Anna Vivienne wants to ensure stories of Kadazandusun taboos, beliefs live on through books
4 October 2022
By Wartawan Nabalu News
KOTA KINABALU: Way back in the 1970s Anna Vivienne saw a ripped book in a trashcan behind some shops in Inanam. It was entitled Dracula by Bram Stoker, but it was ripped in two and was several chapters short. She made up her own ending, which was way off the mark when she managed to get the full copy years later.
Her wish to write stems from this incident although there were many factors that led to her writing her books. One was the fact that the Chief Editor of Kinabalu Weekends, the late Ignatius Daim encouraged her to write and even paid her for her stories that appeared in that weekend news. She published several stories, before the newspaper sadly bid adieu to its existence.
As she shared, “Life got in the way and I pushed the dream to write stories, long or otherwise, into the back of my mind. I knew I would write down my thoughts someday.”
The years flashed by and Vivienne as she is well known, went to work for Newspapers in Kota Kinabalu. She started in Radio Malaysia in the 1980s and went on to work for Daily Express, Borneo Mail, New Sabah Times and Borneo Post. She later led Sayang Sabah as a Chief Editor. Her life as a journalist spanned 33 years, to date.
Her books on sale.
In 2019, she completed 12 stories, and compiled them into the book titled ‘Strange Magic and Supernatural Encounters’. This book was about the beliefs and taboos of the Dusun people, mostly garnered from her grandparents and parents, of the bunduliwan ethnic group.
In 2021, she completed her second book entitled ‘Hauntings and Ghostly Whispers’ which also dwelled on the beliefs of the Dusun people. It was a book of fiction but pegged on the beliefs and taboos of her tribes.
In 2022, she completed her third book ‘Scary Tales and Uncanny Encounters’ which contained more of the beliefs, with some interesting twists and turns in the tales told within. She liked to dub them a ‘walk on twilight realms.
Technically she had written four books, the other being a book of poem in collaboration with English author Cate Deal, titled Vampire Squid killed by a 3D Periapt, available in Amazon. For this book she used her pseudonym Grace Latinggam.
“I was once asked on whose authority was I speaking on about the beliefs, the little people called totumolong, the tompulalangoi or tall people of the forests. I did not study and research, nor have I, God Forbid’ interviewed them, but I lived through these beliefs. If my grandparents, their parents and my parents told us tall tales, then I am guilty of the same.
However, these beliefs were all told to us all our life. So, treat them as readers may; fictions and seeking just to entertain, or otherwise.”
“I am going to share a little about myself. I was born during a time of transition, at least that’s the way I felt, between animism and monotheism. We were animists, where we believed spirits dwelled in everything around us. As a child, I lived a life according to our tradition and culture. My paternal grandmother was a bobolian, and my mother was a novice before she embraced Christianity.”
“One day when I was about 11 or 12, I was extra naughty and my parents sent me to live with my grandmother. I learned a lot from her, by listening. In those days, children were seen not heard. So I kept very quiet and listened to my grandmother and her friends talking about so and so, who went against our traditional taboos, and what happened to the person in question.”
Signing her book.
“Sometimes they would notice me sitting nearby and shoo me away or send me on an errand. I was always rather peeved when I was sent away, but I did get to hear most of their conversations.”
“I also attended rites and rituals by bobolians in my village. There were rituals to heal people or to ‘cleanse’ the house. I lived through those and as an introverted child, I listened and watch. We also lived through our life amidst all our superstitions and taboos.”
“In those days, we were also taught by our elders about medicinal plants and vines, and how we should pick them. We lived through the norm that governs our life, marriage, birth and death.”
“We had characters in our village that are believed to have been touched by supernatural entities. Remember in those days, our dreams were also taken into consideration, and translated as omens among others.”
“Through it all, I listened and watched, filed information in my head. I didn’t want to let this go, as I know these are part of my identity and a part of who I am. “
“I believe this book is educational for our youngsters who did not live through the transition from animism to monotheism, and have never heard or only vaguely heard about such beliefs. Although such beliefs and taboos may vary from one Dusun community to another, there are similarities. For instance, the house that sunk due to taboo against nature, are told in various part of the community, with slightly different information. I believe that having such knowledge would also be advantageous to them, to allow them to understand the viewpoint of other communities besides their own.”
“This book is very useful to rural tourism, especially Homestays, Kampungstay and Farmstays. Tourists who are interested to have in-depth knowledge of their hosts in the rural areas can benefit from the stories written in the book.”
“We must remember that tourists who go for rural tourism may not only be interested in the natural environment and our kampung lifestyle but also our beliefs. They will be interested to know about our cultural and traditional background. So, I believe that, storytelling is an activity that should be presented as one of the programmes within the destination.”
“Storytelling, when done correctly and finely, can create an emotional connection between visitors and the hosts. This emotional connection is a great form of tourism, where understanding and respect are incepted. Emotion is a powerful reaction that can create a strong bond, which in tourism can result in a ripple effect, a form of promotion, and therefore return visits. This foundation, I believe are what should be built on.”
“Homestays, kampung stay and farmstay programmes usually have tremendous offerings in form of traditional food, nature walks, trekking, bird watching, herbs and the general atmosphere of the village. But add on storytelling, even on how the village was established. This can act as the ‘soul’ of the package. Remember, even guides when they have storytelling skills can talk about the spiritual aspects of a trek; thereby creating a sort of entertaining but informative experience for their tourists.”
She hoped that someday, the stories would be picked up by filmmakers and made into a TV series or a movie, that would depict the people of Sabah and their life as was and is. She also hoped that they would do this in her lifetime.
She had given story-telling sessions to individuals and also shared with Borneo Tourism Institute (BTI) the contents of her books.
Recently, she presented her books to the Sabah State Library where the director Fatimah Abdillah stated that they encouraged local authors to write and to preserve their work in the Library for readers.
She expressed her hope that more local authors would send in their books to the library to augment their collection of local works.
Anna Vivienne is in the process of completing her fourth and fifth books which would be more on the Ghost Story genre. It should hit the market early next year.