KOTA KINABALU: Language barrier has not stopped the participants of the 10th Sabah International Folklore Festival (SIFF) from forging new friendships and ties with those from other nations.
Yesterday, participants from Indonesia danced to the tune of an Indonesian melody together with the participants from India, and other countries.
Another participant from the Republic of Sakha Yakutia who spoke very little English, described the performers from Slovakia as his ‘brothers.’
This was clearly what Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun meant when he said the aim of having SIFF was not really to select the best performing country but more towards promoting peace and making new friends.
“The Sabah International Folklore Festival is a symbol of peace in the world. The 16 participating countries are symbolically showcasing this message,” he said when launching the event.
The countries participating are China, Russia, Indonesia, South Korea, Latvia, Kazakhstan, the Philippines, India, Kyrgyzstan, Brunei Darussalam, Slovakia, Taipei, Turkey, Mexico and Malaysia.
Mexico, Turkey and Sakha Yakutia Republic are joining the festival for the first time this year.
Some countries have been supporting the event from the start and they comprise of Kazakhstan as well as neighbouring countries Brunei Darussalam, the Philippines and Indonesia.
Masidi welcomed the participants and hoped they would continue to support the event.
At yesterday’s event, the participants were given the opportunity to showcase their culture and tradition to the folk of Kota Kinabalu.
They were flagged off at Wisma Budaya and they walked under the sweltering hot weather towards Lintasan Desaoka and later to join Mayor Datuk Abidin Madingkir at the Kota Kinabalu Community Hall.
Their colourful costumes were an attraction to the local folk and many were seen ready with their cameras and smartphones to snap photographs of the participants at the parade.
Some, like the participants from South Korea, were clad in very thick costumes and one wondered how they could endure the hot and humid weather.
Slovakian Mario Matusek when approached during the parade, exclaimed that although they were now having summer in Slovakia, the temperature did not feel as hot as it was yesterday.
“But I am not surprised that the weather is so hot,” he said, and added that he loved what he saw at the west coast of Sabah.
“There are so much greenery and trees,” he said.
On his team, he said there were 21 members in their ensemble and they were representing the Matej Bel University in Banska Bystrica, Slovakia.
“This is our first time in Sabah. I believe we discovered the festival on the Internet.”
On the costumes worn by his team, Mario said they were worn by folk living in the central part of Slovakia.
Wadim Sewostyhrou from the Republic of Sakha Yakutia when asked to describe their costumes, said it was made from deer skin and the furs seen adorning the neckline and some parts of the leather, were fox furs.
Some of the male performers from his team were beating a musical device that resembled that of the Malay ‘kompang’.
Wadim said deer skin was used for the device.
He also complained about the weather and said it was too hot.
He added that it was the first time they were here.
Philippines dancer Jonah Mae was born in Sandakan but now resides in Palawan.
“I am studying tourism at the Palawan State University,” she said.
The performer was also versed in singing Malay songs but stated that she had forgotten how to speak in the language since they left Sabah a long time ago.
On her province, she mentioned that it was one of the most beautiful in the Philippines, with beautiful natural surroundings.
In his welcoming speech, Madingkir said the 10th International Folklore Festival had allowed participants from different parts of the world to showcase various cultures at the heart of the city.
He said the showcase was very much awaited by the people of Kota Kinabalu City.
The mayor also said the festival would enable the folk in Kota Kinabalu to enjoy the sensational blend of ethnic dances, as well as musical presentations from all the participating countries.
“I believe this festival is not only to celebrate the heritage of different countries, but also acts as a platform for cultural exchange. Thus, this festival would definitely benefit the people of Sabah for the opportunity of enjoying professional cultural dances from different parts of the world at our own doorstep,” he said.
Meanwhile, the festival featured the Local Folk Dance Competition yesterday and today.
The first day for the International Folklore Dance Competition will take place today at 7pm at the Sabah Cultural Centre in Penampang, while the finals will be held this coming Saturday at the same place and venue.