The theme for this year’s festival is Daun in Malay or Leaf (noun) or Leaves (plural) in English. It was chosen to reflect the significance and use of local leaves, especially to the many indigenous groups in Sarawak. The knowledge exemplifies the way of life of its people, culture and arts, history, custom, and traditions, or religious rites continuously being practiced and preserved for sustainability to future generations as laid out under UNESCO’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 11).
The knowledge-sharing session shows how ingenuity and creativity are practiced in the indigenous community not only for survival but for cultural or religious practices. Local and indigenous knowledge refers to the understandings, skills, and philosophies developed by societies with long histories of interaction with their natural surroundings. For rural and indigenous peoples, local knowledge informs decision-making about fundamental aspects of day-to-day life.
The session is aimed at documenting and preserving traditional indigenous knowledge and shows how the indigenous knowledge is preserved and transmitted from generation to generation as well as the danger of this knowledge being extinct soon due to changes in lifestyles amongst younger generations. The session shall contribute as part of the output of the festival – a book publication on the theme Daun expected to be published in 2022 and all information shall be preserved as part of Pustaka’s local content resources on our niche Sarawakiana content.
The webinar embraced the theme ‘Leaves’ with four invited speakers from various backgrounds in Sarawak and Canada in a sharing session on the many uses of leaves in the indigenous communities. The speakers shall present their own experiences and what they learned from their elders or as traditional knowledge holders’ practitioners themselves.
Our first speaker for the webinar, Dr. Welyne Jeffrey Jehom will present her topic, Leaves for Indigenous Essentials in Sarawak. She will share her knowledge which focuses on the usage of leaves, especially amongst the Bidayuh Padawan community. Leaves are the essential item that has been widely used not just in culinary but also to source natural dyes, baskets, hats and mats weaving, shelter, and in performing religious rituals or simply as culinary tools. The speaker discusses how leaves slowly become less significant and almost no longer being part of the subsistence strategy and culture because the functions of leaves have been replaced by modern tools.
Dr. Valerie Mashman the second speaker, brings us into a journey of beautifully made sunhat from the Orang Ulu tribe in Bario. Her talk is entitled Knowledge Heritage and Identity – Orang Ulu Hats. During this talk, the speaker focuses on leaves from two species of plant used for the making of hats by Orang Ulu. She emphasizes the importance of different kinds of indigenous knowledge used and looks at how this knowledge is transmitted. She discusses the process of the making of hats and raincoats and their contemporary everyday and ritual use.
Our last speaker Ms. Camile from Tāłtān Nation herself brings in Dr. Naxaxalhts’I an elder and traditional knowledge keepers from the indigenous tribe of Stó:lō. Ms. Camille then proceeded with an introduction on the general use of leaves used for sacred medicine mainly leaves such as sage, cedar, tobacco etc. Dr. Naxaxalhts’I then shares his indigenous knowledge handed down from his ancestors on the usage of Cedar trees including the leaves and its many usages within the indigenous tribe of Stó:lō, a group of First Nations peoples inhabiting the Fraser Valley and lower Fraser Canyon of British Columbia, Canada. The title of his presentation is Cedar is our Gift – significance of the leaf. Among interesting knowledge shared by Dr. Naxaxalhts’I is the use of cedar and the leaves in cooking, spiritual cleansing using cedar boughs, cedar used as a protection, crafts from cedar, and many other interesting aspects of their indigenous knowledge which are seldom shared with our indigenous people. They also stressed that humans need to value and protect the environment and our rich biodiversity from being lost due to logging and modernization by ensuring sustainability through education, awareness, and community engagement.
The webinar is moderated by Dr. Hajah Norseha Unin. Who provides an insight on the indigenous knowledge and communities in Sarawak and an introduction on the use of Daun as the main theme for this year’s Sarawakiana Festival which provide an avenue for us to preserve indigenous knowledge for future generations and reflects on the significance and the main uses of leaves within ethnic and indigenous communities in Sarawak. She summed-up each presentation and during the round-up session and stressed that the transmission of knowledge and social nature of learning is important in the preservation of our local heritage.
Stay tuned for the webinar which will be broadcasted on the 19th September 2021 at 10:00am on Pustaka’s Facebook and YouTube Channel.