Sarawak greenlights plan for Dayak body to manage Brooke-era forts as cultural hubs

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUCHING, June 24 — Premier Tan Sri Abang Johari Openg today approved the Dayak Cultural Foundation (DCF) to manage two Rajah Brooke-era forts from the Sarawak Museum Department as centres to exhibit cultural heritage and artefact of the Iban community.

He said he has no problem with DCF managing Fort Lily, built in 1858, in Betong and Fort Sylvia, built in 1880, in Kapit as the state has many such forts built during the Second Rajah Sir Charles Brooke.

“I agree with [Deputy Premier Datuk Amar Douglas] Uggah’s suggestion. Just go ahead. Let’s fill these forts with our cultural heritage and artefacts,” Abang Johari said at the opening of the two-day Iban cultural symposium and exposition at the SCF building here.

He urged DCF to use the Sarawak Cultures Museum (BCM) as a model to establish galleries at Forts Lily and Sylvia.

“If possible, use technology to interact of narrative and information, like the BCM does,” he said, adding that overseas guests, including those from Peninsular Malaysia have praised the BCM for its interactivity.

“The overseas guests know the narratives and stories behind what we exhibit,” he said.

Abang Johari said the people should protect and preserve their cultural heritage for the future generation.

He cited the “pua kumbu” as an example that should be preserved, adding that Iban traditional textile has already been declared a national heritage.

Earlier, Uggah, who is also SCF chairman, said that the Iban community believes that the creation or establishment of a cultural heritage centre can play a vital role in preserving, promoting and educating the public about our cultural heritage.

He said these centres have multifaceted functions and impacts, encompassing various social, educational, economic and cultural aspects.

“Like in any other parts of the world, cultural heritage centres are essential institutions that not only safeguard cultural legacies, but also actively engage with communities and the public to ensure that cultural heritage remains a living, dynamic part of society.

“Such centres house and preserve artefacts, documents, artworks and other cultural items, ensuring their protection for future generations.

“It is high time that, with assistance from the government, the community needs to have cultural centres in Sarawak to expedite the process of preserving our cultural heritage,” he said.

He said he understands the Sarawak Museum Department is in the midst of upgrading the Fort Lily in Betong and Fort Slyvia in Kapit.

He appealed to the premier to allow DCF to be part of the upgrading programme of Forts Lily and Slyvia, asking if DCF can manage these two places as cultural and heritage centres.