Drumming up Community Spirit in the Highlands of HoB
By: Cristina Eghenter
FORMADAT participants from Indonesia and Malaysia were listening to the speaker sitting on the soft mats of sier and krubet (varieties of reeds) in the Cultural Field School (CFS), Krayan Highlands. The atmosphere was a bit hypnotic and slow moving as the after-lunch somnolence seemed to have taken a toll on the heads and eyes of most people in attendance. And then, from a corner of the building, Ellyas suddenly started thumping on a tall drum made from the trunk of a palm tree. Within five minutes, the traditional leaders and representatives of FORMADAT were either dancing and moving to the vigorous sound of the drums or beating the rhythm on smaller drums and other traditional musical instruments. It was one of several ‘musical breaks’ during the meeting, energizing and poignant moments when the common traditions and cultural identity of the communities of the Highlands in HoB became alive.
On November 23-24th, FORMADAT Malaysia and Indonesia held their 8th Annual Meeting in Krayan. Initially, Long Layu in Krayan Selatan was to host the meeting but bad weather and difficult transportation by air and by road required a quick change of location. With just a few days remaining before the representatives of Malaysia arrived, the meeting was moved to the sub-district of Krayan and took place in Lembudud (23rd Nov), dinner and cultural night in Kuala Belawit, and the following day (24th Nov) in Terang Baru, at the CFS. Thanks to the great team effort of the members of FORMADAT Krayan, the meeting and activities were all successfully conducted.
The presence of representatives of WWF Indonesia and WWF Malaysia made the theme of the meeting, “Strategic partnerships for sustainable development in the Highlands” close and real, especially because the MoU among the three organizations was discussed and will be signed soon. The women of FORMADAT, still too few taking part in the meetings, but many cooking and serving food and drinks, made their voice heard loud and clear this time by saying that they want to be involved in all workshops and trainings, and requesting special activities for women.
October 24th, 2014 will be 10th anniversary of the founding of FORMADAT. The communities have decided to celebrate the occasion in Long Bawan (Krayan) with a big event with culture, culinary traditions of the Highlands, and trans-border ecotourism. By looking back at the road walked and achievements, FORMADAT will build upon this to continue to shape a better and sustainable future for communities, friends and partners in the Heart of Borneo. With a new slogan, perurum-selawai-meruked (=be one/together-one path/direction-forever), and carried by the beat of the drums, the representatives of Bario, Long Semadoh, Ba’ Kelalan, Long Pasia, Krayan and Krayan Selatan reaffirmed the spirit of the alliance that brought them together across the international border as ONE community organization to maintain the cultural traditions of the common ancestral land, protect the fragile environment of the Highlands, and encourage sustainable economic development.