What better way to explore the mythical jungles in Borneo than through the eyes of a headhunter...
B: Borneo Art Collective GM: Golda Mowe
B: Could you describe your fiction/project title in brief?
GM: Iban Dream is the first book in a series of fantasy fiction about Iban headhunters. The series is based on Iban myths and folklore. The first book follows the story of Bujang Maias who has the gift of speaking with animals and seeing spirits. This book focuses on introducing the Iban culture and their animistic beliefs.
Iban Journey, the second book in the series, is about Bujang's son Nuing. It explores the idea of curses and taboos in the culture.
B: Why and how did you start this project?
GM: I have wanted to write a story based on the Ibans since my early twenties, but I was never really sure what the story should be about. Years of reading books by naturalists like Hose, Wallace, and Beccari, mixed in with work from ethnologists such as Benedict Sandin and Vinson Sutlive finally crystalised into Iban Dream. A travelling headhunter seems to me to be the perfect way to start an Iban story.
B: Who/what influenced you to begin this project?
GM: When I was seventeen, I read a book called Hanta Yo by Ruth Beebe Hill. This was the first English language book I read that is not about a Caucasoid race, and I thought it was the most beautiful story ever. I started wondering why no one had written a similar English novel about the Ibans. Then when I was studying in Japan between 1990-1994, I was charmed by the modernised local folklore in their novels and mangas. Again I wondered why there was nothing equivalent for the folklore in Sarawak. It was around that time that I started toying with the idea of writing a novel, but as I explained above I was still unclear about what kind of story I wanted to tell.
B: What was on your radar when you were writing this fiction?
GM: I was at a crossroad in my life. Nothing I did seem to give me a sense of achievement, so I decided that it was time to start writing. Of course after I 'got-the-hang-of-it', I left my full-time job. Whenever I need money, I will take on part-time work. This way I can focus as much time as I need on my stories.
B: Where do you see your project evolving in the near future? What are you busy working on at the moment?
GM: Historical and/ or fantasy fiction that encompasses the whole South East Asian region. The age of the spice trade is particularly fascinating for me. A finished project set in Santubong during the era of Tarumanagara is currently with an editor. Right now I am working on the third book in the Iban Dream series. This third and last book will be based on the role of women in the Iban community.
B: How do you see Borneo art community at the moment?
GM: Vibrant and alive. I have been to Narong Daun's and Michael Lim's studios. I was surprised to see the depth of their work, and very pleased to hear that they are living off their art. I must admit though, I don't explore the art scene as much as I should whenever I am in Kuching. Only museums and libraries for me.
B: How could people access your fiction/project at the moment? Is there any extended dialogue you would like to have through your project?
GM: My Iban novels are sold in bookstores such as MPH and Popular. I believe Kinokuniya has copies too. You can also order the paperbacks online at the publisher's website http://www.monsoonbooks.com.sg. I have closed down my website gmowe.ws, but people can still reach me via Facebook or Twitter.
B: Please recommend stories/projects/individuals/groups that we should reach out to in order to expand the Borneo Art Collective network.
GM: Batik artist - Michael Lim (firstname.lastname@example.org) bear in mind, I got his card years ago, so the email may not work.
Artist - Narong Daun (IndahHouseKuching@gmail.com) she is a permanent resident artist at this place. She was still there when I visited last year.
Sculptor - Anniketyni Madian (email@example.com) I had planned to meet her during my residency at Rimbun Dahan, but totally forgot about it ... She is from Sarawak but her studio is in Klang, Peninsular Malaysia.
B: What would be your message to aspiring fellow Borneo writer/Art Community?
GM: You must be passionate about your writing/art because when the going gets tough financially, socially, or emotionally, that passion will be the only fuel that sustains you.