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Borneo Studies student to share history and significance of family heirlooms at inaugural Borneo International Beads Conference

Miri – 8 October 2010 – Eileen Paya Foong, a student of Curtin University, Sarawak Malaysia (Curtin Sarawak), has been given the privilege to share more than just a conference paper at the Borneo International Beads Conference 2010 here in Miri this Saturday; she will be sharing her heritage and her family traditional heirlooms with delegates from various countries around the world.


Foong is among the first cohort of Bachelor of Arts students taking the newly-introduced Borneo Studies course as an elective.


She will be sharing the history and significance of her family’s Pesaka bead heirlooms in a paper titled ‘Barang Pu’un Mek: An Uma Pawek Family’s Pesaka Beads” at the conference, which is being held in Miri for the first time.


“As a Sarawakian, I think it is imperative to uphold Sarawak’s valuable rich heritage and I am very honoured to be given the privilege to talk about my family’s heirlooms or Lukut Sekala at the conference,” Foong said.


“I also appreciate Curtin Sarawak’s introducing of the Borneo Studies course. Students of the course are introduced to various aspects of Borneo, such as its cultures, social organisation and history. They also get to experience for themselves life in local communities and in other parts of Borneo,” she added.


According to Lecturer, Terry Dit, the Borneo Studies course aims to provide sufficient familiarity with main social, cultural and historical characteristics of Borneo for the pursuit of more advanced understanding, studies or research of particular aspects of Borneo.


Terry added that study into things commonly associated with Borneo such as orangutans, the rainforest and tribal tattoos are part of the course, which makes it most interesting.


“There are a lot of things about Borneo we tend to take for granted because we live here but actually understand very little about. The Borneo Studies course is an opportunity to learn about Borneo in an informed manner that exceeds global popular knowledge.


Upon completion, students would have become sufficiently familiar with the general as well as some of more specific characteristics of Borneo as well as gaining adequate understanding of the main socio-cultural, history and linguistic features,” he said.


Head of the Media, Culture and Communication Department Mawi Taip disclosed that Borneo Studies will be offered as a major under Curtin Sarawak’s Bachelor of Arts programme in 2011.

He said the Borneo Studies course is unique to Curtin Sarawak, it being the only campus granted approval by Curtin University to conduct the course and the curriculum and course materials were largely developed here in Sarawak. 


Mawi added that the learning outcomes of the course include defining different approaches to learning and researching; describing main social, cultural and historical characteristics; identifying historical forces pertinent to contemporary socio-cultural structure; distinguishing basic differences and similarities between various indigenous and non-indigenous communities and societies; and analysing social organisation of people and patterns of migration intrinsic to the geo-cultural complexity of Borneo.


“Borneo is prosperous with unique indigenous cultures and heritage. The upcoming Borneo International Beads Conference is commendable for its initiative to preserve the regional bead tradition. It is an ideal platform for our students to delve deeper into such a distinctive legacy and we are in full support of it,” he said.


For more information on the Borneo Studies course at Curtin Sarawak, contact Mawi Taip at 085–443939 or e-mail


Borneo Studies student Eileen Paya Foong.


Bead necklace with beads of different value and semiotics from Foong’s family collection.


Traditional beads transformed into modern jewellery.


Lukut Sekala, the highlight of Foong's presentation.


Head of Media, Culture and Communication Department Mawi Taip.