via The Star, 30 Mar 2019: Death by Unesco-listing is not new, and I’ve previously featured stories about the negative effects of World Heritage status to other sites in the region (see here and here).
It has been 11 years since George Town was recognised as a Unesco World Heritage site. However, the city is now paying the price for its unique status.
The numerous transformations to make it appealing to the middle class have made its original residents leave the old city for the suburbs, and this is threatening to derail its universal values.
Besides the everyday traffic, tourists arriving by the busload, especially during the holiday seasons, are making the narrow roads congested.
The designer cafes, hotels, stalls and souvenir shops that have sprouted up in recent times are not helping the situation either.
Scores of residents have moved out, selling their heritage properties to foreign investors.
Statistics by Think City, a community-focused urban regeneration organisation here, showed that traditional communities in the heritage area are fast disappearing.
via ICOMOS Malaysia: An open debate on the heritage of Kuala Lumpur on 20 April 2019.
You’re all invited to ICOMOS Malaysia’s World Heritage Day Open Debate on 20 April 2019.
As the capital city of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur sets the benchmark for urban development. Still, there are a lot more to be done for its heritage assets. Are they relevant? Do we care? What is the best way forward? Lend your thoughts on The Future of KL’s Heritage at ICOMOS Malaysia’s World Heritage Day Open Debate.
An appointed provocateur (Dato’ Ar. Hajeedar Abdul Majid) will be given 10-15 minutes to instigate the arguments, leaving the subject open to the floor for a casual debate. Although we may not be in time to end the session with a conclusion, a healthy discourse is what we need to stimulate further thoughts on Kuala Lumpur’s future.
ICOMOS Malaysia believes that participants are capable of fact-based, logical discussion of the issue without use of any abusive language and without dependence on informal or formal fallacies.
via Fountain Ink, 02 Feb 2019: Bujang Valley and Sungai Batu in Malaysia’s northern Kedah state contain some spectacular archaeological remains that hint of Indian influence in this region.
ungai Batu is just a crow’s flight from the far better known Bujang Valley, first discovered by Lt Colonel James Low, colonial administrator of the neighbouring Penang Straits Settlement, in the 1830s. Systematic excavation of the earliest sites, however, began only just before World War I by H.G. Quaritch Wales and his wife Dorothy. Bujang Valley is variously named in literary sources as Kalagam, Kilagam, Kadaram and Kataha by Tamils in India, by the Chinese as Chieh-Cha, Chia-Cha, Chi-to, Chi-ta and Kie-tcha, and by the Persians as Kalah. These names are directly linked to its iron industry because those words mean iron in different languages.
Over the decades as the work progressed, it was definitively identified as an early culture with Indic features. The name Bujang, for instance, is believed to be a variant of Sanskrit “Bhujanga”, serpent. In other words, it is Serpent Valley. More significantly, the large number of old temples (called candi) that dot the area establish its Hindu-Buddhist provenance. Finally, its location makes it highly likely that the original founders of the site were Indians, and from the south at that.
The Bujang complex lies six degrees north of the equator, the same latitude as Sri Lanka (known to Rome as Serendivis, Arabs as Serandib, and Persians as Serendip). So it was in a direct line east from Chola and Pallava country in modern Tamil Nadu. These two kingdoms have had a profound influence upon the history of Southeast Asia and in turn been influenced by it.
via Kuching In and Out, March 2019: Nicholas Gani writes about the archaeology of the Sarawak River.
The Sarawak River has played a central role in the history of Sarawak (whose name is derived from the river), and its capital, Kuching. One of the most well-known events in the history of the state occurred on the banks of the Sarawak River – the arrival of James Brooke, which opened the door for the Brooke family’s rule over Sarawak beginning 1841. Today, on both banks of the river in the vicinity of the Kuching city centre, we can see historical buildings that serve as reminders of the Brooke period; the Astana, Fort Margherita and the Old Courthouse, to name but a few examples.
From an archaeological perspective, rivers were important as ‘cradles’ of civilisations. The Sarawak River is no different in this respect. For hundreds (and possibly, thousands) of years prior to the Brooke rule, the Sarawak River and its tributaries have been home to the lives and activities of various Sarawak peoples. We can get a glimpse of the cultural antiquity of the Sarawak River by looking at the archaeological discoveries made in particular in its great river mouths, as well as in its upper tributaries, in the Santubong (or the Sarawak River delta) area, and in Bau (widely referred to in the past as Upper Sarawak), respectively.
via ICCROM, 15 Mar 2019: Free download, with some interesting chapters from Thailand and Malaysia.
Authenticity is a nebulous term within the conservation profession. The concept has historically tended to privilege materials-based approaches to conservation practice over recognizing spiritual and non-material values of a place, however, the drafting of the Nara Document in 1994 marked a shift in paradigm. Considered an important moment in the history of conservation, the Document expanded the concept of authenticity and drew attention to cultural diversity within the heritage discourse.
Although the Nara Document was developed in Asia, regional heritage practitioners have since felt the need to revisit it due to specificities and the challenges they face in conserving heritage. This book addresses the meaning and application of the concept of authenticity in a variety of contexts within Asia, presenting case studies and reflections that examine the relationship between material and intangible values. As the book illustrates, there are some instances where the historical weight of the concept of authenticity poses challenges to actual practice in the region. Sometimes international approaches and obligations may make it difficult to address the specific local cultural circumstances, and alternatively, there are instances where local practices can hinder the work of heritage practitioners in their ability to meet so-called international requirements.
via Kajo Mag, 06 Mar 2019: An overview of jar burials in Borneo.
Today, the act of putting several family members in a large tomb is still practiced by some of the Kayan and Kenyah communities in Sarawak. Except that these large wooden chambers are now made of bricks and look like small, well-decorated houses.
However, the custom of jar burial in Borneo is no longer practiced and have been replaced by the more conventional wooden casket.
via South China Morning Post, 19 Feb 2019: I’ve covered a number of stories about Malaysian nationalism and archaeology; this one focuses on the ‘who arrived first?’ question in Malaysia, with archaeology (and the Bujang Valley in particular) being one of the battlegrounds between ethnic Indians and Malays. It’s impossible to determine ethnicity through archaeology but it hasn’t stopped people from trying!
In what was seen as a response to Kulasegaran’s speech, in October the National University of Malaysia’s Institute of the Malay World and Civilisation organised a forum entitled “Polemics of Indian presence in the Malay Peninsula: Migration or Immigrants?”.
The event drew flak from the Indian community, particularly since all four panellists were ethnic Malays.
Indian students at the university objected to the forum, leading a state politician to suggest that the participation of non-Malay academics would calm the waters. In an attempt at damage control, the university changed the name of the forum to “The population and ethnic movements in the Malay Peninsula from the perspective of archaeology, culture and history”.
via Universiti Sains Malaysia, 03 February 2019: A short video of Prof Mokhtar Saidin from the Centre for Global Archaeological Research showing the Chief Minister of Penang the finds from Fort Cornwallis.