Tales on Iban folklore and wildlife to create awareness

Julia Jawi’s story is about how Iban deities are believed to watch over Mount Lingga, also known as Gunung Lesong.

IBAN folk tales and oral history on wildlife are being broadcast on radio from this month to raise awareness on conservation.

Ten three-minute recordings of the stories were produced by Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Malaysia in collaboration with RTM Sarawak, with funding from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Malaysia and Enlyst Fund.

The recordings are being aired on RTM’s Iban radio station WAIfm. They aim to increase appreciation and sense of ownership among local communities who live in proximity to the habitats of orang utan and other endangered species.

“It also intends to create awareness among the public by showcasing the cultural association between nature and humans in the past, besides emphasising the need to preserve this oral history from deterioration,” the conservation group said.

The stories are from a collection of 23 folk tales published by WCS last year titled Iban Myths from Sabal and Gunung Lesong and in Iban as Jerita Jelu Siga Enggau Pengidup Bansa Iban.

They were collected through interviews with 16 Iban storytellers from longhouses in the Sedilu-Sebuyau and Simunjan areas of Sarawak.

One of the tales — told by Jampi Ngumpang from Rumah Edward Mamut longhouse who heard it from his late father — is about a sickly young man who marries a charming maiden who turns out to be a “bunsu mayas” (orang utan).

Another storyteller, Julia Jawi from Rumah Galang, shared how Mount Lingga continued to be a sacred mountain as the Iban deities were believed to watch over it.

“We hope the book will encourage increased wildlife stewardship among the Iban communities across Sarawak to protect endangered species and serve as a platform to preserve the oral history as told by the storytellers for the next generation,” WCS said.

The recordings of the selected stories are being broadcast in Iban weekly from this month until December. — By SHARON LING

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