TUCKED in the foothills of the majestic Mount Santubong, the iconic Sarawak Cultural Village (SCV) is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the state.
Dubbed a “living museum”, the one-stop cultural centre showcases the diverse heritage, tradition and culture of the multi-ethnic people in the Land of the Hornbill.
Built on a 6.8ha site, the must-visit tourist attraction welcomes droves of people, who wish to explore and learn about Sarawak’s culture in one day.
About two weeks ago, the centre, which had won numerous accolades and recognition, played host to a different group of people.
More than 500 people, mostly from the youth segment, had turned up at the centre’s Panggung Budaya, which was the venue for the “Randau Transformasi Nasional 2050 Begulai Enggau Etnik Sarawak” (National Transformation 2050 Gathering with Sarawak Ethnic programme).
Seated on a bamboo mat sprawled across the floor of the hall, the crowd excitedly shared their aspirations for Sarawak, and generally Malaysia, for the next 30 years during the dialogue, which was moderated by Telang Usan assemblyman Dennis Ngau.
The race to the microphone began as soon as Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin opened the programme.
Adrian Gor Anthony was among the earliest to share his vision for Malaysia in the year 2050.
Befitting the “Sarawak Ethic” theme and the venue of the dialogue, the 21-year-old student of Melanau descent spoke about the importance of preserving the rich cultures, not only in Sarawak, but also around the country.
“There are many ethnic groups in Sarawak and the state is rich in culture and tradition. With the right efforts, I believe we can turn Sarawak culture into a global brand. This will also help to ensure that our culture will not be wiped out.
“I am scared that the next generation will not know about their culture if we do not do something about it,” said Adrian.
He proposed that government agencies start promoting Malaysia’s diverse cultures in South Korea since the country had successfully promoted its culture to the world.
The same call was also made by two other participants in the dialogue, which was also attended by State Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, his assistant, Assistant Minister of Youth and Sports Datuk Snowdan Lawan, and Layar state assemblyman Gerald Rentap Jabu.
A teenager sitting on the other side of the hall from Adrian suggested that the government designate a day for the people to wear their traditional costumes or accessories associated with their cultures.
“I know some of my Malay friends will look even more beautiful in their baju kurung. And I also know the Bidayuh community are known for their colourful bead necklace.
“We should be proud of our traditional costumes and accessories as it reflects our roots,” said the petite lass.
Even Khairy shared his concerns about the fate of our culture.
“There have been many concerns raised on the fate of our culture in the year 2050. This stems from the fact that all of you are proud of your culture, ethnicity and cultural heritage.
“We do not want our culture to end up in the museum. We do not want future generations to be forced to come to this centre because they do not know their roots and cultures.
“This (preserving culture) will be challenging, but I know it can be done. Just look at South Korea and how the youths in the country are proud of their culture, to the extent that it has become a global phenomenon.
“How the country managed to transform their culture into a mechanism to generate growth is a challenge for Malaysia as we move towards TN50,” said Khairy, in his concluding remarks.
Preservation and branding of Malaysia’s different cultures on the global stage, said Khairy, were among the top five topics repeatedly raised by youth groups in several TN50 programmes.
The concern raised by the youth over the fate of our culture had perhaps been addressed by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak about a month before the dialogue at the Sarawak Cultural Village.
Najib, in September, announced the setting up of the Cultural Economy Development Agency (Cendana) with an initial allocation of RM20 million to turn cultural economy into Malaysia’s new asset.
It is a relief to see that there are still some among our younger generation who are passionate about their culture.
As the government introduces initiatives to preserve and monetise our culture, it is imperative that the people also do their bit — which is to wear our culture proudly.
Adib Povera, born in Kuala Lumpur, raised in Perak, is NST Sarawak bureau chief. A nature lover, he never tires of discovering new sights in the Land of the Hornbills