Promoting Dayak Culture while Generating Income for Indigenous People

Established in 2017, The Tuyang Initiative is based in Miri, Sarawak. It is a community-led arts management company, a social enterprise that focuses on the arts, to create meaningful livelihoods as well as ensuring cultural continuity. 

“We are very proud of who we are and our cultural history. So we felt the only way we could give back was to tap on our strength which was our cultural heritage. That’s something nobody can take away. It’s something that is so rich and beautiful,” said Juvita Tatan Wan, co-founder of The Tuyang Initiative. 

Co-founder of The Tuyang Initiative, Juvita Tatan Wan.

How It Started

In 2017, Juvita went back to her Kenyah family home in Long San, Baram in Sarawak for her uncle’s funeral. She was reminded of the huge difference between the growth in urban centres and the growth in her village. 

She observed that her auntie was self-sufficient - she cared for the land and had skill sets such as in agriculture and crafts. However, she realised that over the years, people have been taught what was not orignally in their value system - that earning money was top priority. 

Her father had retired from his oil and gas job and they discussed how to help the villagers generate income. At the end, she decided that they could leverage on their strong cultural heritage. 

“We want our culture and traditions to continue well into the future and thrive. As indigenous people ourselves, we feel a deep sense of responsibility and pride not only in what we do, but we want to ensure our cultural guardians get the opportunity to gain meaningful livelihood through the arts,” said Juvita.

“The Tuyang Initiative is an art management company that focuses on Dayak cultural heritage. We are a community-led organisation which means our leadership is founded by members of the community. Our focus is on the arts, for an opportunity to create meaningful livelihoods as well as ensuring our cultural continuity,” she added. 

“Through the arts, and through the creative and cultural industry, we hope to spearhead a new movement of generating a form of livelihood that will empower our community through what we have that is innate within us - our cultural heritage. That is something we are very proud of as a people,” said Juvita. 

Juvita has over 15 years of experience in diverse roles such as business development, product marketing and audio visual production, with invaluable experience in national and international companies such as Maxis, Universal Music Group and M&C Saatchi. Through her, the team and practitioners learn to think locally and act globally.

Growing the Initative

Among its many accomplishments, the Tuyang Initiative has participated in local and international arts festivals, such as at the Ethnobotany Garden of the Singapore Botanic Gardens. 

In recognition of The Tuyang Initiative’s outstanding contributions to the arts and preservation of cultural heritage, they were awarded the Star Golden Hearts Award in 2018. 

In addition, The Tuyang Initiative is a part of the Pemangkin Usahawan Sosial Hebat (PUSH) programme, and supported by the Economic Planning Unit (EPU), the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI) and the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC). PUSH is a scale-up programme with an ambition to grow social enterprises and increase their social impact through a personalised capacity building and skills development training.

“After the PUSH programme, we have managed to build a more solid team. We are also now able to push out different types of products and services. We believe that the sky is the limit in what we do, mainly because the industry that we are in, the creative and cultural industry, has ample opportunities to thrive in,” said Juvita. 

“We have noticed that especially during the pandemic, there is more hunger for content that is more unique and that is teling stories of people, and we believe we are now in the right space at the right time for that,” she added. 

The programme has prepared us immensely for what is happening now in the advent of the pandemic. Those few weeks that we have spent together in a room full of like-minded people, where we shared our challenges as a group - I think it was very meaningful and I think it is what a lot of social enterprises need and would feel the value of,” said Juvita.

How You Can Help

Members of the public and companies are invited to support The Tuyang Initiative by purchasing their products, such as books, musical instruments, paintings and decorative items, which are available from their website. 

Besides that, you can also make bookings for classes, workshops, talks and dialogues. The Tuyang Initiative is also available to participate in exhibitions, demonstrations and showcases. Lastly, you will be excited to know that you can also book a cultural performance.

To find out more, visit The Tuyang Initiative’s website and social media pages: