A seminar entitled “Nurturing Sabah’s Creative Rural Communities” was held on the 12 October 2017 at the Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort and Spa, Kota Kinabalu Sabah. The one-day seminar was jointly organised by the Institute for Development Studies (Sabah) in partnership with Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) and in collaboration with the Society of Performing Arts Kota Kinabalu Sabah (SPArKS). It was attended by almost 250 participants comprising mainly industry players from both the private and government sectors, government-linked companies (GLCs), non-government organisations (NGOs), academicians, and policy makers.


The objectives of the seminar were to increase awareness of the creative industries sector and its potential role in rural development, particularly among local communities; to provide a forum for the exchange of knowledge with other experts on successful creative communities’ initiatives; to discuss key opportunities and challenges in creating and nurturing rural creative communities; and to obtain inputs and ways in which local development authorities and the private sector can support creative communities.


The seminar was officiated by the then Minister with Special Tasks, Y.B. Datuk Seri Panglima Teo Chee Kang, representing the then Chief Minister, Y.A.B. Tan Sri Datuk Seri Panglima Haji Musa bin Haji Aman.


In the keynote address, the Chief Minister said a “uniquely Sabah” approach and the grassroots participation will provide the best prospect to position the state in the national and global creative industries market. He underlined the fact that Sabah is well recognised as culturally diverse with vast resources in the fields of performing arts, visual arts, film and handicraft. As such, he stressed that the development of creative industries locally needs to focus on the various strength that Sabah has in terms of creative resources. The Chief Minister also pointed out that although most measures surrounding the development of the creative industries were centred in urban areas, most of Sabah’s creative assets are ‘rural-centric’ and particular key ‘creative place’ strengths that exist in rural areas can attract creative workers. He said developing creative industries in rural areas generates potential high quality enterprise, employment opportunities and contribute to rural diversification.


Meanwhile, Datuk Mohd. Hasnol bin Ayub, the then Executive Director of IDS said in his speech that the State government through the State Economic Planning Unit (UPEN) hadcommissioned IDS to undertake the “Study on the Development of the Creative Industries in Sabah”, completed in 2015. He said the study provides an avenue for the State to move into a new phase of economic and social development.  Datuk Hasnol added that IDS has been involved in several initiatives to set in motion some of the action plans as recommended in the study such as the creation of Sabah’s first multipurpose community theatre or Black Box theatre. He emphasised that such initiatives will provide the impetus to facilitate the government agenda of developing the creative industries in Sabah.


The then Chairman of IDS, Datuk Seri Panglima Clarence B. Malakun stressed the need for Sabah to develop and produce sustainable creative communities and entrepreneurs in the rural areas.  He said the world economy today is no longer purely based on industry and physical work, but more focused on creative ideas which can be turned into creative action to produce creative innovation.


The seminar commenced with a video presentation which gave an overview of the development of the creative industries in Sabah.  The seminar was divided into three sessions and a total of five papers were presented by industry players in the various fields of the State’s creative industries.


Session 1: Cultural Heritage


Paper 1: “Preserving Our Culture, Heritage and Improving Standard of Living” by Zaiton Bakri, General Manager, Sabah Handicraft Centre


The paper covered topics including a general introduction to the Sabah Handicraft Centre, its vision, mission and responsibilities, as well as programmes held under the Centre.  The Sabah Handicraft Centre acts as a centre for development of Sabah’s Craft Heritage and also as a one stop center of collection training, marketing, research and craft development.  It also collaborates with other agencies to promote and further develop crafts within Malaysia and internationally, and complying with the State Government in realising the One Industry One District (SDSI) concept.  The Centre focuses on crafts based on bamboo, rattan, ribu-ribu, woodworks, furniture, ceramics, hydro stone, fiberglass, glassware, textile such as Batik and other embroidery such as Sulaman Pis and Dastar. A video presentation entitled “Sabah Batik Crafted for the World” was also shown during the presentation.


Paper 2: “Filling the Basket to the Brim – Potential for the Making and Marketing of Baskets in Sabah” by Jennifer P. Linggi, Curator, Sabah Art Gallery (Balai Seni Lukis Sabah)


The second paper focussed on traditional baskets of various indigenous groups in Sabah such as buan, tanyen, bakang, kelupit, kapan and barait, which was presented in the form of pictures and drawings with actual measurement of each craft and usage. Currently, Sabah does not have a good documentation on traditional art or basketry crafts. It is important to have a story behind every local product. To make the product more sellable and marketable. It is also important for the present generation to encourage the new generation to utilise local indigenous craft and attire to keep the tradition alive.


Session 2: Performing Arts


Paper 3: “Creative Placemaking – Intersection between Arts, Culture and Community Development” by Susan Bansin, Theatre Leader and Committee Member, Society of Performing Arts Kota Kinabalu Sabah (SPArKS)


The presentation started with a moving monologue by the presenter. It is believed that arts not only enhance human development, but also can help shape the social, physical, cultural and economic identity of a community, spurring economic development, creating stronger social cohesion and revitalising disinvested communities. This intentional intersection between arts and culture and community revitalisation is called “creative placemaking”.


Paper 4: “Bamboo and Wood Music Innovation” by Kohadie Koch Watiman, Group Leader of Kinabalu Merdu Sound, Bundu Tuhan


The paper noted that bamboo and wood music played an important role in boosting the economy in the rural areas, and produce job opportunities for the local community, as such in Kundasang. Traditional bamboo and wood music can help to promote the identity of Sabah as one of tourist attractions. It is also a way to preserve the almost forgotten traditional music.  It is vital for both the government and private sector to understand that the industry is one of the important ingredients to develop the tourism industry. The presentation ends with a performance by Kinabalu Merdu Sound, which performed Sabah ethnic music with bamboo musical instruments.


Session 3: Creative Media


Paper 5: “Kampung Greenscreen: Using Innovation and Film to Develop Rural Communities” by Jo Luping and Aaron Cowan, Producer/Director of Siung Film Productions Sdn. Bhd.


The paper disclosed the presenters’ experience in the making of the movie “Huminodun”, the first full-length Kadazan movie. The paper highlighted several solutions for the development of the film industry in Sabah.  There is a need create a coordination unit within the State to reduce bureaucracy. The government should also look into the creation of Creative Hubs in the rural regions, which can be set up at a minimum cost. These hubs are currently being implemented in Sarawak for the purpose of exporting skills anywhere in the world.  The paper also stressed the importance to develop internships between training centres in Sabah and local production houses. There is also an opportunity to set up a film rental business which caters for heavy gears such as stands, lights, cranes and dollies.


In summary, the seminar was held successfully and achieved its overall objectives in creating awareness of the creative industries sector in Sabah as a whole. It also highlighted its potential contributions to rural development, and in providing an avenue for industry players to disseminate information and updates on a diverse array of successful creative community initiatives in the rural areas. The number of participants was beyond expected and exceeded the actual target. The participants had shown a keen interest in all the topics discussed and they were a lot of interactions between the speakers and participants during the question and answer sessions. The overwhelming response may be due to the fact that this was the first ever creative industries-related seminar organised in Sabah. It is hoped that more related seminars could be organised in the future to increase public awareness particularly on creative rural communities.


Alden Alex Raymond & Richard T. Koh                   






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