Kampung Luak: lessons in oral history

Post war to modern days

VERY SPECIAL: A Kedayan basket, made of original jungle rattan, hand-picked by the skilled maker who had passed away. The womenfolk remember her with great fondness.

After the war, more land was given to the Kedayan families. Each acre would be for four families – that’s four lots. Some of these lots are still available along the main kampung roads like Jalan Kampung Luak 1 and 1A and Jalan Kampung Luak 2 and 2A. Others are six lots per acre. These smaller lots were distributed during the post-Malaysia days.

Some families are still living together. Now, the fifth generation is working in the government or offshore. Many of the women are third generation and their grandchildren (sixth generation) have been born and are growing up in the same land their ancestors were given.

Little stalls

The most striking feature of “old style kampung life in modern Kampung Luak” would be the little wooden stalls set up in front of the kampung houses.

According to a lively group of women, these stalls are the main means of earning some pocket money. They are happy they don’t need very much because they have “almost everything in their gardens and the jungle and they need only a little cash!

These Luak Bay women have always been selling their jungle produce and even fish (seasonal belacan).

The makcik I befriended said she had been selling her special jungle and garden produces for more than 20 years at the same stall. The others have joined her, forming quite a line of stalls along the road. The stall owners are related in one way or another.

Today, school children and mothers who drive their children to school, stop by to buy some delightfully fresh produce and local kuihs.

The makcik and her friends bring special joy to the community because they “provide a special service” to those used to buying kampung vegetables and fruits from a small friendly stall.

THE BEST: Local Buah kedungdong – best in town.

Many kampung folks still want to buy “direct” from the farmer-producer. And some very special produce are marjum (herbal balls for post natal uses) and rempahseratus. Other Kedayan traditional medicinal plants are also sold.

The women continue to chew betel nuts and carry very special Kedayan baskets. But these traits are already going out of fashion. The betel nut chewing is not for the modern women — and the rattan is now endangered. More and more people are using plastic to make their baskets and backpacks. What a sad loss of culture!

Magic or special knowledge?

The Kedayans are actually quite well known for their knowledge of local medicines and herbal cures. Some are blessed with special ilmu (knowledge) to read images in a basin of water or to help a woman win favours from her in–laws with three mandibunga or flora baths.

In fact, a friend told me a Kedayan man in Lambir once cured a very important man from Kuching of a very unusual skin disease! But the cure must be delivered after midnight.

More modern bungalows and houses with several storeys will be built in Kampung Luak. The future is very bright, especially when the grandchildren of all these aunties bring home big incomes from the oil and gas industries and oil palm plantations. Already, many of the families own Hilux and Mercedes — if tangible evidence is needed.

The two schools — one primary and one secondary — serve a huge growing population. The Masjid has just seen some expansion and is the pride of the Muslim community.

People of other races have also started to move into this area and there have been only stories of great peaceful multi-racial co-existence.

HOUSING SAMPLE:  This is just a sample of the houses in Kampung Luak. Some are really villas and huge mansions built very recently.

Having lived among the Kampung Luak people for the last 25 years (a quarter century), I have grown to love the familiarity of the kampung and kampung ways. I look forward to the bubuk season as much as the kampung fishermen and fisherwomen.

Early morning Azan calls from the mosque for morning prayers are a familiarity from Kampung Nyabor of my childhood and it’s time to wake up to another busy day for everyone.

The real concept of peace – salam-shalom and ping-ann — has a very special meaning in our lives here.

The writer wishes to thank all her friends for kindly telling the stories of their lives from the Japanese Occupation until the modern days.