Jewel Muscat in Port Klang

Wednesday June 30, 2010

Traditionally-built ship pays a call on Port Klang


SALEH Al Jabri, the captain of the Jewel of Muscat, was filled with delight as the replica of a 9th century dhow, or merchant sailing vessel, arrived in Port Klang as part of a five-month journey from Sultan Qaboos port in Oman to Singapore.

“Our crew of 17 men were courageous and we all pulled together to brave the treacherous waters, torrential rain and blistering heat.

“Our biggest test was when we crossed the Bay of Bengal on the way to Penang,” said the skipper who has 25-years of experience with the Omani navy.

Long journey: Saleh takes a break with the Jewel of Muscat in the background.

The Jewel of Muscat is an exact replica of the a 9th century Arab ship found shipwrecked off the coast of Indonesia in 1998 and it was hand-built with timber-and-coconut rope with not a single nail used.

Saleh, 41, said the wind was the main cause for concern throughout the journey but his 17-member crew steered the boat in a careful, calculated manner.

The ship is a joint project between the Omani and Singaporean governments and set sail from Oman on Feb 16.

It was conceived as a historical and cultural exchange after Singapore bought over 60,000 pieces of Chinese pottery that were found on the shipwrecked Arab boat off Belitung, Indonesia, over a decade ago.

Saleh said the aim of the journey was to replicate the ancient traders as closely as possible and it meant not using any modern navigational, cooking or household appliances and devices.

For the father of four, the most difficult task was keeping a look out for cargo ships and the thousands of small fishing boats they encountered on the way.

The Jewel of Muscat wiil be docked at Port Klang until June 27 before sailing off to its final destination in Singapore.

Upon arrival in the Lion City, the ship will be presented to the Singaporean people as a gift from the Sultanate of Oman.

UNESCO status for Kuching, Miri?

Seeking Unesco heritage city status for Kuching, Miri



// // SARAWAK wants to seek Unesco heritage city status for Kuching and Miri.Assistant Tourism Minister Mong Dagang told the house yesterday that a team would be sent to Malacca and Penang soon.

This was in order to meet the relevant authorities for a better understanding of the criteria for the final assessment as required under the Unesco Heritage Convention, he added.
“The ministry has also met and discussed with the National Heritage Commission early this year to assist in the technicalities,” he said in reply to a question from Aidan Wing (BN-Lambir).

Mong said that Kuching and Miri had the criteria to be listed as heritage cities but the process was very tedious and lengthy.

The ministry had taken numerous initiatives especially for the old Kuching area to be kept as a Heritage City for Sarawak
He said among the initiatives taken since last year, included a public forum jointly organised by the Sarawak Tourism Federation and Sarawak Heritage Society, to raise public awareness on heritage matters.

Meanwhile, the house was told that public transportation would soon be seen as a prominent mode of transportation in urban areas.

Under the 10th Malaysia Plan, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development has submitted a request to the Federal Government for funds to improve and revamp public transportation starting with Kuching City.
Replying to a question by Abdul Rahman Junaidi (BN-Pantai Damai), the minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said the government had already commissioned consultants to undertake a study.

He said the Kuching public transportation study, which was completed in 2005, recommended that buses remain as the backbone of the public transport system in Kuching.

Rattan mats in danger

Getting to know your kasah

Story and photos by KERNI PUAH

THE kasah or Bidayuh rattan mats are considered as works of art and fetch high prices due to a rise in demand.

However, this Bidayuh mat-making heritage is dying slowly as the new generation has no interest in learning the art.

Because of this, the kasah is being overtaken by mats from Kalimantan.

New design: Hadran showing the kasah sagah emas.

It is the most-sought-after item at the Serikin weekend market near Serian, especially among visitors from Peninsular Malaysia.

But as the mats become part of a lucrative business, their quality has declined noticeably.

The Indonesian traders seem to be out to make a fast buck due to the demand.

In the old days, when the mats were not highly valued or sought after, the craftsmanship was superior. The Bidayuhs used the mats to dry harvested padi in the sun.

The mats sold at the Serikin market is not as durable to the real kasah and should rightly be called tikar Kalimantan.

Hadran: He sells the rattan mats at the Serikin weekend market.

Buyers should learn how to tell between a good and poor-quality rattan mat.

The highest-quality mat is the sagah emas which can last between 20 to 30 years, depending on how it is used. Another type of mat is made from a low-quality rattan called kelasah, which can break easily and is not durable.

Buyers should also know of the reasonable prices for the mat, so that they don’t get ripped off.

