Thursday, 16 December 2010

I don't know my own culture

Although I am getting old, I still don't know much about my own
culture. I used to think that my culture is not that important as long
as my religion is well guarded. However I notice that once I was
exposed to my cultures during marriage ceremonies and cultural dances,
I notice the superiority of the Daling-daling dance and now Mengiluk
over the widely publicised dances in Sabah such as Sumazau and Joget.
Culture is not just to show differences but to show our most beautiful
and elegant creations that will give the most entertainment.

One aspect of this culture is the participative dances. It used to be
dominated by Joget but in the increasing Islamic awareness this is
slowly being phased out. I won't allow my daughter, wife and sisters
to dance with strange men, and vice versa. However there is pressure
for entertainment in celebrations. In my marriage ceremony I used to
protest against any music or dance but they still organise them
because it was deemed as the usual practise, and allow relatives to
entertain themselves. Invited guests were only our close relatives.
Gate crashers will not be allowed.

It was more than 20 years ago that I was reintroduced to the Daling
daling dance because my mother-in-law hired a dancer to perform and
the band to play musing that allows the daling daling dance to be
performed by participants. It is the women, young and old who love to
dance this style of dancing. The women just dance by themselves
without men. Men cannot dance this type of dance anyway. It is too
gentle and require too much body movements. One good thing is that
there is no more Joget. The women like to dance probabably to exercise
while showing off their skills, beauty and elegance. As long as it is
not vulgar like some of the western and korean darnces, it should be

Mengiluk is more like Zapin. It is fast and therefore tiring for
amateur dancers.I am surprised that I was not aware of it. Based on
elegance, Mengiluk looks superior to any of the previously Malay/
Arabic dances that I was more familiar with. The question is why this
dance was not well promoted at all? Is there any attempt to destroy
other cultures that are not Malay based? Any attempt to destroy the
Suluk culture is futile because the Suluks in the Philippines will
promote it and later will claim it as their sole rights, as what is
happening to the Daling daling dance.

Just now I was asked to attend a dinner wearing a traditional dress.
I was trained to wear Baju Selangor since I was young because we use
it to go for prayers. It was more associated with Islamic culture than
Malay culture. However since I have Arabic blood, it should be better
for me to wear Arabic clothes but we don't do this because these
clothes are reserved for the Imams or extra pious Muslims. I also
don't wear any Jubah because I find it not suitable for me since I
don't like to pretend to be pious. Doesn't it mean that I show
disrespect to my ancestors, especially when I am somehow related to
the Prophet Muhammad himself? I can blame my grandmother and other
grand relatives for not reminding us to respect our ancestors. It is
fortunate that our religious discipline is still very strong. This
could contribute to the neglect of any of the hereditary titles such
as Sharif as being useless and unIslamic. Now I begin to doubt their
course of actions. They could be wrong. One sin is in not telling the
whole truth, at least to their descendents.

I start thiking about this culture business because a nephew, the
first in my family, will get married soon. We had discussed several
cultural issues. We had decided to show cultural dances to our guests
at Kota Kinabalu. This is also for the first time that any of our
family got married outside our home town of Sandakan. People in Kota
Kinabalu are not well exposed with the Suluk culture. One
controversial decision is to get rid of the "merenjis" ceremony as
unIslamic but allowing the "berinai". Berinai is the colouring of
fingers. I used to do this when I got married partly because every
Muslim seem to be doing it and there is no obvious harm in doing it.
Berinai is also deemed as a Hindu culture, not Islamic culture. I am
beginning to doubt it.

There will be 2 dance performances of the Suluks and 1 for the Malay
because the bride is a Malay + Indian. The berinai should be an Indian
rather than Hindu culture so should not be viewed as unreligious, but
so does "merenjis". Maybe, in the end, we shall just follow the crowd.

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