture, stories and place will be forgotten/lost. We should treasure these little things around us. We will never know for the things you throw away may bethe next artifact in archaeology studies. This is why I think this need to be supported. 

 

Anton Ngui, founder of Future Alam Borneo

[Featured organization on BAC]

 

--Story of involvement--

Future Alam Borneo (FAB), our small, not-for profit society based in the small town of Sandakan on the north-eastern tip of Borneo, had only been in existence a mere 3 years and we were not expecting anyone beyond Sabah to want to connect with us so soon. And then out of the blue Wendy contacted us, and wanted to know more about our purpose and what we do. At the core of our being is the mission to promote environmental education; creating all sorts of platforms, opportunities and connections by leveraging on a wide network of resources and creative people. The Borneo Rhythms of Rimba Wildlife Festival was a successful channel in connecting our 2 bodies, with our convergent paths.

--Role and Perception--

We see this noble, self-driven effort of this small BAC group of people, a mirror of our own selves ambitions & efforts; in studying, documenting and promoting the creative culture here on the island of Borneo, a land better known for its mystical forests but lesser known for its human capacity and endeavour. As FAB constantly seeks creative people to bring the environmental message to wider audiences, our exploration has unearthed a growing youth movement that Is both proud of their cultural heritage and at once working hard to stamp their Bornean voices on the global stage/discourse. In these youth movements, we see a hunger to explore opportunities and ideas, and this bodes well for the creative voice from our mother land. To say we don't know where this will all lead, due to its limitless possibilities, is only a positive nod to our burgeoning art scene that has so much culture and history to draw from and so much energy to fuel itself with.

--Why this is important--

As BAC seek to go back to their 'roots', this Borneo road trip can only challenge and impress upon them the vastness of the task as well as the diversity out there for them to draw inspiration from. Lao Tzu's saying comes to mind - A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, and it will be the beginning of a fabulous journey. They have started a commendable online platform, having connected fellow Bornean creatives here, and now it's time to get dirty and dig deeper. The physical travel and the connections with people along the way, will undoubtedly open their minds. And hopefully 'through fire will their spirits be forged' be the rallying cry to grow this project even bigger. It is with this belief that we hope to support them on their path of discovery.

 

Elaine Chan of Barefoot Mercy

[Featured Social Enterprise of BAC]

---Story of involvement---

I came across Borneo Art Collective through Facebook. One of those cases of connections between various people which resulted in my getting added to the Facebook group. I am a co-founder of Barefoot Mercy, a group that works to assist rural communities in Sarawak which was then featured by Borneo Art Collective in their third feature – Making a Difference.

---Role and perception---

I have lived away from my hometown, Kuching, and country, Malaysia, for more than half my life. Being continuously asked where one is from forces a continuous assessment of identity. In some strange way, I have always identified with being Borneon. Perhaps this started from the kick I used to get watching people’s reactions (disbelief) when I was studying and in my early years of working in the UK to say I come from Borneo. Back then, without the internet and social media, the world was a lot larger and Borneo was exotic, mysterious and unreachable. Perhaps it is the ‘not completely comfortable’ place Sarawak has within Malaysia which reinforces one’s sense of identity against the Other – I have at times introduced myself as being from Malaysian Borneo, rather than Malaysia. Perhaps it is because I am aware and am proud of being part of this rich cultural treasure trove that I first discovered when researching Iban ikat weavings as part of my university degree.

I now live in Jakarta and am also a long-term volunteer at an NGO which I was drawn to out of the many NGOs here because it works with communities in Borneo. Evidently, I feel a kinship with other Borneons. And yet I know so little about Borneo in total. My Sarawak knowledge is not bad but I would be challenged to name more than 5 ethnic groups in Sabah. I was at a presentation the other day on Borneo ikat weaving – the Dayak Benuaq in East Kalimantan are the other major ethnic grouping other than the Iban who weave ikat. I had never heard of them in my life. I did not know until only a few weeks ago that the oldest evidence of writing in Indonesia comes from the Kutai kingdom in East Kalimantan. The what kingdom??? So on and so forth.

