Field notes: Sarawak arts bask in new energy

Musicians performing at the What About Kuching festival, which features performances ranging from music and dance to fashion, photography and food. A performance during a previous edition of the What About Kuching festival, which is a grassroots arts
A performance during a previous edition of the What About Kuching festival, which is a grassroots arts event that was first launched in 2017. Running on a shoestring budget and volunteer muscle, it started small. But by last year, the festival was able to put on more than 80 performances. PHOTO: COURTESY OF DONALD TAN
Musicians performing at the What About Kuching festival, which features performances ranging from music and dance to fashion, photography and food. A performance during a previous edition of the What About Kuching festival, which is a grassroots arts
Musicians performing at the What About Kuching festival, which features performances ranging from music and dance to fashion, photography and food.PHOTO: COURTESY OF DONALD TAN
Musicians performing at the What About Kuching festival, which features performances ranging from music and dance to fashion, photography and food. A performance during a previous edition of the What About Kuching festival, which is a grassroots arts
Above: The bamboo pavilion with walls that make music at the Rainforest Fringe Festival in Kuching last June.PHOTO: COURTESY OF WENDY TEO AND JUVITA T. WAN
Above: The bamboo pavilion with walls that make music at the Rainforest Fringe Festival in Kuching last June. Left: Artist Matthew Ngau Jau painting the Tree Of Life at the Singapore Botanic Gardens last June.
Above: Artist Matthew Ngau Jau painting the Tree Of Life at the Singapore Botanic Gardens last June.PHOTO: COURTESY OF WENDY TEO AND JUVITA T. WAN

Young Sarawakians have been exploring their rich heritage in fresh, contemporary ways. And their work is helping Sarawak shed its 'exotic and primitive' image.

KUALA LUMPUR • With bamboo growing virtually everywhere in Borneo, Sarawakian architect Wendy Teo has long been intrigued by this versatile material, and wondered how it can be used in a contemporary way.

She put together a team of local bamboo artisans with artists and musicians from around the region to reimagine bamboo structures, and they came up with a bamboo pavilion with walls that made music. The pavilion was an art installation for the acclaimed Rainforest Fringe Festival in Kuching last June.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 30, 2019, with the headline 'Sarawak arts bask in new energy'. Print Edition | Subscribe