Book launch marks ‘World Indigenous People’ do

Victor (right) and Thomas (left) symbolically mark the launch of the books by giving them to the children.

Victor (right) and Thomas (left) symbolically mark the launch of the books by giving them to the children.

KUCHING: This year’s national-level celebrations of International Day of the World Indigenous People in Kuching is held with the launch of a set of children’s story books featuring indigenous tales from Sarawak and Sabah.

A joint effort of the Indigenous People’s Network of Malaysia (JOAS) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the set consists of three books; a book of Sarawak indigenous tales, a book of Sabah indigenous tales and a pictorial book related to the various indigenous people from Sarawak and Sabah.

UNICEF senior social policy specialist Victor Karunan was present together with JOAS president Thomas Jalong at the books’ launching ceremony held at Dayak Bidayuh National Union (DBNA) headquarters yesterday.

A few children present during the function were given the books by Victor and Thomas to symbolically mark the launch of the books.

Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (Sadia) president Sidi Munan and secretary Nicholas Mujah were also present.

According to Victor, the books were an effort by UNICEF with the help of JOAS to preserve indigenous tradition among the children of Sarawak and Sabah and instill awareness in them of their heritage.

“We champion the rights of children around the world. Awareness of their culture and heritage is important as it is one of their rights,” he added.

On the other hand, Thomas said the book project was aimed at making the children of indigenous peoples of Sarawak and Sabah know more about their culture and heritage which were rich in noble values, moral and life lessons.

Hence, he was excited to see the set of books finally being launched as with the books’ simple story telling and illustrations, it would help children understand better the tales of their ancestors and would probably spur them to love their own cultures even more.

Meanwhile JOAS youth chief, Edwin Meru, who helped in compiling stories for the book said the process of compiling the stories was a painstaking one.

“There were many obstacles faced during my two-year journey around Sarawak and Sabah. We found the hard way that indigenous story tellers were hard to find. They were either too old (thus too weak to tell stories), telling tales in ancient languages which were hard to understand by their interpreters, have passed away, reluctant to cooperate or simply unable to recall the stories told to them when they were younger,” he said.

The second series of the story books were in the cards, according to Edwin, as he intended to embark on another story-collection and compiling the journey soon.

Kuching was selected as the venue of this year’s national-level International Day of the World Indigenous People celebrations from Aug 7 to 10.

Sadia was the host of the celebration this time around together with several indigenous associations including those from Peninsular Malaysia.

World Indigenous People Day is observed on Aug 9 every year to promote and highlight the rights of the world’s indigenous peoples following the decision of the United Nations’ General Assembly on Dec 23, 1994.

Indigenous people make up 13.8 per cent of the nation’s population.