Warisan Sarawak: Home away from home

By Danielle Ringgit


BEING AWAY from home and family might be one of the toughest challenges any of us have to face when we first strike out on our own, especially if you aren’t familiar with your new environment or the people.


For Paren Nyawi, who left his native home Song in Sarawak when he was 19 to study accountancy in Shah Alam, his involvement with Persatuan Warisan Sarawak KL has exposed him to all sorts of opportunities to learn and appreciate his culture even more so now that he is away from home.

PAREN NYAWI: On a mission to preserve and promote our ethnic culture to the world.

PAREN NYAWI: On a mission to preserve and promote our ethnic culture to the world.


Formed in 2007, Persatuan Warisan Sarawak connects Sarawakians working and living in Kuala Lumpur regardless of their backgrounds. With the aim of helping and improving the quality of life in the challenging metropolitan city, the association also focuses on preserving cultural heritage and ethnic rights.


Determined to conserve traditional values and customs while embracing fast-paced living, the members of the association came up with the idea of organising various activities such as cultural showcases, talks, workshops and festivals after numerous brainstorming sessions. One of the events they organise currently is the Borneo Hornbill Festival (BHF).


Before he became vice president for Persatuan Warisan Sarawak KL, Paren first got involved with the association as a participant for Mr Borneo Hornbill Festival 2011 when his friend asked him to join the pageant for some exposure. Little did he know back then that he would become one of the winners.


Of Iban-Berawan-Kayan parentage, Paren’s tall stature and lean figure have worked to his advantage, as he often models traditional ethnic costumes in photo shoots and roadshows. When asked about his modeling experience, he said that it taught him a lot in terms of the correct way of wearing the costume, inadvertently bringing him closer to his heritage.

WARRIOR: Paren dressed up in an Iban costume during a photoshoot at Bukit Gemilang, Setapak, Kuala Lumpur.

WARRIOR: Paren dressed up in an Iban costume during a photoshoot at Bukit Gemilang, Setapak, Kuala Lumpur.


“The experience of modeling our traditional costume was educational for me in a way it taught me the right way to wear our costume but it was also tiring as we have to constantly be energetic when taking pictures with people,” he said about his experience during the Borneo Hornbill Festival (BHF 2012) Roadshow for the Matta Fair KL 2012 at PWTC.


Aside from that his experience also taught him how to deal with demanding photographers and learn how to deliver the shots they want. According to him, working with those types of photographers are challenging as they push him out of his comfort zone, but as time progresses, so do his skill and confidence.


When asked which event he found most memorable, he said that while all events and photo shoots he went to have been memorable, the one embedded in his memory was when he modeled a traditional Iban costume in December 2010 for 1Malaysia Traditional Bride and Bridegroom Fashion Show in Legend Hotel KL as it was his first modeling experience.


Currently, Paren is the organiser of BHF 2014. BHF was first introduced back in September 2008, several months after the formation of Persatuan Warisan Sarawak in 2007. It was designed to showcase a diversity of ethnic cultures, tradition, dance, through costume parade, musical and drama presentation of Borneo. In 2009, Persatuan Warisan Sarawak decided to organise a beauty pageant after the success of the showcase in 2008.


Having successfully organised a dance showcase in 2008 and a beauty pageant in 2009, the organising committee came full circle when it organised the Hornbill Festival 2010. Since then it has become an annual event with auditions held all over Malaysia.


Recently, BHF 2014 held a Kuching audition at the Old Courthouse. Paren was pleased at the response of the local people here and said that it was refreshing to see how competitive the contestants were. For him, he sees the pageant competition as something that can bring out the best and positive values within each participant as they compete to win.


For the Kuching audition, 20 finalists were chosen to participate in Mr and Miss Sarawak Ethnic 2014, which will eventually allow them to compete for the Mr and Ms Borneo titles in Kuala Lumpur on June 21-22. The Miss Sarawak Ethnic 2014 is divided into three categories – Iban, Bidayuh and Orang Ulu while Mr Sarawak Ethnic 2014 is open to all Dayak ethnicities in Sarawak.


Paren has appeared in quite a handful of talk shows such as Selamat Pagi Malaysia TV1 and Hello on Two TV2 to promote BHF on January 2012. In these talk shows, he appeared alongside Dr. Laurence John, Chairman of Persatuan Warisan Sarawak KL and Augustus Sapen, Culture Tour and Coordinator for London /Tokyo BHF 2012.

STYLISH: Paren modeling ethnic-inspired clothing during for the Edric Ong Ethnic Collection.

STYLISH: Paren modeling ethnic-inspired clothing during for the Edric Ong Ethnic Collection.


The preservation of our traditional culture and value is important even thought we are heading towards modernization. Each ethnic group in both Sabah and Sarawak has their own unique characteristics and qualities and it is amazing to see how they managed to stand the test of time. Preserving our culture and traditional heritage is what the committee members of Persatuan Warisan Sarawak KL are trying to uphold while living away from home.


To know more about Persatuan Warisan Sarawak, feel free to check it out at Paren Nyawi’s blog at http://www.parenbonjour.com/2011/12/warisan-sarawak-kl-selangor-sape.html or visit their facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/PersatuanWarisanSarawak

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