More Than Just Good Looks

The Star, Sarawak Edition, 8 March 2013

Borneo Hornbill Festival is designed to be a platform to showcase the cultural diversity and rich heritage of Borneo. The two main focus of the festival are Borneo Ethnic Dance Competition and Borneo Ethnic Pageant which features male and female ethnics from Sarawak and Sabah.

Even from the very beginning when the first Ethnic Pageant was held in 2009, the emphasis was on cultural knowledge and its relevance to the tourism industry.  Participants were generally warranted to establish a good grasp of the relationship between culture and tourism in their Q&A session.

The learning curve was tame in the second year of the pageant, 2010, as participants imitate the success stories from the previous year.  The organizers took this opportunity to improve their management system in preparation for a better event for subsequent years.

By the third year, 2011, the pageant developed into a channel for developing cultural knowledge exchange and exploration of older traditions.  Participants were often contemplating the chances of presenting a lesser known tradition beyond the typical basic knowledge accessible to them.  They were encouraged to explore deeper into the history of their ancestors by studying old texts presenting ancient ways of life and costume evolution. The information came in the forms of old photos and descriptive passages as told by the British officers, missionaries and travelers.  Though we faced criticism, we defended the presentation of rare and somewhat unknown traditional costumes.

In 2012, the organizers began doing auditions across the South China sea to give opportunity to participants from Borneo to take part in BHF.  Besides the normal introduction session, the audition included questions to asses the cultural and heritage knowledge of each participants and the current scenario they face in their respective communities.  It was also a chance for the organizers to identify problems in the current level of appreciation for culture and heritage particularly among Sarawak youths. 

In 2013, the audition entered a new era as we included Kota Kinabalu Sabah as our first port of call, followed by Miri, Bintulu, Sibu and Kuching to complete the Borneo Tour.  The audition picked up in Malaya with Johor Bahru being the first location outside of the Klang Valley, progressed in Pahang's University Malaysia Pahang and concluded in Kuala Lumpur the following week.

Besides including Kota Kinabalu, Pahang and Johor Bahru as the new locations, 2013 also witnessed a refreshing new shift in Borneo Ethnic Pageantry by incorporating relevant current issues today. Participants of the audition were required to answer a question regarding Cultural Tourism and one question regarding Wildlife and Nature Conservation.

At Borneo Hornbill Festival, we are not only passionate about ethnic beauty inside and out, we hold culture, heritage and the wonders of nature close at heart.  In a modern world constantly changing and and evolving, it is crucial to not only appreciate our roots but to ensure it remains in our grasp for many generations to come.  Our heritage is not merely bound by the blood and lifestyle that we are born in, but by the surrounding environment and ecosystem which sustains our traditions and beliefs.  Therefore, by making the participants search and work for the knowledge and understanding, we believe they are bound to absorb and acquire the passion and drive to promote the issues we have highlighted for them.

Wherever possible, we provide sufficient guidance and relevant information for the participants to execute a successful audition and subsequently proceed to the finals. We also encourage the participants to communicate directly with us through different channels namely our facebook networks of pages, groups and events, direct telephone contact, emails and scheduled appointments.

Our encouragement, guidance, freedom of expression and the exploration drive makes Borneo Hornbill Festival the essential training module for Borneo Culture Ambassadors.