Lamin Dana: Preserving Culture & Heritage through Generations

In 1890, a house was burnt down to ashes by the river in Mukah. Two decades later, it was built again and in 1999, the house was transformed into a homestay until today, Lamin Dana Cultural Boutique Lodge is a jewel in the heart of Kampung Tellian, Mukah.

Located just about 15 minutes from Mukah Airport, Lamin Dana, meaning traditional house in archaic Melanau language has become a focal point to showcase everything and anything on the Melanau’s heritage, history and cultural significance. The property, owned and founded by Madam Diana Rose was inherited from her ancestors. Diana is passionate about her Melanau heritage and whose mission is to revive the Melanau culture and showcase them for the world to see as the house is aptly described as “House of the Living Legend: Sharing our Melanau heritage and cultural intelligence with the world.”

The Lamin Dana view on a bright sunny day
The Lamin Dana view on a bright sunny day

Melanau or A-Likou (meaning River people) is an ethnic group indigenous to Sarawak. They are among the earliest settlers of Sarawak. They speak the Melanau language, which is part of the North Bornean branch of Malayo-Polynesian languages. As described avidly by Diana, the Melanau people used to have their own Kingdom once upon a time ago. Nowadays, the culture of the Melanau people are becoming less and less known to the outsiders even to our own local Sarawakians. This is one of the reasons that drives her to return to her hometown and continue their family’s legacy in preserving the Melanau heritage through Lamin Dana.

A traditional Melanau costume
A traditional Melanau costume

This year marked the inaugural launching of Lamin Dana Heritage and Cultural Showcase with the theme “Melanau Heritage” were divided into 3 major components; Environmental art exhibitions and the Melanau way of life, Exhibition of Antiques in cooperation Sapan Puloh Mini Museum, and The Lamin Dana Highlight Dinner and Fashion Show. This 3-day festival will be held every last Saturday of the month of September as a prominent annual eco-tourism event in Mukah. This annual event aims to promote tourism, showcasing of talents, and preservation of Melanau heritage.

The pilot project this year served as an experiment for the team at Lamin Dana. The event on 29 September 2018 was brilliant considering the timeframe of a month to prepare everything. The young and dynamic team was efficient as the night programme was entertaining and filled with informative knowledge of the Melanau culture.

CMS sponsored RM10,000 for the event alongside Persatuan Melanau Mukah. The event was attended by YB Dato Hajjah Hanifah Hajar Taib, Parliament member of P.213 Mukah, YB Tan Sri Datuk Sri Dr Muhammad Leo Toyad, President of Persekutuan Persatuan Melanau Mukah, YB Mr Abdul Yakub Arbi, ADUN N.58 Balingian who is also the President of Persatuan Melanau Mukah, YB Mr Yussibnosh Balo, ADUN N.57 Tellian, and YB Dato Sri Hajjah Fatimah Abdullah, Minister for Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development who is also ADUN N.56 Dalat. It is a pleasure to see all the leaders came together to support this event.

Launching gimmick witnessed by the local leaders (Photo Credits: Naiza John)
Launching gimmick witnessed by the local leaders
(Photo Credits: Naiza John)

The night was blessed with good weather as guests were served with entertaining performances such as an Ancient Chant performed by Mr Edmund Slaman, MRSM’s Coral Speaking Team which tells a story about the Mukah and Melanau people, Tarian Mengarang by SK Sg Pinang, Tarian Alu-Alu by SK Kpg Tellian, Tarian Pezepin by Lamin Dana Cultural Team, Tarian Kreatif by Politeknik Mukah and UiTM Mukah. The Fashion show which was led by talented local fashion designers namely Lyona Stephen, showcasing the Traditional Melanau Costumes and Latip Mohti of Latip collections showcasing Contemporary Melanau Costumes. The finale performance was the chilling enchanted Tarian Tapou by Warismu. Mukah is indeed full of talents. The dance team from SK Sungai Pinang will be representing Malaysia to compete in Jakarta in November 2018. With the launch of this event, it is hope that more talents will be discovered from Mukah.

Coral Speaking from MRSM Mukah (Photo Credits: Naiza John)
Coral Speaking from MRSM Mukah (Photo Credits: Naiza John)
Dance team from SK Sg Pinang (Photo Credits: Naiza John)
Dance team from SK Sg Pinang
(Photo Credits: Naiza John)
Traditional Melanau Costumes by Lyona Stephen
Traditional Melanau Costumes by Lyona Stephen
Contemporary Melanau Costumes by Latip Collection
Contemporary Melanau Costumes by Latip Collection

On top of that, the local delicacies served were delicious as we feasted on Fish Umai served with local herbs and salad leaves with sago pearls, Ikan Ipung – a locally smoked fish, Kari Siaw – Lamin Dana version of chicken curry, Sayur Tajuk – Sago shoots cooked in coconut milk, Sayur Pedudun Lamin Dana – mixed vegetables served with turmeric rice and desserts are Bubur Leluai – shaved coconut shoots in sweet gravy and Pedenguk Staguh – sago pearls in coconut milk. Food is relatively significant in relation to understanding the cultural and traditional heritage of a community and in this case, to understand the history of the Melanau people and their interactions with the other community in the past. The Melanau’s staple food has always been sago while rice is their diplomacy food as their ancestors’ traded sago with rice from the Dayaks and Malays for centuries.

Tarian Alu-Alu by SK KPg Tellian (Photo Credits: Naiza John)
Tarian Alu-Alu by SK KPg Tellian (Photo Credits: Naiza John)
Tarian Tapou by UiTM Mukah (Photo Credits: Naiza John)
Tarian Tapou by UiTM Mukah (Photo Credits: Naiza John)
The traditional Melanau delicacies
The traditional Melanau delicacies

With the vast historical areas yet to be discovered, this event will definitely boost the tourism industry and benefit the local community’s economic well-being. Diana hopes to see more youth involvement in this cultural tradition as they are the future generation that will continue the legacy to uplift Melanau heritage to a higher platform.

Our 1-night stay at Lamin Dana was memorable. The traditional-style room was comfortable and surprisingly cooling especially at night. We woke up to a breath-taking view of the village and river and were lucky to see the sago logs being transported by the river to be processed further into various sago-based products.

Morning view from our bedroom
Morning view from our bedroom

Lamin Dana offers variety of tour packages with accommodations as you can find in their website http://www.lamindana.com/index.php or contact them at genistarose@lamindana.com. The tour packages promise fun and authentic experiences around Mukah city. Next year’s Lamin Dana Heritage Showcase with the theme Sunhat Affairs will be held on 27-29 September 2019. Book your calendar now!

Us with the beauty queens
Us with the beauty queens