KUCHING: The Rainforest Fringe Festival has kicked off with an opening performance of “Sarawak: An Indigenous Journey”, a showcase of dance, music and art with a contemporary twist.
The show opened with a energetic modern interpretation of Sarawak’s indigenous dance, featuring traditional warriors as well as performers in costumes inspired by the state’s rich cultural heritage.
Also taking to the stage were Sarawakian soprano Dewi Liana Seriestha and New York-based Sarawakian dancer and choreographer Raziman Sarbini.
Dewi, who won the Miss World Talent title in 2014, showcased her incredible vocal range in a solo performance which finished literally on a high note.
Raziman held the audience spellbound with an edgy, intense dance performed to traditional music.
The Kelabit legend of Tuked Rini was brought to life through animated paintings set to traditional chants and song.
There was also an appearance by special guests SeaHorse from Taiwan, who accompanied Paiwan singer Seredau Tariyaljan for a performance of ancient songs of blessing and celebration.
Festival director Joe Sidek said the 10-day event, now in its second year, was a celebration of Sarawak’s rich culture.
“For the last three years I have been fascinated by Sarawak. I have never seen so many indigenous people so rich in culture as in Sarawak and which is found in no other state in Malaysia,” he said before the start of the show.
The Penang-based Joe, who is known for directing the George Town Festival, admitted to feeling apprehensive when he started the fringe festival last year as someone from outside Sarawak.
“My explanation is that I’m a cake maker. I know how to make and sell a cake, but all the ingredients come from you,” he said, thanking all the local participants for their involvement.
The Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Ministry’s permanent secretary Hii Chang Kee said the fringe festival was a run-up to the Rainforest World Music Festival, which takes place this weekend at the Sarawak Cultural Village in Santubong.
“We decided to do the fringe festival so that city folk can feel the beat of the RWMF and be a part of it.
“We have a long history and rich culture, be it in food, music or our people, and we want to make the fringe festival a platform to share our rich culture,” he added.
The Rainforest Fringe Festival, which runs until Sunday, features an eclectic line-up of events and exhibitions at various locations in the city.
Among them are photography exhibitions of Sarawak’s indigenous peoples and an exhibition exploring the life of Ranee Margaret, the wife of the second White Rajah Charles Brooke, at the Old Courthouse.
“Forbidden Fruits”, an installation of surreal woven fruits created by several indigenous women weavers, can be seen at Borneo 744.
For the full programme list, go to rainforestfringe.com