Sabah owes much to Agnes Keith

Sandakan: Renowned American author, Agnes Newton Keith had contributed much to North Borneo’s (Sabah) global fame through her writings.

Permanent Secretary to the Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry, Datu Rosmadi Datu Sulai said Keith’s meticulous depiction of the locals through her books were also recognised when she received the Best Non-Fiction Award in 1939.

“As such, we are thankful for the socio-anthropological documentation by Keith in her books,” Rosmadi said when officiating the Agnes Keith Day and the Craft Exotica at the Agnes Keith House, here, on Thursday.

According to him, the State Government with the cooperation of the National Museum and Antiquity Department had repaired Keith’s house here and opened it officially in 2004.

Rosmadi said the challenge of continuing Keith’s studies on local customs falls on the young generation.

“We should be proud as the State is still rich with customs which have not been studied fully.”

Agnes Keith and her family faced a difficult life during the Japanese occupation from 1942-1945 where she was detained in Pulau Berhala, Sandakan and the Batu Lintang Prison, Sarawak.

Her experiences led her to write two more books after ‘Land Below the Wind’ – ‘Three Came Home’ and ‘White Man Returns’ which retold her story while being a prisoner of war and living with the locals upon returning to Sandakan after the war ended.

In 1952, Agnes Keith left Sandakan to follow her husband Harry Keith to the Philippines as the United Nations’ representative.

A total of 7,265 tourists – 4,798 locals, 2,147 foreign visitors and 270 students visited the Agnes Keith House this year.

The Agnes Keith Day and the Craft Exotica was co-organised by the Sandakan Municipal Council and the State Museum Department.

Among the activities during the celebration are free tour of the house and traditional sports as well as exhibition of various crafts by the Brunei community in the district and the Dusun from Keningau.

“We should be proud as we are still rich with crafts from various ethnic groups where their market should be expanded.

“Traditional sports too are beginning to witness a decrease in attention among the young generation due to mobile virtual games… traditional sports are merely for exhibitions now,” he said.

He also urged local tourism players to be more aggressive and proactive to promote tourist destinations in Sabah which augurs well with the development of the tourism sector.

“Local entrepreneurs should also produce creative and innovative crafts which are tourist convenient,” he said.

Also present were Sabah Museum Department Director Sintiong Gelet and Sandakan Municipal Council president’s representative Peter Stephen Ampadu. – Mardinah Jikur

Source : Daily Express