Thursday, November 6

Let us promote Iban Language and Literature

“Language is the roadmap of a culture. It tells you where its people came from and where they are going” – Rita Mae Brown, a famous American author.

Like other languages, the Iban Language is an identification of the Iban race and culture. A common language in Sarawak, the Iban language is spoken by other Dayak tribes, Chinese and Malays. You will not be surprised to hear a Chinese talking to another in Iban in some towns like Kapit, Song, Sibu, Simanggang, Lubok Antu, Saratok, Kanowit, Bintulu and Betong.

Like other languages also, the Iban language is being polluted or adulterated by other languages. Also assaulting our culture and language are various influences of today’s global and ICT world as well as certain government policies. When its originality and purity is gone, the Iban culture is also affected. This is the stark reality. Yet many of us seem to be unaware of this trend or just could not be bothered.

During the colonial regime (1946-1963), the Iban language was recognized and even used during the Council Negeri meetings. The Borneo Literature Bureau was set up to help popularize the language through its Iban magazine called Nendak and through the printing of Iban books.

When Sarawak obtained her independence through the formation of Malaysia, the Borneo Literature Bureau (BLB) was abolished and in came Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) some time 1978 to take its place. The abolishment of BLB saw several hundreds of Iban books and magazines destroyed.

I remember several members of Sarawak Dayak National Union (SDNU) led by Sidi Munan tried to salvage some of the books from being burnt at the DBP headquarters near the Printing Department, Kuching.

When Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (SADIA) was formed in early 80s, one of its activities was to revive the learning of Iban Language in schools. A committee was setup together with officials of the Education Department to look into the standardization of spelling, text books and syllabus.

After several years of discussions, the government finally approved the teaching of the language in selected primary and secondary schools in Sarawak. But the lack of reading materials poses a major problem to the teaching of Iban. Even Iban dictionaries are a rare commodity.

However, the Tun Jugah Foundation is currently compiling an Iban dictionary encompassing words spoken by Ibans from Saribas, Sadong, Batang Rajang, Remun and others.

To further instill interest in the study of Iban Language, culture and literature such as renong, dungai, sangai, pantun, sabak, pengap, bejawang wai, etc it is, perhaps, a good idea to revive the defunct Society for the Advancement of Iban Language and Literature (SAILL). Set up in 1967, it died a natural death in the 80s due to lack of interest.

Its revival now will not only help to complement the works carried out by the Tun Jugah Foundation, Radio and Television Malaysia (Iban Section) and SADIA, but also help to promote it as one of the “lingua francas” of Sarawak.

After all, to quote Angela Carter, “Language is power, life and the instrument of culture, the instrument of domination and liberation”. Sad, isn’t it if our children and their children do not speak Iban properly, do not know their roots and their culture?

Any comment?


kopisejuk said...

good job....preserve the culture

bullshit to the DBP....DBP own by laut...of coz la they try to championing the ketuanan laut

Johnny Jalin said...

Good piece of information and I support it.

I managed to zerox a copy of my late father's works together with the late A.J.N. Richard (Resident) - 'PENEMU BEGISA" from DBP, Kuching.

I remember it was one of the text book for Iban Language when I was in form 2 @ Government Secondary Simanggang!

I sat in Student Committee For Iban Language which conducted Literary Competition in Iban.

Those were the days, boss!


Anonymous said...

I think it is a nobel idea. We should capitalize on the Iban elders who are still around and well verse in Iban Language.

As far as I know there are only a few young Iban who are interested and "knowledgeable" on the subject but their knowledges on the subject are regional biase in nature.



Anonymous said...

ermmm are we going to allow our cultures / language to extinct?

burnt the books? why? the books can bring harm/riot?

anyway, i think the most hijacked words in iban language by fellow malaya language are apai and indai where most iban cildren call their parents as apa(k) (corrupted version of bapak) and mak