The Perak Art and Culture Department organised a two-day cultural festival showcasing the Rao’ (Rawa) community recently. The event, held within the department’s premises, was aimed at promoting the rich cultural heritage of the Rawas. Incidentally, Perak has a substantial number of Rawas.
The programme featured a variety of exhibitions of the Rao’s culture. The opening ceremony saw the performance of the traditional ‘Muzikal Berjojak’, a musical rendition of adat berjojak, a ceremony performed to signify the end of a ban for 13 month-old infants who are not allowed to set foot on the ground.
There are several myths surrounding this tradition. The most widely accepted is the one about the people of Pagar Ruyung who forcibly took the child of the princess of their deceased King to be crowned as King.
The princess objected and placed a curse on future generations of the royalty that if an offspring were to be born, he or she cannot set foot on the ground for 13 months without risking misfortune.
Other cultural performances included a traditional Rawa poetry recital called ‘Rentak Kudo’. It is a form of poetic expression which involves two or more individuals exchanging pantun (poems). This is mostly performed during the harvesting season and at weddings to enliven the atmosphere.
There was also a demonstration on the making of traditional Rao foodstuffs. Dishes like serabai which is eaten with a durian flavoured sauce, kelamai and lopat gobu were served to guests as refreshments.
Talks and forums on Rao cultures and traditions by experts such as Dr Talib Samat, Zabidin Haji Ismail, Afriadi Sanusi and Dato’ Paduka Dr Rosli Saludin were also held. Many thronged the tents and seminar rooms to view and appreciate the lesser known Rao community. The festival was part of a national initiative to showcase the cultural heritage of indigenous communities found in every state of Malaysia.