June 13, 2011

Nanga Medamit in Pictures - History and the future

Nanga Medamitis a small rural outpost set up by the government as long ago as 1940's probably because of the need to have a more permanent "tamu" or market place. When the first row of wooden bazaar shop houses was constructed the Colonial government meant to provide an opportunity for some of the Iban headmen like Temenggong Ngang to own at least one shop and the rest for the enterprising Chinese.

Nanga Medamit has served the timber industry well in a sense but it is a chicken and egg story. Today it is considered a timber outpost. Thus the history of Nanga Medamit isvery much like the cowboy towns which grew up because of gold mines. And when the gold was finished the towns disappeared in the 19th century USA.. Perhaps the real timber industry is now on the decline....

The colonial government provided some social support to this small outpost by the building of one room school - the Nanga Medamit Primary School in the old days. An illustrious son of Nanga Medamit - Cikgu Stephen Bejit was sent there as a trained teacher cum hostel master. There were about 20 students then. In fact all these students are now in their 60's and Cikgu Stephen Bejit still lives in Ng. Medamit.

Fast forward to the 1990's the present Malaysian government has constructed a fairly large secondary school - SMK Nanga Medamit - to provide for the education of the new generation. Many of the teachers are from West Malaysia and other parts of Sarawak.

A road which is full of pot holes reaches this school and Pasar Nanga Medamit from Limbang - it takes more than 2 hours usually over the bumps and pot holes. The road was only tar-sealed very recently. Lots of timber trucks continue to use the road. These days new trucks carrying river gravel grace the road too.

The ever popular longboat continues to ply the Medamit River. RM10 per ride to go to Rantau Kiran or Tanah Merah.
Simple jetty to the old Bazaar of Nanga Medamit All these shops are Chinese owned.
Capable Iban boat woman
Young lady waiting for her family boat (in the same context as family car) to return home after shopping in Limbang
Waiting Lounge built by the local people....a welcome rest in the hot sun. Here you can negotiate for a boat ride but it is once a day and you may have to "over night" or spend the night or arrange for a special charter...Petrol now at premium price forbids the boat men/women to ply their boat too often.
Water is still from the rain.....
A woman entrepreneur....She lives here and does her business while her children go  the primary school. During holidays she will go upriver - where home is her upriver longhouse. Her husband is one of the company truck drivers. So she is multi tasking in fact...mother - wife - business woman.
Besides owning a long boat many families have at their disposal a "land transport" or car
Will this outpost shop house continue to survive for the next two decades?
Today the Nanga Medamit (Nanga means confluence) boasts of one row of modern shop houses and a few concrete bungalows owned by the locals. A very nice government clinic is available besides a police station.

A Dewan Mesyuarakat (Civic Assemly Hall) has made its appearance and is only used when the local YB comes to visit.

The timber company continues to dominate the scene and 60% of the working force still "belongs" to the company. The local Iban language continues to code mix with English terms like

 "Aku besi - truck.." - I own a truck.

" Nuan ka ngirup beer?" - Would you like a beer?

"Aram meh kitai karoake..." -  Let's karaoke.

"Nadai news kitu..." There is no newspaper here.

" Ni Baby nuan?" Where is your baby?

"Anak aku udah baduk school." My son has left school.

"Hari tu nadai diesel." There is no diesel for sale today. (We are out of diesel today)

"Aku besi temu Principal XX tadi." I did meet the Principal XXX a while ago....

And  naturally many more today also speak a smattering of English but slowly Bahasa Malaysia has become their official language and perhaps one day because of lMalaysia all the kids would be speaking BM only and Iban as a language might disappear because of its lack of commercial value....

Interestingly many of the Ibans here who are in their 60's and above speak excellent English - a remnant effective of the colonial government and impact. You will be surprised how many boat men who can give a good and decent explanation in English to any tourist looking for some out of the normal route tourist spots like the Buda Range...or back packing into the interiors following the small tributaries.....

And proudly some of the younger ones would have a good amusing conversation with you.....

Nadai bukai wai....no difference my friend...Same language? Sama jako. kitai ulih jako...We can speak BM...

Although Nanga Medamit is a complex gathering of different races - it definitely still has its quaint characteristics of a commercial centre  like a border market town in Yunnan or Laos...the people are friendly and ever ready to help any one in need....if they are not in a hurry to catch their longboat or eager to send their few pieces of rubber sheets to Limbang.





8 comments:

Anonymous said...

..commercial center for the natives

apai rania

Ann said...

is limbang where your husband's from?

wenn said...

great info!

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Apai Rania...the small rural metroplis is nonetheless growing too.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Yes...he is from Ulu Limbang and when he went to school he first studied in the little hut across the river and shop owners looked out for him...later when he returned from time to time from Tanjong Lobang they asked about his studies....He actually saw the concretisation of buildings and bitumisation of the roads slowly over the years as he got himself educated out of the valley...and he can tell stories of "How Green WAS my Valley..."...

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Wenn...
Have a peep into my world.....

Anonymous said...

..this is where Uncle Chris boarded a helicopter back to Tanjung Lobang many2 years ago..refer:
http://bluetanjong.blogspot.com

apai Rania

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Apai Rania....yes...he has been telling us stories about Ng. Medamit and his childhood days...amazing...you should record yours too...