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Celebrating culture and tradition at Makan Makan Sarawak: Pesta Orang Ulu

Sarawakians and non-Sarawakians alike came together recently to celebrate Orang Ulu culture during the ‘Makan Makan Sarawak: Pesta Orang Ulu’.

Held at the Dayak Bidayuh National Association (DBNA) on Aug 25, the event is part of a cultural-culinary sharing platform organised by Yayasan Perpaduan Sarawak (YPS).

Pesta Orang Ulu, a celebration of culture and tradition

This time the event had a free cultural exhibition from 10am to 5pm on top of the usual ticketed dinner at night.

Patrons had the opportunity to try their hand at Orang Ulu arts and crafts through various workshops at DBNA’s baruk building.

Craftsman Ngo Hawing taught visitors how to carve out ‘kelebu’, a decorative stick with curls chiseled out of the wood, while Julia Tipong from Lio Saben Beads introduced visitors to the craft that the Orang Ulu are famous for – their beadwork.

There were also weaving and basket making workshops by Awi Abang, Datun Julud (Orang Ulu long dance) and a sape introductory session by sape master Mathew Ngau Jau.

Adrian Jo Milang, a traditional parap and takna’ practitioner was there to give patrons a taste of the Kayan oral tradition.

In a nutshell, parap is the Kayan tradition of improv, where they spontaneously come up with poetic songs. The parap is usually sung in a group while takna’ is the telling of an epic and heroic tale also told in song.

Orang Ulu melody and harmony was not the only thing visitors had a taste of as there were food vendors selling traditional cuisine from their various sub-ethnic groups.

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Other activities included traditional tattoo tapping, a live Orang Ulu painting demonstration and craft bazaars.

The feast continued at night with magical performances by Mathew Ngau Jau, Danison Manium, Alena Murang, Pete Kallang, Ezra Tekola and Jackson Lian from At Adau and Natalina Travis.

‘Makan Makan Sarawak: Pesta Orang Ulu’ was co-hosted by The Champions in collaboration with Sarawak Development Institute (SDI), Federation of Orang Ulu Association of Malaysia (Forum), Friends of Sarawak Museum, Sarawak Cultural Village, Majlis Adat Istiadat Sarawak and Kuching In & Out.

Here are some of the photos taken during the recently held ‘Makan Makan Sarawak: Pesta Orang Ulu’:

A vendor displaying her woven items at ‘Makan Makan Sarawak: Pesta Orang Ulu’ craft bazaar.
Local Orang Ulu artist Gloria Bulan’s artwork depicting Sarawak ladies.
Pesta Orang Ulu also featured young artists doing live painting inspired by traditional Orang Ulu motifs.
Designing a traditional tattoo before the hand-tapping process begins
Visitors giving Orang Ulu beadwork a try.
Awi Abang (second right) explaining to visitors about the intricacies of Orang Ulu basketry.
Celebrating Orang Ulu culture is incomplete without a burak (rice wine) tasting.
Adrian (left) explaining to the audience more on parap and takna’ while the traditional choir group called ‘tukang habe’ look on.
Patricia Hului
Patricia Hului is a Kayan who wants to live in a world where you can eat whatever you want and not gain weight. She grew up in Bintulu, Sarawak and graduated from the University Malaysia Sabah with a degree in Marine Science. She worked for The Borneo Post SEEDS, which is now defunct. When she's not writing, you can find her in a studio taking belly dance classes, hiking up a hill or browsing through Pinterest. Follow her on Instagram at @patriciahului, Facebook at Patricia Hului at or Twitter at @patriciahului.