Malaysian Official: Tor-Tor Dance Originates in Indonesia, But…

Malaysia’s culture minister, Rais Yatim, said on Thursday that the recently disputed Tor-Tor folk dance did originate in Indonesia, but added that some Malaysians felt a sense of ownership over the dance too, as they shared similar cultural roots with Indonesians.

Rais admitted that the Tor-Tor dance belonged to the Mandailing ethnic group, which is native to Indonesia’s North Sumatra province.

Tor Tor Dance

Tor-Tor Dance

He added, however, that some Malaysians were also descendants of Mandailing people who began arriving to Malaysia in the 1920s, leading to a feeling of kinship with the Mandailing cultural heritage, including the Tor-Tor dance.

“It is the Mandailing people [in Malaysia] who want the Malaysian government to recognize and register their arts. We hope Indonesians will consider this fact, instead of speculating that Malaysia is trying to swallow Indonesian arts,” Rais said on the sidelines of a meeting among Asian and European culture ministers in Yogyakarta on Thursday.

He admitted that the Malaysian government had indeed put the dance on Malaysia’s national heritage list in 2005 and used it in promotional tourism materials.

“But we really don’t mean to snatch away Indonesian traditional arts and claim them as our own. The Malaysian government only acknowledges the presence of the arts in our country and the need to protect them,” Rais said.

Malaysia’s reported efforts to promote the Tor-Tor and Gordang Sambilan drum performance — both with origins in Sumatra — as its own cultural heritage sparked protests in Jakarta in June, when a group torched Malaysia’s flag and threw stones at its embassy.

It was the latest in a series of disputes between neighboring Indonesia and Malaysia, whose citizens have often been involved in heated exchanges, especially online, over cultural claims as well as the treatment of Indonesian migrant workers in Malaysia, many of whom work as housemaids.

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