The Rainforest Fringe Festival started in 2017 to spotlight Sawarak’s distinct jungle heritage. The second edition this year (July 6 to 15) promises to unveil an even wider spectrum of both traditional and contemporary expressions.
Presented in the heart of Kuching, the festival’s slate is an eclectic and vibrant mix of dance, music, photography, design, crafts and multimedia performance art.
The Rainforest Fringe’s other major asset is its director Joe Sidek. The founder of Penang’s Georgetown Arts Festival certainly knows something about nurturing an event from scratch. The inaugural year was enough of a success that Sidek is expanding the Rainforest Fringe’s 2018 programming. He is also involving more Sarawak heritage elders, at the same time opening new avenues for young artistic upstarts.
“Initially, [Kuching officials] wanted me to take over its Rainforest Music Festival, which was 20 years old last year, but it’s a dying brand,” says Sidek. “There weren’t new stories being told. It was just musicians playing and the rainforest had nothing to do with it. It was just a venue.
“I didn’t want to do the music festival but I loved Kuching. Everyone I met had another kind of story and that’s how the Rainforest Fringe started as an aboriginal showcase. I thought why can’t we tell our aboriginal stories? Everything starts with the rainforest. I really feel that is my priority.”
As an outsider, Sidek had to be sensitive to not be seen as someone imposing his own perspective on the native tribes and constituency. However, he defines his mission as first and foremost a cultural project, not a tourism campaign.
Read the full article by Andrew Sun on South China Morning Post.
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