My land my home

‘This Land Is My Home’
Kampung Semban @ Bengoh Dam Sarawak Borneo

Nestled atop a mountain in Bengoh near Kuching in Sarawak sits a Bidayuh Biatah village called Kampung Semban.

To reach Kampung Semban at 1000 feet above sea level,  one takes a six-hours’ trek through jungle trails passing bamboo groves, paddy fields, pepper vines, rubber trees, durian orchards and umpteen bamboo bridges,  amidst cool breezes and the gushing waters of the streams and waterfalls.  

With billowing clouds forming a feather canopy over the valleys and fresh mountain air, Kampung Semban is indeed a place close to heaven.   

The Bidayuh Biatah have been living in this mountainous region for generations.
Every day at sunrise, the village menfolk ascends the hills to till the soils and hunt in the jungle while the womenfolk collect firewood, jungle produce and edible insects such as ants.  

In the evening tranquility, they  string bead necklaces and weave rattan bracelets, menfolk  tune and play the letung, a bamboo xylophone.  

On occasions, menfolk will take out the percussion gongs and the womenfolk in traditional garb will perform the eagle dance.

And what is so special about Kampung Semban ladies is its remaining treasure of seven ladies with brass rings on their legs and arms, the eldest more than 80 years old, the youngest more than sixty years old.

During their time, a baby girl had to start wearing them from a very tender age if she hoped to get her hand asked for at a marriageable age.

Just lately the government has started to construct the Bengoh dam, a good few hundred feet below Kampung Semban.  Development has come a-knocking on their door. When Bengoh dam is completed, life for the village folks will change forever.

One thing is certain: if the people of Kampung Semban who know of no other place to call home are persuaded  to move,  life will have to restart from the beginning
 — a new place to build a home,  
– a new area to begin a new farmland,
a  new site to relocate the ancestral bones.

 Through this ‘politics of development’, they are persuaded to relocate,  and with this move waive their rights to the traditional lands which their forefathers braved battles and sacrificed heads for territorial claim to farm, live and die in a place they wish to call ‘home’ .
Their future lies in the hand of the government that promises that they are not to be left in the lurch in the name of development.

Video by LinaSoo, Citizen Journalists Malaysia