Documentary on Gawai Antu unveiled at Borneo Cultures Museum


(From right) Abang Johari shows a ‘parang’ (sword) presented to him by Jabu as a memento. With them is Jabu’s son Datuk Gerald Rentap Jabu, who is the Deputy Minister of Youth, Sport and Entrepreneur Development I Sarawak. — Photo by Roystein Emmor

KUCHING (Sept 21): A documentary on Gawai Antu celebrations at former deputy chief minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Alfred Jabu Numpang’s longhouse Rumah Gensurai at Ulu Layar in Betong has been launched.

An official screening took place at Borneo Cultures Museum yesterday, where Premier of Sarawak Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg officiated at the event.

According to Abang Johari, it is probably the first of such initiatives undertaken by Borneo Cultures Museum to share with the public – and the world, at large – this ‘beautiful aspect of the culture of the Iban community’.

“I understand that following this official launch, there will be one or two occasions for screening as permitted by Borneo Cultures Museum to share the uniqueness of this rare festival with the wider audience and cultural enthusiasts,” he said in his speech.

Abang Johari regarded the documentary as ‘an exemplary effort’ by Jabu and his family to document the celebration in order to preserve it using a medium that could be viewed by the younger generation of Ibans, as well as others outside the community.

“This is a tremendous effort that should be emulated by our various ethnic communities in Sarawak to seriously preserve their cultural heritage by recording them and storing them digitally that be retrieved for viewing and for various other purposes by the future generations,” he added.

Moreover, Abang Johari said the documentary ‘refreshed his memory of an unforgettable experience’ of him and his wife Datuk Amar Juma’ani Tuanku Bujang attending a Gawai Antu celebration at Rumah Gensurai on Dec 22, 2018.

He said based on what Jabu had told him, the Ibans would hold Gawai Antu to accord the highest form of respect, appreciation and honour to their forefathers, relatives or ancestors who had endeavoured hard to ensure a good and decent life for those after them.

“This unique celebration of the Iban community is an important linkage for Sarawak to the outside world, and for that matter, indigenous festivals of many ethnic groups in Sarawak provide important avenues for cultural education for our friends from overseas,” he added.

As such, Abang Johari pointed out that the whole longhouse and the people of Gensurai ought to be congratulated for successfully holding the celebration, which had been fully documented and preserved on high-quality digital format.

Meanwhile in his remarks, Jabu regarded the launch of the documentary by the Premier as ‘a very important landmark, especially to the Iban community, and to Sarawak as a whole’.

He said it symbolised a very genuine appreciation from Sarawak government of the socio-cultural contribution of each community, and also a significant manifestation of the open-mindedness and respect from the Premier.

“We, the Iban people, hold high respect for harmony and cooperation, and also for peaceful mutual co-existence with our fellow Sarawakians.

“I have always enjoyed and cherished the many pleasantries of good comradeship and admirable strong cohesion of mutual respect and tolerance amongst our multiracial and multi-religious communities in Sarawak, which receive high praise and admiration from visitors from overseas,” said the former deputy chief minister.

Jabu also acknowledged with thanks the Image Farm Sdn Bhd producer/ director Loo Shun Ming, the film executive producer Barbara Dubah Jabu and the director of photography and videographer Tang Kheng Hong, as well as ‘to each and every one at Image Farm Sdn Bhd and all the working committee members for all their illustrious endeavour in producing this high-quality film with high-resolution format’.

“This Borneo Cultures Museum, strategically located in Kuching, is the most appropriate venue for launching this documentary film on Gawai Antu because as the name implies, this museum serves to display the materials and artefacts of the many races in Borneo, where Sarawak is prominently pioneering such initiatives,” added Jabu.

Loo, who spoke earlier, said the 53-minute documentary centred around the Jabu family organising Gawai Antu at Rumah Gensurai in December 2018.

“It took an immense amount of effort to work on this cultural documentary because of the magnitude of the Gawai Antu. We spent 14 days shooting in Betong and Rumah Gensurai, and another 10 days filming some B-rolls (supplemental or alternative footage intercut with the main shots).

“In post-production, we sifted through hundreds of hours of footage, hundreds of pages of transcriptions, and an abundance of information,” she added.

Also present at the event were Deputy Premier Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas, State Legislative Assembly (DUN) Speaker Tan Sri Datuk Amar Mohammad Asfia Awang Nassar, Minister of Tourism, Creative Industry, and Performing Arts Dato Sri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, and federal Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Datuk Nancy Shukri.