The first International Folk Art (IOV) Youth Asia Congress took place from January 20 to 26, 2014 at Curtin University Sarawak, Malaysia. The theme of the congress was “Tastes of Asia – A Cultural Journey: Asian Peace through Cultural Understanding.” Around 90 young delegates from 16 countries of Asia participated in the week-long congress. Badrul Islam and I represented Bangladesh at the congress. IOV, a non-profit organisation based in Seattle, USA is working to preserve and protect all forms of folk art, involving a network of individuals and institutions worldwide.
On January 20, we arrived at Miri International Airport during heavy rain. Miri is the second largest city of Sarawak, located on the island Borneo, and very close to Brunei. Warm and smiley reception of IOV volunteers at the airport swept away all of our fatigue.
The congress was inaugurated on the next day in presence of Assistant Minister of Communications, Assistant Minister of Sports Sarawak, Deputy Pro Vice-Chancellor of Curtin University and President of IOV. Then came the orientation of issues related to the topic of the conference. There were also country presentations where delegates introduced their countries, tourism, festivals, traditional culture and food to their peers. We focused on attractive tourist destinations of Bangladesh, festivals such as Nobanno Utshob, Pahela Boishakh and traditional food.
The Iban longhouse home-stay Experience left an imprint on our memories as we spent a superb time, beginning with tribal welcoming ritual. The Ibans are native people of Borneo Island and most Ibans reside in Sarawak. We learned about their lives, culture, hospitality and the indigenous food. We also learned to play traditional musical instruments. The bamboo rice with bamboo and palm shoots served at the longhouse was mouth-watering. At the congress events, there was also a special night dedicated to Azerbaijan where we tasted food of the Central Asian country and learned about its culinary history and art. On the final day, practical food demonstration of the participating countries took place. Delegates of different countries cooked their traditional cuisines. We, the Bangladeshi delegates, cooked “Beef Bhuna” that was an instant hit among the delegates.
The programme ended with forming a working committee — dividing into media group, practitioner group, academic group and project management group — to move forward with IOV’s activities and mission. I was selected as a leader of the academic group while the other Bangladeshi delegate, Badrul Islam, was included in the project management group. The next IOV programme will be held in Philippines or Indonesia as these two countries offered to host the next congress. We have also decided to form the IOV Bangladesh chapter to introduce the rich cultural heritage of Bangladesh to the world.
The writer was a Bangladeshi delegate at the congress. He can be reached at email@example.com.