DO YOU REMEMBER THE WET MARKETS on Kuching’s Jalan Gambier? Or the old prison (ex- hospital) building? Or the old Treasury offices? What about the beautiful art deco building that was Rex cinema? Or the gothic-styled former St Joseph’s Cathedral? Or Satok Suspension Bridge? Older Sarawakians most likely do but one suspects that a whole generation is growing up not knowing that these beautiful and historic structures ever existed. All these were part of our history and tangible cultural heritage. But now they exist only in memory.
With each passing year, economic development, modernisation and lifestyle changes have led to much of our tangible and intangible cultural heritage disappearing, or being neglected or simply forgotten. It is important for us to recognise this and to make urgent efforts to preserve some of our key cultural heritage assets ... BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE!
“A country without a past has the emptiness of a barren continent… And a city without old buildings is like a man without memory.”
Our Sarawakian cultural heritage defines us. It is part of who we are and where we come from. It generates a sense of belonging within a group and supports harmonious living. It also allows us to better understand past generations and the history of this fair land that we call home. Whether through an old building, a native monument or a multi-cultural art form, cultural heritage represents the SOUL OF SARAWAK and its diverse people. We need to treasure our heritage.
Visitors to Sarawak often say they come because they are fascinated by our unique culture and history. Indeed we do have a rich multi-racial culture and a colourful history. We have managed to maintain a few of our buildings in a sensitively conserved state to reflect the history and architecture of the times, such as the Old Courthouse and Darul Maziah. But if we allow the continuing ebbing away of what others we have, soon there will be little reason for visitors to come. And that will lead to a decline of our tourism industry.
SHS is launching HERITAGE QUEST, a campaign to identify our heritage assets. We are calling on YOU and all other Sarawakians and Sarawak residents to help identify 'items of significant heritage interest' - both tangible (e.g. buildings, monuments, sites, cultural landscapes, artefacts) and intangible (e.g. traditional culinary, arts, crafts and trades, songs and dances, customs and traditions) - which you think should be high- lighted for protection or conservation. We encourage you to tell us of such items with brief notes on what they are, where they are and why they are significant. Also provide us with relevant photographs. This can be done via any of the following communication channels:
SHS will then aggregate the submissions, analyse them, where necessary provide further com- mentary on them, and publish a list for the attention of the government, private sector and the public. We will lobby for the necessary measures to be taken to protect or conserve our shared cultural heritage.
The Sarawak Heritage Society (SHS) is a grassroot civic organisation. It is non-partisan, non-governmental and non-profit.
The mission of SHS is to promote the conservation, permanent preser- vation and sustainable management of Sarawak's unique cultural heritage assets, both tangible and intangible.
The vision of SHS is a Sarawak where all stakeholders value our rich and unique cultural heritage and con- tribute to its ongoing sustainable protection, conservation and management.
We hope you will participate in this project, and beyond that we hope you will join SHS as a member striving for this worthy cause – preserving our cultural heritage, promoting our Sarawakian identity.