Kamek Kitak Human Library Vol.2
by A.M. Ishraq

On November 18, 2017 there was a small event held at the Old Courthouse in Kuching, Sarawak that almost went un-noticed by many Kuchingites. However, the value of the event to our society and the unique-ness of it, in my opinion, was everything but small!

Fashioned upon the Human Library ™ or “Menneskebiblioteket” as it is called in Danish, the original Human Library was developed in Copenhagen, Denmark in the spring of 2000 as a project for the Roskilde Festival. A small group of young creative and progressivethinking individuals in the persons of Ronni Abergel, his brother Dany and colleagues, Asma Mouna and Christoffer Erichsen, designed what they decided to call the “Human Library’ as a means of building a platform based on a positive framework that allows for dialogues between ‘Walk in’ visitors and people who have been specifically chosen by the event organisers for their specialised skills, knowledge and expertise in some prescribed fields. The key objective is to allow people to freely address these specialists with inquiries that will have them questioning the basic assumptions of their beliefs, which can challenge and dispel the stereotypes and prejudices that may have existed in them.

The reason it is called the Human Library was the fact that what were presented were those specialists stationed on site who represented ‘books in a library’ for people (readers) to ‘borrow’.

The Sarawakian version, held on Nov 18, 10am – 4pm at the Old Courthouse, Kuching was aptly named Kamek Kitak, which is Sarawak Malay for “Me and You” or “We all and You”. The local version of the event was organised by a lone, creative, progressive-thinking, courageous and outstanding young Kuching lady by the name of Laura Kho. Laura is a fulltime Psychiatric Pharmacist attached to the Medical Department of Sarawak, with a strong interest in the area of mental health.

As founder and curator of Kamek Kitak Human Library, Laura said: “It is a platform for ordinary people to tell their extraordinary stories. Under the Kamek Kitak banner, my team and I organise the Kamek Kitak Human Library however, we may have to rename it to Living Library in the near future as the name Human Library is trademarked. Other than the Human Library event, we also organise monthly Story Nights under the Kamek Kitak banner, where people get together to tell true, personal stories, related to the theme of the night.”

She added: “The idea for the first Human Library in Borneo was born out of a simple challenge from a friend who insisted that I should stop complaining, and that if I wanted to see it happen here, I should make it happen! I felt at the time that we desperately needed a counter narrative to the one our nation/world offered us, a world where our differences are deliberately highlighted and played up for political gain.

I felt we needed more than a generic Cuti-Cuti Malaysia advertisement to remind us of how strong we are as a community - we needed genuine, heartfelt conversations, we needed to build trust and understanding. And that's how the Kamek Kitak Human Library was started.

Events such as these, which are not funded by any organisation or by the government, organised solely for the good of society, is quickly gaining popularity. Laura organised the event without any financial support despite offering the public at large to participate in it as ‘readers’, free of charge. In following her vision to present the event a notch higher in terms of quality and sustainability, she did confide in a Professional Event Organiser, Place Borneo, on how to bring this about in the best possible way. She would like the event to be a yearly do and to expand its reach. Unfortunately, without the necessary professional and financial support, the event may be limited only to her personal capacity of organising and funding it.

These ‘social enterprise’-like events, where the organisers are more interested in benefiting the society and not so much for profit, have been gaining the attention of millennials. These younger generation prefer socially and environmentally friendly events to possibly arrest or even reverse whatever apparent damages we have brought about in our society and the environment.