Borneoans in Penang

loading Colourful traditional costumes at the annual Gawai and Keamatan Festival held at Fort Cornwallis in May.

Migrants from Borneo – home to over 60 proud ethnic groups – make an exciting mark on Penang.

Leaving home is painful but unavoidable for many: the unbearable longing for familiar comforts both tangible and intangible, the rhythmic music of the sape’, the sounds of the forest, the songs of the people and the hypnotic dances of celebration.

But leaving home can also mean forging a path towards new opportunities. Many come to Penang to build a home away from home, and unwittingly provide local people with a sampling of their rich and vibrant cultures.

Far from the Eyes, but Close to the Heart

Penang is not entirely physically dissimilar to Borneo. Both are islands, Penang’s beaches are reminiscent of Manukan’s and Sipadan’s, and its pre-war buildings bring back memories of strolling down Main Bazaar in Kuching.

But the homesickness remains. To alleviate this, Borneoans in Penang, most of whom are students and civil servants (such as nurses, teachers and military members), meet often to celebrate their cultures.

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