Kelabit museum highlights megaliths


The launching of the Kelabit community museum was graced by Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas during the 12th Pesta Nukenen (Food Festival) in Bario recently.

Dr Yakup (third right) with his team of researchers during a photo-call at the Kelabit community museum.

MIRI: Bario, located in the Highlands of Borneo and homeland of the indigenous Kelabit tribe, is not only known for its peaceful agricultural atmosphere but also famous for its megalithic monuments.

Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) Faculty of Applied and Creative Arts deputy dean (student affairs and alumni) Dr Yakup Mohd Rafee said the Kelabit community in the highlands of Bario should be proud that they are rich with all sorts of fascinating heritage and culture.

“One of the most attractive heritage and cultures of the Kelabit community here in Bario is the megaliths. These stone monuments dotted around the highland have attracted many visitors especially those who are interested in the early past of mankind,” Dr Yakup told The Borneo Post when met at the launching of the Kelabit community museum as part of the opening ceremony of the 12th Pesta Nukenen (Food Festival) in Bario recently.

In an effort to popularise and educate the local community on the significance of the megalithic monuments, Dr Yakup and his team of six researchers worked tirelessly conducting intensive research on the megaliths.

“Our research started in August last year, conducted under the grant from the Faculty of Applied and Creative Arts, Unimas and the Ministry of Higher Education.

“We managed to go to several places in Bario known for the megaliths including the Batuh Narit Arur Bilit in Pa Umur village and Batuh Ritung of Pa Lungan,” he added.

The initial process of the research done by the team was not easy as they had faced several challenges including insufficient sources of information on megalithic structures in the highland.

Looking at the need to record and document detailed information on the megaliths, Dr Yakup and his team had teamed up with the Rurum Kelabit Sarawak (RKS) for their research, which are now being showcased at the community museum in the form of visuals utilising advanced technology.

“The Rurum Kelabit Sarawak had invited us to implement an exhibition on megaliths found in the Kelabit highlands of Bario in this community museum, as they are seeing the potential in our research towards educating the local community on these mysterious structures and their ancient civilisation.

“This exhibition is now being carried out digitally here, in line with our Chief Minister’s vision of a booming digital economy in the state,” said Dr Yakup.

To thrive in the digital economy world, it is important to take advantage of the best possible technology, he added.

“Our exhibition brings together the latest and advanced technology, including the virtual reality headset which is a fascinating way to travel using nothing more than the power of technology.

“With this, it enables visitors to experience mobile virtual reality and be part of our experiential journey here without them going to the field. This can also allow them to access earlier information regarding these megaliths and look at it closely before they head to the locations of the megalithic structures scattered around Bario,” he said.

Dr Yakup emphasised that visual arts also play vital roles in educating audiences to view studies related to many other fields such as archaeology and zoology.

He added that for educating people, especially the rural communities, an all too academic approach would make it difficult for them to understand.

“Therefore, with the use of visuals produced by advanced technologies which are more creative and relaxed in our exhibition here, they will be able to better understand and appreciate what Bario has to offer.

“The use of digital technology is able to open the door of information wider to the outside world. With the use of these technologies and visual displays, we can bring an experience of how we do research, what is seen and referred to on these megalithic monuments and share with the wider community,” he said.

“This exhibition serves as source of reference in learning more about the Kelabit highlands especially on their megalithic culture. Thus, it is hoped that this will also indirectly create interest among the wider community to come to Bario and boost its tourism industry.”

Dr Yakup expressed his gratitude to the local communities who have contributed extensively in conducting their research and implementing exhibition in the community museum.

He revealed that the research team is also looking into conducting more research on many other megalithic monuments in the sub-district in the near future.

“Thus, we do hope to get more assistance and perhaps grants from the state government and relevant bodies to continue our research and studies,” he said.

Those who wish to view the visuals taken as part of the research done by Dr Yakup and his team can also log on to their YouTube channel ‘Kelabit Highland Megalith FRGS Team Faca Unimas’.

“We will also create a website to display all relevant information in digital context related to these megaliths and the Kelabit highlands,” he added.