Thursday, 20 June 2024
Kampung Pictures Tale in Ten Deep in the heart of Sarawak
Deep in the heart of Sarawak PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 20 February 2010 04:00

Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia will be bringing its Roadshow to Sabah and Sarawak on March 13 and 14. While many Malaysians may have traveled to the main cities or hung out at exquisite dive spots, the interiors of these territories remain largely an enigma. DHANEN MAHES, as Semenanjung as they come, had a chance to delve deeper while doing voluntary work some months ago. He shares with us his experience

I peeked into the further reaches of the Hornbill's nest not so very long ago. The mountains are more jagged, carpeted in a thousand shades of green. The rivers are mighty; a kind of whitewater restlessness carving away layers of time from their banks. The people are gentle. Gentle as the mengkuang baskets they weave.


I had followed a group of volunteers from the peninsula into the interiors to administer dental care. Our destination was Kampung Bawie, a longhouse settlement off Lubok Antu in Sarawak. Lubok Antu itself is about 200 km from Kuching, where we landed, and a mere 10km from the Kalimantan border.


From Kuching we drove to Lubok Antu, and then turned off into a logging road, just at the outskirts of the town. The drive through the logging trail was steep, treacherous, and more than once we encountered landslips. The trail is dotted with little logging villages and settlements (above).


We finally arrived at Kg Bawie just before sundown. Bawie rests in the bosom of a small valley, two longhouses flanked on each side by verdant hills, and a little stream running right through the middle. In all, the journey took about eight hours.


Bawie is a village of the old and the very young. Many of its young men and women have left to look for jobs at nearby towns and seldom come home.

The villagers are Iban. Mixed tribes are uncommon in most areas of Sarawak. There isn't much in terms of real economy. The jungle provides. Mostly, they forage for a living. They have a number of small garden patches, but these have been left largely untended. The village is littered with pigs and little piglets. Dogs run wild all over the place. There is little evidence of domesticated livestock.

I was informed that the villagers have gotten used to NGOs and other groups bringing them food, and do not devote much time to growing their own. Though not backed with hard facts, the signs seem to point to its veracity. It is this which makes me ache inside. I sometimes wonder if we are doing them more harm than good.


That evening after sundown, everyone got together to cook a community meal. There's something quite wonderful about this ritual. It's the stuff which holds families together. This little fellow had just come back with his mum from foraging in the forest nearby.


We were there to administer dental aid to the villagers. We started that same night, and this gentleman lost a few of his lifelong friends.


We went on through the night with the help of flashlights. There may be ambitious projects like the Bakun Dam and its megawatts, but Tenaga doesn't come around here. Kg Bawie has a single generator. This is used to run the lights in the village head's room and the common areas. The rest of the longhouse is often left in pitch darkness. They have a single television set and a number of radios from which they get their information.

bw6 Morning came along, and I awoke to the smells of fire burning and babies crying. There is a warmth to these activities. In the daylight, you get to see the faces of the hosts better. The terrain reveals itself to the visitor.


Past perfect, future tense: As much as I enjoyed the beauty of the environment, my urban mind shook me again - with little education opportunities, what will happen to these young children? Didn't they deserve better? Was I seeing from a biased lens, skewed to only one version of emancipation?


For that brief moment somehow, it was apt to let go. The kids became my teachers. Be free in spirit, they seemed to say.


Live the moment.


And if it's worth the while, take the plunge. (A stream and waterfall nearby the village. I took this picture while hanging from a vine and trying not to think about the rocks below.)


Life's like that, the village seemed to murmur.

So right, and yet so wrong.


We went deep into the interiors of Sarawak and pulled some teeth. In turn I had my insides jerked and twisted in a personal drama of rights and wrongs. Lubok Antu does that to you; forces one to battle with forgotten ghosts, in the hope that we come out the better, most hopefully clearer.

Search RSS
Only registered users can write comments!
shakuntala  - Friend for little children |2010-02-20 20:13:41
It is always children who break the ice and heart,to jog us into realizing that we have a lot more to do, to clean up our act and make life worth living.

For all Malaysians.

