Dayak Cultural Foundation gets the go-ahead to manage two forts in Sarawak

KUCHING: The Dayak Cultural Foundation (DCF) has received approval to manage two historic forts, transforming them into cultural heritage centres.

Sarawak Premier Tan Sri Abang Johari Openg agreed to the foundation's proposal to take over Fort Lily in Betong and Fort Sylvia in Kapit from the state Museum Department.

"We have a lot of forts, and we can fill them with our cultural heritage and artefacts. To me, there's no problem with your proposal. You can go ahead," he said when opening an Iban cultural heritage symposium on Monday (June 24).

He was responding to the proposal put forward by Deputy Premier Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah, who is also DCF chairman, for a management buyout of the two forts as venues to display Iban artefacts.

Abang Johari suggested that the displays should be interactive and informative for visitors.

"The best way to preserve the artefacts is to get the local people involved, those who know the history and background," he said.

Uggah told reporters later that DCF would discuss the takeover of the forts with the Museum Department following the green light from the Premier.

He said there was currently no public gallery where Iban artefacts could be seen in one place.

He explained that many artefacts, such as pua kumbu (Iban ceremonial textile), mats, and handicrafts, were usually exhibited courtesy of private collectors.

"But if you want to go to a place to see all these Iban artefacts, you cannot. So DCF feels that we should request such a place, and we're looking at Fort Lily and Fort Sylvia. We see that these forts are empty, so we came up with the idea of collecting the tangible and intangible assets, not only of the Iban but also the other communities, and display them in the forts," Uggah said.

He added that the forts would not only be tourist attractions but also help educate the younger generation and preserve the Ibans' cultural identity.

Fort Lily was built in 1858 to commemorate the handover of Betong from the Brunei Sultanate to Rajah Charles Brooke. Built in 1880, Fort Sylvia was named after Charles Brooke's wife, Ranee Sylvia Brooke. Both forts were built from belian timber.

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