The Rainforest Fringe Festival kicks off on Friday July 7 in Kuching,a new event which aims to consolidate Sarawak image as a centre for arts.
Kuching in Sarawak (Northeast Borneo) is one of the coolest cities in Malaysia. “With Penang- where I am originally from- Kuching is probably Malaysia sexiest city”, says Joe Sidek, the organiser of the first edition of the Rainforest Fringe Festival.
The festival is taking place for the first time in the heart of Sarawak capital city and will last for ten days, from July 7 to 16, in complement to Kuching largest event, the well-known Rainforest World Music Festival.
Why is Kuching so sexy in the opinion of Sidek? “Just look at us. We are totally different from Peninsular Malaysia. Here we are proud of being culturally diverse, to live in racial harmony, to bring tolerance and respect among all of us”, explains Datuk Abd. Karim Rahman Hamzah, Minister for Tourism, Arts and Culture for the State of Sarawak.
Looking around, it is true that Kuching offers a very different atmosphere than in Peninsular Malaysia. In the old town, trendy bars are a colourful mix of any of Malaysia’s races, proving that freedom is ‘Truly Sarawak’.
This conducive atmosphere is indeed making Sarawak an attractive place for artists and anyone involved into culture. “I have total freedom about production and content. Just like in Penang. And this is absolutely unvaluable when organising such an event”, describes Sidek.
Kuching first Rainforest Fringe Festival will then showcase the best of Sarawak during these ten days. Around the old court house, a magnificent colonial style building dating from 1891, a time when Sarawak was administered by the British dynasty of the legendary White Rajah, artists exposed in spaces converted into art gallery where fashion shows, photography, painting traditional music, textile weaving demonstrations and local gastronomy take place all together.
Highlights of the programme includes the photographic exhibition “Indigenous Grace” showing the fascinating world of Borneo ethnic tribes by K.F.Wong as well as photos from Jimmy Nelson showing vivid portraits of ethnics from all across the world. The group of young local musicians “Nanding Rhapsody” is also performing while rainforest movies are presented. Talks are also organised with local artists. All the events are free.
“We believe that the flourishing of arts in Sarawak is also a way to promote our State to travellers, especially our rich heritage”, adds the Minister. “I find the festival is also the right mean to allow visitors to venture beyond the Rainforest Music Festival to discover Kuching city centre”.
Will the RFF continue in the years to come? Surprisingly, there is no confirmation yet for a next edition. “We are hopeful that this first Fringe Festival will be the beginning of further editions in the future. We could also extend it to other parts of Borneo as well. But I must say that I am very thankful of the Sarawak Government’s back-up towards this project”, adds Joe Sidek.
The first edition of the RFF might bring a few thousand visitors. “Well I remember the first edition of the Rainforest World Music Festival attracted some 300 visitors. We now receive some 18,000 persons! I must say that I feel very impressed by the quality of participants and the organisation of the first edition of the Fringe Festival. I strongly believe it will continue”, tells Abd. Karim Rahman Hamzah. A sign of confidence.