With the new year approaching, 2014 will be relegated to the year that was. But not all from the past should be forgotten, writes Kerry Ann Augustin
HERITAGE and history are a distinctive part of our cultural identity. While we have mourned the loss of various places of significance such as the candi in Lembah Bujang in 2013, Candi II, believed to be more than 1,000 years old, there are moments in 2014 that we’d like to see more of in the coming year.
Here are some of our top picks:
The coolest thing to happen in the heritage arena this year was the Star Wars Wayang Kulit.
Tools used in Iban pottery.
The Vivekananda Ashram in the heart of Brickfields is one of the most fascinating landmarks in Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysians mourned the destruction of candi in Lembah Bujang in 2013.
The coolest thing to happen in the heritage arena this year was the Star Wars Wayang Kulit. Tintoy Chuo and Teh Take Huat were the masterminds behind the creation that had ignited interest in an ancient art form which was banned in 1990 in Kelantan, where the oldest and most revered art form of its kind in the country originated from.
“In recent years, wayang kulit has been fading from mainstream entertainment. Many young people don’t get to experience this art form, or are not aware of its beauty and craftsmanship,” said Chuo. Fusing traditional wayang kulit with characters from George Lucas’ Star Wars, the duo approached Muhammad Dain Othman a.k.a. Pak Dain, Kelantan’s famed wayang kulit puppeteer to kick-start the project which has received overwhelming response.
Eurasians in Malaysia and Singapore are a small but tight knit community. For the third year running, and now a part of the prestigious George Town Festival, Eurasians around Malaysia gather to celebrate their cultural heritage at the Eurasian Fiesta. The celebrations include exhibitions on Eurasian history, food stalls manned by Eurasians who place their best family recipes on a plate, musical performances as well as cultural dances. This year also saw forums and discussion on Eurasian culture and heritage organised as part
of the fiesta.
The Vivekananda Ashram in the heart of Brickfields is one of the most fascinating landmarks in the city. Built by Jaffna Tamil immigrants in 1904, the building was in grave danger of losing its rich cultural significance with the proposal to build a 23-storey residential tower built in its place. After much public outcry, there are now plans to gazette the ashram as a heritage building.
The real power behind this important decision was the people. Much like the plans to build a multi-storey carpark right beside one of Kota Kinabalu’s remaining historical landmarks, the Atkinson Clock Tower a few years back, the collective voices of Malaysians were instrumental in keeping heritage buildings and landmarks alive.
ANCIENT ART REVIVAL
Long before the advent of containers, kettles and frying pans, the Ibans of Sarawak made their own cookware and utensils using clay. Clay jars also played a significant role in religious and cultural rituals. These sturdy, long-lasting items were not made on a potters wheel but required lengthy, tedious processes from finding the right clay to sieving, flattening and a detailed beating process.
The level of difficulty involved may be the reason the younger generation has lost interest in this ancient art of Iban pottery or Pasu Iban. However, in 2006, Iban pottery craftsman Andah Anak Lembang was named Malaysia’s Master Craftsman by Perbadanan Kemajuan Kraftangan Malaysia (Malaysian Handicraft Development Corporation). It is with the development of initiatives such as these that inspire the craftsmen and craftswomen to pass down their knowledge and preserve the art forms of their forefathers.