Upcoming talk at Borneo Cultures Museum to highlight cultural significance of boat lutes


Ose shows reporters one of the traditional boat lutes during the press conference. With him are Maddocks (right) and academician-researcher Datin Dr Valerie Mashman. — Photo by Chimon Upon

KUCHING (Aug 9): The Borneo Cultures Museum will host a talk on Borneo’s indigenous boat lutes and their cultural significance, this Aug 20.

To take place at the museum’s auditorium, the session will be facilitated by the Borneo Boat Lute Revival (BBLR) – a collective of researchers, cultural practitioners and creatives from all over Borneo.

They will be presenting respective research works on this particular family of traditional stringed instrument, which includes the sape’ of the Orang Ulu, the Iban’s ‘belikan’, the Lun Bawang’s ‘tapi’ and the Sabahan’s ‘sundatang’.

“The talk is called ‘The Lost Instruments: Reviving Borneo’s Indigenous Boat Lutes’, where we will explore the roots of these instruments and tell the stories, the customs behind them, as well as the tunes originally played on them.

“(The lutes themselves) are the visible side of culture, but what we do not know is that the tunes that used to come out from these instruments – I think these are going to be showcased during the talk.

“We all know about the sape’ now. However at some point in the 1980s or even before that, very few people knew about the different music that the sape’ could produce, or even the customs behind them; for example, women and girls were not even allowed to touch a sape’,” said Friends of Sarawak Museum (FoSM) chairperson Datu Ose Murang during a press conference at Borneo Cultures Museum here yesterday.

It is informed that the talk would involve five BBLR representatives: renowned sape’ maker and musician Ezra Tekola, Iban ‘belikan’ enthusiast Hayree Hashim, Lun Bawang musician Rining Peter Paris who will play the ‘tapi’, Sabah’s ‘sundatang’ revival leader Gindung Mc Feddy Simon, and Catriona Maddocks, a British-born artist residing in Kuching.

Maddocks and Gindung recently conducted research trips to the British Museum in London and the Pitt Rivers Museum at Oxford University with the objective of collaborating with the curators there, and enhancing the understanding about the Bornean boat lutes and rectifying any inaccuracies in their collections.

“We hope to push back against the myth that these indigenous practices are lost, that they are relics of the past, because these instruments are still part of the lively contemporary music scene in Borneo,” said Maddocks.

It is informed that ‘The Lost Instruments: Reviving Borneo’s Indigenous Boat Lutes’ is part of the ‘Sarawak Snapshot’ talk series, jointly run by FoSM and Sarawak Museum Department.

In this respect, Ose said there would be more talks to be carried throughout September until December this year.

“On Sept 17, there will be a talk on ‘Documenting the Visible and Invisible Culture of the Punan Bah – A Fifty-Year Endeavour’ by researcher Dr Ida Nicolaisen.

“On Oct 29, Dr Jennifer Morris will talk about Charles Hose (British photographer and anthropologist in the late 19th century) collecting for museums.

“On Nov 19, Dr Franca Cole will talk about the Niah Caves, and on Dec 3, Jayl Langub will deliver a presentation on the Taman Tepung Tuloi’s double-chambered ‘klirieng’ (burial pole) and its special history,” he added.

Those interested can register these talks in advance via this link.