Help Communities in Borneo Protect their Heritage

 
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Dec 21, 2012

Celebrating our connection with Mt. Kinabalu

Mt. Kinabalu, sacred to Dusun communities
Mt. Kinabalu, sacred to Dusun communities

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 filming the monolob ritual
I am filming the monolob ritual
Communities at the start of pilgrimage
Communities at the start of pilgrimage
At the peak of Mt. Kinabalu
At the peak of Mt. Kinabalu
Colouring activities held for children
Colouring activities held for children
Local produce for sale.
Local produce for sale.
Young Dusun girls in traditional costumes
Young Dusun girls in traditional costumes
Organising Chairman, Johnny Ghani, shows 3D model
Organising Chairman, Johnny Ghani, shows 3D model

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Project Leader

Susannah McCandless

GDF International Program Director
Bristol, Vermont United States

Where is this project located?

Map of Help Communities in Borneo Protect their Heritage