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The Brooke Gallery, Fort Margherita and the new “Urang Sarawak” exhibition at the Sarawak Museum opened in September, just 4 days apart. Both are valuable additions to the Sarawak history and heritage scene. See our articles of 29 Oct. and 31 Oct. 2016, respectively, on these exhibits.

The Sarawak Government intends to gazette the historic Siniawan old Chinese settlement and neighbouring Buso bazaar, near Bau town, as ‘heritage areas’:  “The Museum Department would gazette the shophouses in Buso as heritage buildings, which means any repairs or upgrading works must have approval from the department”, and the Museum Department has been instructed to look at a specific old Buso wooden house, reported the press. The project, which has been in the pipeline for several years, to develop a visitor heritage destination on the site of the ex-Rajah Brooke bungalow, where the naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace stayed,  atop Bukit Serumbu (also known as Bung Muam, in Bidayu language, and as Bukit Peninjau), at an altitude of some 420m,  was also recalled. It is worthwhile here to recall that the emergence of Siniawan as a heritage site was greatly leveraged by a 2009-2011 community engagement programme led by Sarawak Heritage Society former President, architect Mike Boon. (see  our article “Heritage revival ‘done right’ : the Siniawan story“, 15 Nov. 2014). [“Old Siniawan to be gazetted as “Heritage Area”- Borneo Post, 17 Sept 2016 (no weblink available); “Preserving our heritage” The Star, 8 Oct. 2016; “Ministry making Siniawan tourism attraction – Abg Jo” Borneo Post online, 1 Nov. 2016; “Buso to be a heritage town” Borneo Post online, 31 Oct. 2016]

Sarawak’s Deputy Chief Minister in charge of Tourism, Arts and Culture also pushed for more heritage buildings to be listed: “When we find that a building is rich in historical value, we will declare it a heritage building and it will be managed together by the owner and the museum”, he said at a function.  [“More historical buildings to be preserved” The Star online, 1 Nov. 2016]

The Borneo Post relayed a renewed call for action by the divers community to protect the threatened WW2 Japanese shipwrecks off Santubong. As mentioned in our previous edition of this bulletin, our understanding is that the shortcomings of the existing Sarawak Cultural Heritage Ordinance 1993 in dealing with underwater heritage have led to a proposal to intervene through the regulations on natural heritage by extending the perimeter of Talang/Satang and/or Santubong National Parks to include the maritime area which houses the shipwrecks. It was however mentioned later, in this regard, that, as the sites are further than 3 nautical miles away from the shoreline, the question comes under the purview of the Federal Government rather than the Sarawak regulations on the protected natural areas. [“Save Japanese WW2 shipwrecks, govt urged”, website showing Borneo Post article 31 Aug 2016]

The Sarawak Museum launched a call for applications to one year post-PhD fellowships to help annotate collections and assist in capacity building. This is part of the New Museum Campus project. 12 fellowships are available and applications are to be submitted by end of November 2016. Earl of Cranbrook Gathorne Gathorne-Hardy, honorary curator of mammals at the Museum, pledged RM100,000 for a zoo-archaeology fellowship – one of the areas where local skills are missing; his pledge was matched by the McDonald Institute of Archaeology and St John’s College, Cambridge. [“Sarawak welcomes foreign help to annotate state museum exhibits”  New Straits Times online, 28 Sept. 2016; “Sarawak Museum Campus receives RM200,000 in pledges” Borneo Post online, 15 Oct. 2016; “Sarawak Museum eyes 12 fellowships”, The Star online, 15 Oct. 2016]

Interestingly, the publication of the request for applications for the fellowships on the Asia-Europe Museums website showed the design of the new Sarawak Museum Campus under construction. That image is probably the first publicly available of the building. We let readers make their opinion on the coherence of the architecture with the historic museum building, across the road, and with Sarawak’s culture. “Like”?

Also noted:

The “Teripun” a new Kelabit community museum and cultural centre was inaugurated in Bario at the occasion of the Bario Food and Cultural Festival (Pesta Nukenan Bario) end of July 2016. It is a two-storey wooden building, situated on the main square of Bario town. For the opening it housed two exhibitions, one on the Cultured Rainforest project and one on Tom Harrisson (who parachuted into Bario in WW2 and directed “Operation Smut”). The Harrison exhibit was designed and donated by Malaysia Architect Association (PAM) Sarawak Chapter. The Teripun is a Rurum Kelabit Sarawak (RKS) and Bario Youth project. [“Teripun a reminder of Kelabits’ roots”, Borneo Post online, 14 Aug 2016]

Media reported that the The Bung Bratak heritage centre project is due for completion on May 2017. “This RM8 million Bidayuh historical cum tourism centre at 1,000 feet of Bung Bratak (Mt Bratak) in Bau is financed by the federal Ministry of Tourism and Culture and is being built by Sarawak JKR,”, recalled the Bung Bratak Heritage Association. (see our Nov. 2015 and March 2016 Misc. Heritage News bulletins for our previous mentions of this ambitious project) [“Bung Bratak Heritage Centre for completion by May 2017”, Borneo Post, 6 Oct. 2016]

The second edition of the Kuching Heritage Race has been announced for 14 Jan. 2017. The event is organised by a group of individuals with support of tourism and heritage entities.