Borneo Art Collective challenges the narrative that has been dictated to us mainly by political borders in trying to understand our culture from a pan-Borneo perspective. My interest is in traditional culture (whether documentation, preservation or innovation) and I have seen people work in these fields in Sarawak, Sabah and in Kalimantan (Brunei, I’m getting to you!) but it is not that common to see conversations from a pan-Borneo perspective. In Jakarta, I see books/ films/ photo exhibitions about Indonesian Kalimantan but which are virtually unknown in Malaysian Borneo. Maybe, it is about time this happens, that we explore a different facet of our identity, that we celebrate this special club we are in.

---Why is this important---

The Pan Borneo road trip is a start of this conversation and I look forward to seeing what is documented – we may discover that across Borneo we are similar, or different but we will know and understand better, and be that much richer for it. Barefoot Mercy has a story of going into a remote village, Long Lamam in Sarawak, picking up beautiful rattan baskets made by the Penan community. One was submitted to the World Crafts Council – Asia Pacific (WCC-AP) and now has a WCC-AP Award of Excellence for Handicrafts. Our major contribution in bringing what this one village had to offer to the world was being there in a remote location. I am looking forward to seeing what the Borneo Art Collective team discover by treading the ground.

 

Catriona Maddocks, founder of Catama Borneo

[Featured organization on BAC]

--Story of involvement--

We first came across Borneo Arts Collective when they approached us earlier this year to write a feature on our Social Enterprise, Catama Borneo. After checking them out we saw that they were doing some really interesting work documenting and connecting creative individuals and organisations in Borneo. After our feature was published, Anton from Future Alam contacted us to invite us to be part of the Rhythms of Rimba festival in Sandakan. At that festival we met the Tamu Tamu collective- a group of like-minded artisans based in Sabah. We've just got back from KK after spending a couple weeks with Tamu Tamu, sharing skills and traditional knowledge and being taught metalwork by Adam from Sang Tukang and Jason from Pogun Savat Craftwork, all networks that were created thanks to the work of Borneo Arts Collective.

---Role and Perception---

Borneo Arts Collective are playing an important role in contributing towards building a supportive, collaborative environment within Borneo so that those who are interested in collecting, presenting and innovating Borneo’s traditional and contemporary identity can learn about one another and share their stories.

For us what fascinates us about Borneo traditional craft heritage is that it is in direct opposition to the mediocre, mass produced world we find ourselves in today. Borneo's craft recall a time when crafts people received status and admiration for becoming masters of their trade, when their ingenuity was celebrated and passed down from generation to generation as valuable intangible knowledge.

At Catama Borneo we see our role in helping to preserve and innovate the culture of Sarawak and present it to new audiences whilst ensuring younger generations continue to learn from their elders. Borneo Arts Collective mission is in sync with ours and we look forward to learning of new artists and makers out there who we can share stories with.

---Why this is important---

In 2016 it seems like many artists working in Kuching and Kota Kinabalu have begun to network and forge strong links but the creative scene in Kalimantan remains somewhat a mystery. This road trip will enable an opening up of dialogue between Malaysia and Indonesia Borneo and potentially create new creative opportunities.

 

Leonard Siaw

[Featured artist on BAC]

--Story of Involvement--

At the beginning, i get to know BAC through an invitation from a friend of mine to the facebook public page of BAC. Later, i was approached by Wendy Teo and Carling Wong through FB messenger for an interview to be featured in their August theme “Borneo Nonation”, also where i get to know the persons behind Borneo Art Collective. Truthfully, as far as i can see, i would say it’s a blessing to get featured in this group. Beside that, also thanks to my brother Malcolm Wu who linked me up with Wendy Teo earlier on.

---Role and Perception---

Personally not a talkative person, also don't have much writing skill, so why don't i paint something? I choose to stay back to grow my career as a muralist, my mission is to transform & “articify” space and surrounding areas into something uniquely intriguing and interactive, also to play a small part to make my hometown a better place. Because i think it can raise the spirit of a community and make the citizen proud.

My creation are habitually combined with optical illusion and most importantly it emphasizes on the interaction between the viewer and my artwork. By connecting people through art, it may influence them so that they are one step closer to art, to appreciate or to being educated and to pass on to friends around them, family or even their next generations. We’re now living in the era of internet / e-commerce, as what i witness, Borneo Art Collective is an excellent platform where assembling artists and craftsmen, also connect everyone of them from across Borneo Island to feature their remarkable creation and make awareness through website and social medias to spread awareness to worldwide.

