Vast, deep jungles and being home to the orangutan and the Dayak tribe are usually illustrated when someone mentions Kalimantan or Borneo. Up north in Central Kalimantan is the capital and largest city in the island called Palangka Raya.
Generally, Palangka Raya can be seen as a city that has three faces: urban, rural, and forest. Indeed intriguing cultural practices of the indigenous people exist to this day.
The locals have decided to flourish their distinctive culture through festivals rich in the colourful portrayals they truly embody. One of these festivals is called the Mini Dayak Festival 2020 held on 13 June-12 July 2020 aired via Youtube and Facebook. It was initiated by Yun Pratiwi, the Founder and Director of Central Borneo Guide, following the cancellation of Isen Mulang 2020 Festival, the biggest festival in Central Kalimantan, due to COVID-19. Yun described the Isen Mulang Cultural Festival occurs annually in May, where thousands of Dayaks in all ages from forests and inland villages participating and representing their districts and hometowns. Keeping this vision in mind, Yun had to run it differently this year.
“The Mini Dayak Festival is an adaptation of Isen Mulang which came about in only one night. I contacted all of the Dayak artists in Palangka Raya to implement my idea on the next day to which I was greeted by positive feedback from them,” said Yun. Thousands of locals and domestic and international tourists are attracted to visit Palangka Raya and participate in this festival. “I think the Mini Dayak Festival wouldn’t have existed if it wasn’t for the pandemic!” she exclaimed.
Isen Mulang means to never give up and strive to achieve. “We, artists and local guides of Palangka Raya would like to share the Dayak’s spirit and philosophy of Isen Mulang,” said Yun. Therefore, there is no excuse for Yun and her team to disregard the festival nor stop creativity flowing – this is the time to experiment given in any situation such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Yun agrees that the pandemic has changed all industry sectors, especially the collapse of tourism in Central Kalimantan while containing the spread of the virus. The “new normal” regulation, in her opinion, has driven adjustments but positively pushed the Dayak community being extra thoughtful of helping one another to survive.
The festival fosters the spirit of the Dayak people; to unite, build together, tolerate, and respect the indigenous culture. Aside from personifying the Dayak’s unique culture, this festival is held to raise funds to help communities of local artists and the tourism services, such as the local guides, cooks, and boat drivers in Central Kalimantan who have lost their primary sources of income due to the closing of national parks, as well as the provincial and international borders. “A lot of people responded very enthusiastically and excited to participate and watch the festival again since they miss having cultural events around,” said Yun.
To give a little background, Dayak is the name of a native group in the island of Kalimantan or Borneo, who currently still live in the inner parts of the island. The indigenous Dayak tribe has a maritime culture because their names have a lot of meaning and are related to rivers based on the many rivers found in deep parts of Kalimantan. There are various Dayak tribes, and Yun mentioned Dayak Ngaju, Dayak Maanyan, Dayak Siang, etc. have joined forces to showcase their captivating ancient art and way of life.
Viewers may not physically witness the live performances, but seeing this series of online virtual experiences comprising of Dayak music, dance, and storytelling performances, as well as sports and traditional games, are still engaging. “It is quite difficult to make a virtual shift, but we still follow the government’s regulations and we also manage the schedule for the performers so that they gather based on their given schedule to avoid major crowds in every session,” Yun said.
But behind this festival lies a greater cause. A new fundraising initiative to help those in need within the community was added. Funds are well-received to help the local community who are economically surviving with months of unstable and even non-existent income affected by the pandemic. “We invite anyone, Indonesians and/or foreign nationals, to help reduce the burden of communities in Palangka Raya through voluntary donations,” Yun said. Donations can be made to Central Borneo Guide (BCA) 8600631692 or made to gofundme https://bit.ly/fundraisingminidayakfest. The total received funds will be divided into two: 50 percent for the performers who joined the festival and 50 percent converted to basic food supplies (sembako) for 100 local people in Palangka Raya for three months.
“If the pandemic continues until next year, the festival will scale up; not only done in Central Kalimantan but the whole of Kalimantan,” explained Yun.
The Central Borneo Guide gained support from the Department of Culture and Tourism of Palangka Raya City to organise the Mini Dayak Festival. They have provided donations and shared information about this festival through their official social media accounts and amongst their networks. Furthermore, long-term efforts such as Dayak dance workshops and storytelling practices will soon be available. To watch the Mini Dayak Festival, visit Central Borneo Guide on: