On 1 & 2 December 2012, Kakakapan id Gayo Ngaran was celebrated for the third time. Community members from 14 villages took part this year, including my village, Bundu Tuhan, and Kiau, the two villages that have acted as the main hosts of the event since it first started in 2010.
When Kinabalu Park was gazetted in 1964, communities living nearby lost access to Mount Kinabalu and all of the natural resources that were depended on. Kakakapan id Gayo Ngaran, meaning Return to the Mountain in our native language, is an annual pilgrimage to Mt. Kinabalu. The event was borne from pleas of our village elders to Sabah Parks, the park authority, to gain access to the mountain to revitalise our connection with this sacred site. We believe it is sacred because it is where the spirits of our dead stop to rest as they journey to the afterlife.
Community Day, run in tandem with the pilgrimage, continues each year. This year’s celebration carried the theme “Communities as Catalysts for Conservation of Kinabalu Park”. Above all, it aims to strengthen relationships and collaboration among communities living adjacent to Kinabalu Park, and the park authorities. After three years, I can honestly say that this is something that works well. Each year, our community has gathered together with other communities and the authorities to plan the event. During the event, community members of all ages get together as one to celebrate our heritage.
On a daily basis, Mount Kinabalu attracts climbers from all over the world. For almost 50 years, we have taken the backseat and learned to adapt to the restrictions imposed by park regulations, ignoring and losing (especially among those in my generation) the spiritual significance of the mountain. Together, the annual Kakakapan id Gayo Ngaran and the Community Day celebrations remind us of (and allow us to share with others) our heritage, and motivate us to be champions of our natural environment.
*story shared by Remmy Alfie in the national language, Bahasa Malaysia.
I am a Dusun from Sabah who lives in the foothills of Mount Kinabalu. The village I am from, Bundu Tuhan, sits on 1,255 hectares of Native Reserve, two-thirds of which has been set aside as a community forest that is governed through a village management plan. With its natural surroundings and the majestic Mount Kinabalu, the view from my village is always serene. Historically, our community depended on the forest as a source of food, medicines and building materials. Presently, our village leaders, and community as a whole (there are approximately 3,400 people living in Bundu Tuhan now) continue to protect the forest as part of our heritage.
As someone from the 'younger generation' and in my role as a community researcher, I am involved in many activities to protect our community forest, and the cultural heritage and traditions of Bundu Tuhan. Our leaders play a strong role in inspiring us, encouraging us to work with external partners such as the Global Diversity Foundation who provided technical training and advice.
In a team and with other members of our community,
- We created a 3D map of our village, with help from secondary school students, using research results (borders were identified through GPS readings and GIS application)
- We continue to create interesting outreach materials about our connection with the environment - for example, a short video, brochures, photos (an awareness exhibition was held in a shopping mall in the State's capital in July 2010 to showcase these photos). *please follow the YouTube link of a video we made recently on our cultural heritage and traditions
- We create awareness about the conservation status of our community forest while conducting household interviews.
As a community researcher, I have been trained in various research and outreach techniques - photography and participatory videography, household interview techniques, and community mapping (application of GPS and Participatory 3-Dimension Modelling (P3DM) - which help us produce results useful for our community. The thing I am most interested in is research methods involving photography and filmmaking. This allows us to develop attractive materials to raise awareness about our valuable biocultural heritage.
We are all proud of the acknowledgement given - during the Sabah Environmental Awards in September 2011, we received the Ministers Special Award from Datuk Masidi Manjun, Sabah Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment. This was in recognition of our collective efforts as a community in preserving the environment and establishing community forests. We are happy and proud to help in conservation efforts and hope that these efforts will grow from strength to strength; in my hope, particularly among the younger generation. That includes me.
Towards the end of 2005, as part of the Community Researchers Team from the Buayan-Kionop area in Ulu Papar, we were trained by the Global Diversity Foundation how to conduct research on the history of Buayan. We held interviews and documented the stories told by our village elders.
Many among the younger generation in Ulu Papar do not know much about our history. As community researchers, we felt it was our responsibility to change this situation, which is the reason behind the exercise to collect and document the history of our community - to preserve the cultural heritage that is unique to Ulu Papar. Our history is what defines our identity as the original inhabitants of Ulu Papar.
One of our interviewees was Puan Linggui Lunduan, from Buayan village, who told us the story of how Buayan got its name. This is how the story goes....
“A long time ago, Buayan experienced a 7-year drought that dried up the river that runs through the village. However, there was one section, a deep part of the river where fish liked to gather, that escaped this predicament. Unfortunately, this was not accessible by humans or animals because it was protected by a large river turtle that blocked the way with its body. Members from our community made many attempts but no one succeeded because the river turtle never left this area. The river turtle’s name was Suyan, a name bestowed on it because of how amazed our community was with the situation. After many failed attempts, someone offered a sogit (local term for offering) in the form of an egg to the river turtle. Upon receiving this, the river turtle made some room so that water could be drawn from the river. Since then, whenever a member of the community wanted to get some water, that person would offer a sogit to the river turtle."
This is how Buayan got its name.
* the interview was conducted in the native Dusun language, and translated by community researchers to Bahasa Malaysia.
My name is Jenny Sanem. I am an indigenous Dusun from Buayan village.
In 2007, I started working as a community researcher. At the time, I was only 21 years old, and was working as a shop attendant in Donggongon town. Although I was born in Buayan, I did not know much about Buayan except that is one of the nine villages that, together, is known as Ulu Papar. It is located in a remote part of the island of Borneo.
As a community researcher, I started to learn about my village and gained skills I had never even heard of before. Alongside other community researchers from Ulu Papar (we are called the Community Researchers Team), I learned how to create maps by collecting GPS readings, use different research techniques to understand the relationships that exist between my community and the environment we live in, monitor how my community use and manage the resources found in the forest, and share the story of our lives through photography and community filmmaking.
There are so many things about Ulu Papar that I was not aware of until I became a community researcher. The last few years has been challenging, and at times, scary. For example, in August last year, I delivered a presentation entitled “A Biocultural Perspective for Heritage Conservation in Ulu Papar, Sabah” to an audience of around 300 during the Asian Wetlands Symposium. Earlier this year, we had dialogues with high-level government officers to deliver the results of our research. As a group, we have stood up to defend our land. It has definitely been challenging, and through it all, I have learned to appreciate all that Ulu Papar has to offer.
I hope these photos give you an idea of my journey so far as a community researcher.
* story told by Jenny in Bahasa Malaysia, the national language of Malaysia.
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GDF International Program Director