The Society for Rights of Indigenous People of Sarawak (Scrips) made history by launching a series of oral histories on April 18 in Bintulu by the representatives of six communities.
The first six oral history books covers the following communities in Sarawak:
Lepo’ Kenyah, Long Bangan, Sg. Belaga
Tebalau, Long Sobeng, Tinjar Baram
Iban, Nanga Jangin, Ulu Lemanak
Malay, Kampung Tungkah Melayu, Sg. Sebangan
Bisaya, Batu Danau, Limbang
Bidayuh, Kampung Mugat, Serian
The books are published in Bahasa Malaysia. Also available is an English summary, titled 'The Oral Histories of Indigenous People of Sarawak in a Nutshell'.
At the launch, Scrips President Nor Anak Nyawai quoted the African proverb ‘Every old person that dies is a library that burns'.
He pointed out the proverb is especially true of communities in Sarawak that are dependent on oral histories for their collective memory.
Knowledge and understanding of the past has a profound impact upon contemporary social and political life added the organisation’s secretary general, Michael M Jok.
“For the indigenous peoples of Sarawak, an important part of that knowledge lies in oral traditions, which are in danger of being lost as these communities are marginalised by dominant political, economic and social institutions.
"Oral testimonies can help to challenge dominant histories which underpin repressive attitudes and unjust policies. They help the indigenous peoples to come to terms with the histories of conflict and oppression by providing an alternative to the mainstream narrative,” he added.
He explained it also gave communities and individuals opportunities to frame their stories in the context of their cultural, religious and human rights perspectives.