Spending her childhood amongst the forests and islands of her native Kuching was what cultivated traditional musician and artist Alena Murang’s long-standing love affair with her Kelabit heritage. “As a child, I experienced genuine village rituals and crossed bamboo bridges suspended 20m above rivers to get to another village; things that no longer exist,” Alena tells us. “Being outside of Borneo made me miss nature… and made me realise how much value it has.”
Wanting to use art as a channel for positive social and environmental change, Alena founded ART4 Studio, an initiative that strives to make heritage present. Traditional dance lessons, research and report writing, quarterly sape workshops, and also acting as an agent for heritage musicians and dancers are among some of the projects that ART4 has undertaken in the last four years.
However, it’s been a challenge for Alena to spread awareness about her culture, and even harder for her to bring her artforms into mainstream settings. “I haven’t been able to find or build the right support team around me yet, so I do everything independently,” she shares.
Despite the odds, Alena remains steadfast in her goal to inspire the younger generation to learn the stories of the ones that came before them, whether it’s through art, music, or any other form. “By keeping stories alive, we acknowledge the places and people of these stories. I want to see young Malaysians searching for truth about their individual and collective pasts, and to be genuinely curious about the histories of other people too.”
Alena Murang is wearing the Hublot Spirit of Big Bang Moonphase Titanium White Diamonds; Dress from Fendi