---Why this is important---

Personally spent most of the childhood time at countryside, where i swim in the mud and hug some carp fish during harvest season, also learned to craft something or building hut with elders. But nowadays those activities has been left aside and forgotten. In this era, most people from rural area has been moved out to city or travel far away from home. After staying in urban for a period of time, we tend to forgot our traditional practice or event neglect our own culture. Therefore, i think this journey will help us to reconnect back to where we actually started, also to discover the deep undiscovered heritage, art and culture. Apart from that, this trip also unite everyone to share interests or inspiring each other, at the same time it would rise the awareness of the traditional practice and culture and bring awareness to public. Hence, this Pan Borneo Road Trip is truly amazing, it's highly supported and necessary to be involved.

---Additional message---

Art is the best way to describe, explain and represent on almost everything, put it this way, imagine a scenario of a deaf man trying to communicate with a shopkeeper on what he wanted to buy via sign language, but seems like the shopkeeper doesn't get the message, then the deaf man grab a piece of paper and sketch out the item that he is looking for, and then problem solved! Ever since i found that art can be this interesting and practical, i took a bolder step by turning my passion into my career. Doing the thing i love keeps me going. Because this isn't about the money, this is living life the way i want to. Everyone die but not everyone live. A person with a talent or passion are incredibly rich, because it's priceless to have one, and it’s also your responsibility to find a way to protect it. Live is much more meaningful when you found something that you love to do, doesn't matter if you maintain it as leisure activity or turn in into your career. Just don't abandoned it.

 

Golda Mowe, writer of Iban Dreams

[Featured Artist of BAC]

---Story of involvement--

Wendy recommended the page to me. Soon after, the Borneo Art Collective posted an interview on my books Iban Dream and Iban Journey. It provided me a platform to introduce my work to new readers.

---Role and perception---

My hope (not anticipation) is that more and more organisations like BAC will come out to support local artists and writers. We are always having to decide on whether to create something that will sell, or something that will be true to our creative process. Without support from these organisations, honest art and literature is close to impossible.

---Why is this important---

Borneo is a lovely place, and is perfect for tourism. Because of that there is a lot of kitsch art and stories coming out of the State. All this should be quite harmless, except that they are being touted as Sarawak culture. As more people start to believe them, these kitsch art and literature will be treated as the real Borneo culture. My hope is that, the Pan Borneo Road Trip will flesh out honest cultural & historical artists and storytellers. We must not lose our identity to pretentious sentimentality. A perfect example is the image of the Iban woman. In posters she is portrayed as fragile and sweet. The real Iban woman is strong, aggressive and independent. Iban men were known to travel for months, sometimes years, so she was the provider and protector of her family when he was away.

---Additional message---

I sometimes come across people who say that they don't buy local art or read local work because the quality of these products are not good. When I ask them to give specific details, they will say that the materials are of bad or cheap quality. For literature, it is usually because the grammar is bad, or the story unclear. This is actually the reason why local artists and writers need support. It takes a lot of time, energy, and money to produce good work. When someone works alone to finish a product under limited time and money, the end product will not be ideal. Even the best writers in the world need a good editor and an experienced publisher to produce a good book. Support your local artists and writers. Introduce their work to your friends. I can guarantee you that once they start to receive better income and more support for their work, they will produce better art.

 

Pison Jaujip

[Featured Artisan Chef of BAC]

---Story of involvement---

I was approached by Wendy through my facebook page, Ropuhan di Tanak Wagu for Borneo Art Collective [Borneo Diet] - October Month Feature on their website. My page is about introducing Sabah traditional cuisine and produce through fusion cooking to the younger generation before it is forgotten.

---Role and perception---

Borneo has very unique cultures and ways of life, but these were at high risk to be forgotten with western influences. Our traditions, arts and cultures will be lost if they are not passed on, practise passionately, properly recorded and documented and of coz widely promoted. I am very happy that Borneo Art Collective has made an effort to sustain our Borneo’s cultures and not to depend on others.

---Why is this important---

We have heard comments that our cultures and traditions are dirty and primitive but many of us do not agree with all these comments because some of us are living examples of what our cultures and traditions did for us when we were young. They helped us develop and mould our attitudes and characters to be useful, productive, progressive and of coz as a good human being. Our culture is important to the future of our children and to our nation, because culture ensure a history, a past, present and certainly a future. Therefore, this Pan Borneo Road Trip must be supported and absolutely necessary.

