Performing at Asia Cultural Night during Asia Day at COP21

13rd article picture 2During Promulgation Ceremony of the Malaysian Youth Statement on Climate Change towards COP21, I met Winnie from Jaringan Orang Asli SeMalaysia (JOAS) or The Indigenous Peoples Network of Malaysia. JOAS is the umbrella network for 21 community-based non-governmental organisations that have indigenous peoples’ issues as the focus. As the focal point for indigenous rights and advocacy in Malaysia, JOAS provides the indigenous communities with representation not just nationally, but regionally and internationally as well.

From chatting with her, I found out that she will be going to COP21 too, as a representative of JOAS. Hence, we stay connected via whatsapp prior to the trip so that my team and I could contact her or we could take care of each other in Paris in case of any emergency. After all, there is no harm in making more friends.

Before we depart to Paris, she contacted me for assistance in helping her in her Sumazau Dance performance during Asia Day on 9 December 2015 (Wednesday). Sumazau dance is a popular traditional folk dance of the Kadazan Dusun in Sabah. It is often performed during the harvest festival celebration every May. I cannot find a reason why I should reject her offer, so I informed the team and they agreed to help out too. Deep in my heart, I was so excited because this will be my first ever dance performance and it will held at Paris.

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During COP21, Emily and I met her on Monday (the same week as Asia Day) to learn the dance at Indigenous People Pavilion located in the Climate Generation Spaces (Green Zone) in Le Bourget. For your information, green zone is one of the officiate zone by COP21 that open to both public and accredited persons. It provides a huge space for debates, knowledge-sharing, discussions and conviviality. The IP pavilion will be focusing on indigenous people from Asia to showcase their cultures, ways of life and knowledge that provide solutions to climate change.

While learning the dance, Winnie explained to me that the dance was inspired by eagle flying patterns, symbolising freedom. For a first timer like me, the dance was not as hard as I expected as some of the moves are repetitive.

Asia Day was held on Wednesday with a variety of programme from morning till evening. Winnie was one the speakers for the panel discussion on Indigenous Peoples’ Contribution to Climate Change. She shared successful environmentally- friendly initiatives such as micro-hydro and community-led fisheries management system. The dance was arranged at the end of the programme which is “Asia Reception and Cultural Night”. Normally when I hear about cultural night, my first thought is that I can try food from different regions. My dream did come true and I will explain in a while.

My team and I arrived in the late afternoon for rehearsal. We met a youth delegate from Taiwan when we were walking from Blue Zone and he joined us for the dance performance as well. *applause*. Since the team is completed now, a clearer picture of the dance move can be seen. Still, practices makes perfect. After a few round of rehearsals, we were confident that we will be able to deliver the dance smoothly.

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The cultural night was packed with a few traditional dance performances by indigenous people in Asia regions such as Mongolia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Bhutan. Each of the performance was unique and impressive. Our performance, the Sumazau Dance is arranged at the closing of the event. As a result, everyone, including the audiences and other indigenous people started to dance together with us. At first, I was very nervous but after a while I felt nothing but joy. That moment had indeed became one of my  emotional anchors from now on.

As mentioned above, cultural night is normally linked with food. Yeap, traditional food from different Asian regions were served after the performances ended. To name a few, there were momo (dumplings) from Nepal, Hivana (Fish salad) from Malaysia, Salad Tea Leaves from Myanmar and Dim Sum. All of them taste really delicious. That made me felt a sudden pang of homesickness. I miss char kuey tiao, satay, laksa and bak kut teh back in Malaysia.

After the meal, we headed back to Blue Zone to attend Comite de Paris.

Written by: Thomas Lai
Edited by: Merryn Choong

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