The Archived is Alive: Reviving Cultural Connections through the Borneo Lute

We are collaborating with Borneo Boat Lute Revival, a collective of researchers and cultural practitioners. This project is supported by the British Council’s 2023 Connections Through Culture grant.

Found throughout the island of Borneo, boat lutes are a family of plucked string instruments traditionally played by Indigenous communities. They include the widespread Sape’, the Sundatang of Sabah, the Bruneian Kasapi, the Kecapi in Kalimantan, the Tapi of the Lun Bawang, the Iban Belikan and many more. While in recent times some boat lutes have been adapted and evolved to become contemporary instruments, others have become rare and endangered.

With support from the British Council’s Connections Through Cultures grant, ‘The Archived is Alive’ is a collaborative project with Borneo Boat Lute Revival, an East Malaysian-based collective of artists, musicians, performers and researchers on a mission to tell the stories of boat lutes and their traditional custodians from across Borneo.

This project enabled representatives of Borneo Boat Lute Revival to travel to the UK and engage with examples of boat lutes in British museum collections, breathing new life into the instruments by reconnecting them with cultural practitioners in Borneo today. By shedding light on the ongoing practices and preservation efforts of the boat lute in rural and urban communities across Borneo Island and contributing new information and data, the project team aims to amplify Indigenous voices and reimagine the role of databases and archives.

Learn more about boat lutes

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