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The stories behind the masks

Not to be taken at just face value. Image courtesy Faridah Mohd Noor.

The most viewed GridCast video at the recent EGI Community Forum was a story-telling cultural preservation project. Faridah Mohd Noor spoke about how the University of Malaya, Malaysia, is assembling an archive of 2D and 3D images of 111 wooden masks carved by the indigenous Mah Meri people in Carey Island, Malaysia.

Each decorative mask also has its own story associated with it relating to its origin or 'moyang' resembling an animal, humans and spirit. They also have their own special use in traditional healing (sakat buang) and ceremonial dances (Joh and Tengkeng). Sadly, many of the senior mask carvers have passed away and their stories have vanished with them. The project plans to create a portal of both images and audio recordings from elder Mah Meris in three languages (Mah Meri, Malay and English) and is looking for sponsors for hosting the portal (a current modest 500GB storage). Several sites including the MYREN (Malaysian Research and Education Network) cloud are already involved and future collaborations include the university in Chennai.

Video courtesy e-Science Talk.

Noor, who also chairs the eCulture workshop of the APAN (the Asia Pacific Advanced Network), will launch an immersive and interactive showcase of 24 masks in November at the University of Malaya Gallery's Museum of Asian Art.

"Eventually what we are hoping to build is a Global Story Telling e-Community, gathering members who voluntarily contribute 'stories' of their own. Keeping the stories all these years proves the value of these stories. Passing on this oral tradition to the next generation of their community is crucial to keep the tradition of storytelling alive for sharing and exchanging such beautiful stories across the globe to bridge the cultural gap," says Noor.

The talk was part of the DCH-RP workshop (Digital Culture Heritage Roadmap), a project that is piloting an 'e-Culture Science Gateway' at various culture institutes across Europe. You can read more about DCH-RP in a recent GridCast blog post.

- Zara Qadir

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