---Additional message---

If we do not take the time to teach the younger generation how to cook and prepare traditional food they will not be able to engage with their culture and bond with the past. Sharing cooking techniques will give them a chance to learn about their culture. Giving the culture a taste, a smell, a feeling of respect and reinforces cultural identity. For more please visit my page here: www.facebook.com/ropuhanditanakwagu

 

Fade Manning

[Featured Artist of BAC]

 

---Story of involvement---

Through the documentary I made in Borneo last year called ‘Point of No Return’. Its about tattoo history and tribal culture based around this practice in Borneo. I made the film to highlight the plight of the Iban tribe in Borneo as modern influences shape their world and to make a record of tattoo history before it is lost with the elder generation. Wendy, from BAC interviewed me about this film making in Borneo to find out how and why I made the film. She has also attended and hosted a screening of the film.

---Role and perception---

I see Borneo Art Collective uniting artists to make social change around Borneo and world wide to protect heritage, environment and connect communities through art. This is just what the world needs right now!

---Why is this important---

I think it is important to celebrate Borneo’s rich culture and heritage as for many years parts have been lost to globalization, capitalism and religion which has resulted in people not celebrating their roots and passing down traditions. I think this journey will record and highlight some of their rich culture and unite communities to share culture, heritage, art and experience. This can influence the new generation to look to their roots not to the west! I fully respect and support this cause!

---Additional message---

Please watch my documentary trailer here- https://vimeo.com/164452565

 

Koh Khai

[Featured Artist of BAC]

---Story of involvement---

I was approached by Wendy in September. She invited me to be part of this Borneo Art Collective project. As I checked out their website, I feel really honour to be approached and featured as part of this group. To be honest, I’m not as good as others when it comes to expressing vocally and in writing, but I do see the importance of spreading inspiration to others with what I am passionate about, this BAC.

---Role and perception---

I see the passion of these crew, their love toward the local art, and the efforts they put in to spread it across. I believe many people share the love and passion like them, but their actions and efforts has to synchronise to the same level. Borneo still remains as a mysterious region despite the media tools and exposure channel that are available for us. I believe there are numerous talents out there yet to be discovered. Some of them might not even aware how their art can inspire other people, or give their work an exposure. With this projects going on in the background of Borneo art scene, I believe only more will be discovered.

---Why is this important---

As I mentioned above, Borneo is full of talents that are yet to be discovered. This trip allows the team to explore different places, the nature, and the people living in it. By doing so, their talents or art or culture could be further exposed to public. This exposure that properly coordinated through a team effort, could certainly triggering more awareness and interests over Borneo Art context.

---Additional message/story---

As a Sarawakian, a Bornean, I’m so in love in this place that I decided to stay here to start my career as a filmmaker instead of other places. Even though the art scene here is considered as young and fresh scene, I believe that it will grow, with the help of the people in unity, and what Borneo Art Collective is doing now is going to be a game changer movement. Hopefully this project will inspire more and more art enthusiasts to start doing something for the local art scene.

 

Johann Adam K

[Featured Craftsman of BAC]

---Story of involvement---

I found out about the Borneo Art Collective through my friend Rizo of Pangrok Sulap whom they interviewed. We both have a common interest in sharing our culture, history and making things by hand with whatever resources available and teaching what we know. So I googled his article and found that there was more to the interviewers and what they were doing.

---Role and perception---

The collective provides a forum for artisans with a common interest to develop and preserve bornean culture in a contemporary setting. Their focus on art is a great base because art is a neutral place under which all borneans can collaborate despite their differences. It has the potential to unite the bornean diaspora.

---Why is this important---

Despite our common history, we have become isolated over time due to the political borders that divide the island. This journey to me is an important spark that aims to reconnect our people, to know who we are and where we stand by documenting and sharing our stories. I once thought that I was alone as a young artisan who deeply wanted to understand and learn traditional skills that are rapidly fading away from social memory. But as I crossed borders, I found that I am not alone and there are other people who feel this way too. Most importantly, there are people who want to teach before they pass but do not have the means to travel. This trip is a vehicle for that connection. We must support this endeavour to document and revive our culture for the future of all borneans.

---Additional message---

how wonderful it would be to journey as we once did and call ourselves brothers again.

Call For Collaboration

Call For Collaboration

Testimonials: Pan Borneo Road Trip [Friends]

Testimonials: Pan Borneo Road Trip [Friends]