Treasure trove? Some old Sibu photos from the collection gathered by the Photographic Society of Sibu were published in the Borneo Post in its Malaysia Day 2016 supplement.  [“Old Sibu – History and heritage through snapshots”, Borneo Post online, 16 Sept. 2016]

A Heritage Workshop for some 40 tourist guides took place in Sibu, focusing on the town’s heritage. The workshop was a collaboration between Sarawak Tourist Guides Association (STGA) and Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture Sarawak. [“40 tourist guides take to heritage trail in Sibu” Borneo Post online, 7 Oct. 2016]


No sex please, he’s…”, The Star online, 21 Sept. 2016: on the misfortunes of past film projects on the Brooke Rajahs.

Heritage at risk: our traditional foods”, Borneo Post online, 25 Sept. 2016 – a column raising alarm over the impact of globalisation on Sarawak’s traditional foods. But, are these really threatened?

Traditional languages need to be preserved: “We need to see our cultural heritage, including our languages, as the foundation of our identity to be developed, nurtured and preserved,” said Sarawak’s Chief Minister at a Malaysian Indigenous Peoples’ Conference on Education [“Adenan: Preserve indigenous languages” The Star online, 21 Sept. 2016; “Dr Sim: Preserve Chawan dialect to safeguard heritage” Borneo Post online, 10 Oct. 2016]

The report, in The Star, of an excursion to Mount Jagoi by a group of students is a reminder of this valuable natural and cultural heritage site located close to Kuching and looked after by the Jagoi Area Development Committee.  [“A brisk climb up Mount Jagoi” – The Star online, 14 Jul. 2016]


3 Aug. 2016: FORMADAT (Alliance of the Indigenous Peoples of the Highlands of Borneo, a grassroots organisation) and WWF held a story telling event in Kuching to promote the book “Highland Tales in the Heart of Borneo” documenting cultural heritage. The book was published in 2015. [“Story-telling event held to promote book on Borneo native communities” – The Star online, 26 Jul. 2016; “Keeping old tales alive” The Star online, 6 Aug. 2016; “Highland tales from the heart of Borneo” Borneo Post Seeds, 3 Sept. 2016]

13 Aug. 2016: Sarawak Heritage Society public talk on the ancient pagan rites of the Bisingai (Mount Singai) people by Prof. Andrew Alec Tuen (professor at the UNIMAS Institute of Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation) and Boniface Dowell (former RTM broadcaster).

17 Aug. 2016: “Of forgotten Forts, Facebook and Newfound Friends”: A community engagement project using digital media to document heritage in the Bario highlands was presented at a “Sharing my Passion” session of Museum Shop and Café.  Swinburne University’s “Digital Media and Indigenous Heritage” project mobilises students of the Business and Design Faculty, Sarawak campus and Swinburne Melbourne. The project “aims to empower the local communities to share their histories, songs, traditions, beliefs, objects, stories, folklore and individual perspectives to the rest of the world through digital media”, presented Dr Christine Horn from Swinburne Melbourne. Aurelia Liu, Master degree student at Swinburne, works on a similar pilot initiative on quarters of old Kuching: develop a tailor-made ‘app’ to facilitate and structure information flows on history and intangible heritage on social networks. [“Unlikely partners – heritage and digital media”, Borneo Post online, 7 Aug 2016]

20 Aug. 2016: Friends of Sarawak Museum (FoSM) and Sarawak Museum Dept “Afternoon@Museum” session on postage and revenue stamps and other documents, 1869-1949, by Dr Ong Liap Teck, President of the Philatelic Society Kuching Sarawak.

3 Sept. 2016:Japanese Occupation of Sarawak before, during and after the Second World War”, a Persatuan Pegawai Akademik Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS Academic Staff Association) talk by Edward Lakin Mansel, who has done an extensive private research on the Sarawak history pertaining to the Japanese Occupation.

5 Sept.-2 Oct. 2016: The Urban Sketchers Kuching, who love drawing heritage buildings and scenes, held their 4th anniversary exhibition at the Old Court House, Kuching.

7 Sept. 2016: Malaysia Nature Society Kuching (MNSK) and FoSM public talk by Jayl Langub (Associate Research Fellow at the Institute of Borneo Studies, UNIMAS and WWF- Malaysia Trustee) on the traditional salt making industry of the Bario highlands.

29 Sept 2016: “Capturing Traditional knowledge”, a FoSM talk by Margarita Naming, from the Sarawak Biodiversity Centre, on their methodology to record traditional knowledge associated to biodiversity resources.

18 Oct. 2016: “I am Ali Wallace”, another FoSM event: Honorary curator of the Sarawak Museum Earl of Cranbrook Gathorne Gathorne-Hardy, presented a short documentary film showing behind the scenes shots of the making of an Indonesian documentary on Ali, who was naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace’s assistant. The presentation was filled with hilarious English sense of humour. Reliable historical documentation on Ali being scarce, reconstructing his identity and life remains subject to several, not always converging assumptions. “Film features Alfred Russel Wallace’s field assistant” Borneo Post online, 21 Oct. 2016]

Readers comments are welcome.