Saturday, July 24

Memoir on Iban culture, challenges launched

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A REMINDER: Jensen (left) presents a copy of his book to Aeries (centre) and Linggi after the launching.

KUCHING: A book on Iban culture and the Iban people’s challenges during the post-independence days was officially launched in Kuching yesterday.

Written by Datuk Dr Erik Jensen, ‘Where Hornbills Fly: A Journey with the Headhunters of Borneo’ is a fascinating memoir that documented his personal experiences while working in Sarawak from 1959 to 1966 as part of an invitation from the Anglican Mission to research into the Iban culture and religion back then.

Jensen, who retired as Under-Secretary General of the United Nations and currently Warburg Professor at Simmons College, Massachusetts, said that the book is written to remind today’s Ibans, especially the younger generation, of what the old life was about.

“It is a true story on how Iban society in the rural areas moved from a traditional world to the modern world today, with their dignity and values intact. It is also to inform visitors or tourists to Sarawak about an old world that had to change with time,” he said during the official launching ceremony, which was hosted at Tun Jugah Foundation.

In his remarks, he also recounted the days when he first encountered the Iban culture, in which he found the people to be warm and hospitable.

He also recounted how he had encountered resistance to changes and how the mindset and attitude changed as the Ibans adapted to their changing environment.

Jensen lived for over a year in Ulu Undup before moving to Lemanak, where he devised, organised and administered the Lemanak Development Scheme in the early 1960s.

Over the years he was in Sarawak, he had contributed to a range of development projects for the people.

‘Where Hornbills Fly’ was launched by the guest of honour, Anglican Bishop of Kuching The Right Reverend Datuk Bolly Lapok, who was represented by Assistant Bishop The Right Reverend Aeries Sumping Jingan. Bolly in his speech read by Aeries, said the book came as a timely contribution for the Iban community.

“The book addresses the struggles of the Ibans and also the future of the community as it paints a remarkable portrait of this fragile tribe, which continues to survive deep in the heart of Borneo.”

“The Bishop was invited to this launch because of the Anglican Mission’s involvement, under the then-Bishop Cornwall, in inviting Dr Jensen to Kuching in 1959,” he said.

Meanwhile, Tun Jugah Foundation chairman Datuk Amar Leonard Linggi Jugah said the Foundation and other Iban associations work closely to take care and nurture their cultures and traditions.

“Current projects include working on an Iban dictionary, a publication we hope will provide ample resources for the study of the Iban language.

“We are also doing a survey on rural-urban drift as we want to find out the Iban disaspora in Malaysia and we are also studying the roles of traditional leadership in the Iban community,” he said.

‘Where Hornbills Fly: A Journey with the Headhunters of Borneo’ has yet to be made available in local bookstores, but it is available in limited copies at the Tun Jugah Foundation for RM75. For more information, call 082-239672.