While Dhanen Mahes makes his visit to the interiors of Sarawak worth his while, he also gives us a jolly good read,with his excellent script, especially his focus and musings on the future of the poor neglected children of a Sarawakian village, whose plight up to now, it appears, has been unattended to, by the Federal Government and their departments working in Sarawak.

It appears too, that there is no need or not worth their while, to care for the interiors of Sarawak's poor. The interiors are too far and are not likely to receive publicity.

We know, there are millionaires in Sarawak who could care. We know of viable names such as Taib Mahmud, for whom luxury is an household word.

No givers from here for the poor?

In the realms of the rich and the famous, no poverty or dirt enters into the vocabulary. The poor remain poor, the untouchables.

Remind only of plentiful pleasures and palaces...

How many of us ever heard of Kampong Bawie....? I did not until now, when the pictures in Dhanen's story speak of sadness.

Like Dhanen's can our own hearts be touched,pricked, so that we as members of civil society can play our part to help, perhaps first of all, in the education of these forgotten little children for whom if their lives are going to matter at all, in future, they should be given direction,through learning and knowledge of the right kind.

Can these little children also have the right to know , what the world has in store for the successful and the knowledgeable.

Can those of us who feel drawn to the call for help, for the sake of these children join SABM,if we may, to give even our two cents worth for a fund raising campaign. Perhaps?

For the betterment of these little lost souls who do not yet know that there is also sorrow and suffering in the world,that there is such a thing called achievement, success, which they don't need to know now, when they only, need to know that it is sheer joy to feel the breadth of fresh air and the cool of the mountain stream.

But they ought to know for the sake of knowing what options life offers them for their future.So that they can play a meaningful role in the future of our shared country..Malaysia.

We've seen the first faces...we can reach for more of such children in Kampong Bawie and beyond.

Let's do something to help.

Anonymous  - suffer the little children? |2010-02-20 20:43:55
Wonderful photos, especially child with balloon...."live the moment', before it disappears with a bang!

Lovely rural rich is Nature in comparison to the peoples' poverty.

These children are the world's children. They need help.
ong  - You can certainly help help yourself! |2010-02-22 21:59:24


Halo folks!
Certainly this is not a time to feel hopeless or helpless! Sarawak is for now the king maker of Malaysian politics-with West M'sia being evenly divided between 2 dueling parties. More precisely the deciding votes are held in the hands of the Dayaks especially those in the majority rural/interiors areas. The only fault in this description is: more than half of these rural Dayaks are deprived of the votes-some even without any ICs. Helping them to get the ICs and register as voters would make them the center of attention-the power to attract some well deserved assistance-and to tilt the balance of power for everyone's benifits! More people should make the trips to Sarawak if we stand for something positive about `Malaysia' and not really `Semenanjung' as they call it here!

So it is about getting democracy for West Malaysians that you should show more interests about this `poor' Sarawakians-whose wealth has been `helping' without acknowledgement, the `development' in West Malaysia! It is time to return some of the wealth the West `received' to those deprived Malaysians in Sarawak! Help them-help yourself! Help Malaysia! You are not that helpless to help...yourself?

Ong BK
Uthaya Sankar SB  - Interesting Insight! |2010-02-28 09:29:30
An interesting piece of photo journalism.
ckkhie |2010-03-15 22:07:24
<img src=hock:' title='


hock:' class='postemoticon' />
Last Updated on Sunday, 28 February 2010 23:54

Your are currently browsing this site with Internet Explorer 6 (IE6).

Your current web browser must be updated to version 7 of Internet Explorer (IE7) to take advantage of all of template's capabilities.

Why should I upgrade to Internet Explorer 7? Microsoft has redesigned Internet Explorer from the ground up, with better security, new capabilities, and a whole new interface. Many changes resulted from the feedback of millions of users who tested prerelease versions of the new browser. The most compelling reason to upgrade is the improved security. The Internet of today is not the Internet of five years ago. There are dangers that simply didn't exist back in 2001, when Internet Explorer 6 was released to the world. Internet Explorer 7 makes surfing the web fundamentally safer by offering greater protection against viruses, spyware, and other online risks.

Get free downloads for Internet Explorer 7, including recommended updates as they become available. To download Internet Explorer 7 in the language of your choice, please visit the Internet Explorer 7 worldwide page.