Usually, a 10 x 12 feet mat made from sagah rattan is sold for between RM180 and RM250 a piece.

A rattan mat trader at the Serikin market said recently the mat producers had come op with a new design which could fetch up to RM250 a piece.

Trader Hadran Effendi from Seluas in West Kalimantan said the lowest price for a sagah emas mat measuring 7 x 10 feet was RM200.

Mats made of kelasah measuring 7 x 10 feet would cost about RM120 each.

On a normal weekend, there are about 12 rattan mat traders in Serikin.

Due to the brisk business, each trader rakes in thousands of ringgit in sales every weekend.

Some of them are specially weaved with black-dyed rattan.

Hadran said the colour was extracted from a wild plant called daun anyam.

He said the rattan was boiled with the daun anyam and the sap from the plant turned the rattan black.

The black rattan is used to produce designs on the kasah mats.

Home decorations: A shop in Serikin selling various rattan products including baskets.

On how to take care of a mat, Hadran said that varnish should not be applied and it should not be washed with water and detergents.

“The finished product belies the challenges of gathering the rattan. It can be arduous and dangerous and the processing is hard work,” he added.

In the jungle, the gatherers pull down the rattan in coils and sometimes dislodge wasp and ant nests. They also risk being lacerated by its spines and barbed whips. The leaves and leaf sheaves are removed by pulling them around or over a tree trunk.

While the women split the rattan, the mat weaving is usually done by the men. In the past, it was done between the rice planting seasons.

The unique design is achieved by laying split strips of rattan of about one centimetre wide, side by side. The strips are pierced and bound by braiding them with rattan fibre.

To secure the edge, the ends of the strips are crushed and plaited into a decorative border. The mats can be rolled but never folded.

A creatively woven mat will have designs that are spectacular, although of only two colours — black and beige of the undyed fibre.

Rattan mats have stood the test of time and becoming popular with modern decorators and homemakers seeking unusual, beautiful and long-lasting floor coverings.

Terengganu Stone listed with UNESCO

Our heritage etched in world memory 2010/05/26 New Straits Times

 TWO of the country’s historical documents are being evaluated to be included under the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s Memory of the World programme. The programme is aimed at preserving and disseminating valuable archive holdings and library collections worldwide. It facilitates the preservation of the world’s documentary heritage using the latest techniques and assists in universal access to documents. Heritage Commissioner Prof Datuk Dr Zuraina Majid said so far four of the country’s historical documents had been inscribed under the programme. “We have sent in two more documents for consideration this year and will know the result next year as documents are inscribed every two years.” The documents were recommended to Unesco as they were of world interest, she added. Locally, historical documents are preserved by several custodians, including the National Archives, National Library and Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka. “The most recent document to be inscribed was Batu Bersurat Terengganu (Inscribed Stone of Terengganu) last year, and the custodian is the Terengganu Museum,” Zurina said. She said the department did not collect artefacts or documents as that was the role of the National Archives and Museums Department. “We only protect and preserve tangible, intangible and natural heritage. We also conserve important buildings and sites, create awareness and promote our heritage and nominate our heritage for world heritage inscriptions.” Museums Department director-general Datuk Ibrahim Ismail said historical artefacts were well-preserved at museums nationwide, including souvenirs given to former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. “The Galeria Perdana in Langkawi houses the souvenirs and they are under conservation. Of course, the department has never sold off or given away its artefacts as they are valuable to the country.” He said besides the souvenir items, other artefacts related to Dr Mahathir’s life and his family were conserved at the Galeria Sri Perdana, run by the National Archives. Documents and artefacts belonging to other former prime ministers, such as Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, are kept in their memorials under the supervision of the National Archives. Ibrahim said the National Museum sometimes exhibited the artefacts abroad but ensured that all items were brought back home safely after the exhibitions. Read more: Our heritage etched in world memory

UNESCO Status for Kuching and Miri?

Wednesday May 19, 2010

In search of heritage Sarawak seeks Unesco status for Kuching, Sibu

SARAWAK is planning to seek Unesco heritage status for Kuching and Miri.

Assistant Tourism Minister Mong Dagang told the State Legislative Assembly that a team would be sent to Malacca and Penang soon to meet the relevant authorities to get a better understanding of the criteria for the final assessment as required under the Unesco Heritage Convention.

“The ministry has also met and discussed with the National Heritage Commission early this year to assist in the technicalities,” he said in Kuching yesterday in reply to Aidan Wing (BN-Lambir) during question time.

Mong said that in general, Kuching and Miri had the ingredients to be listed as heritage cities but the process was very tedious and lengthy.

He said several initiatives had been held since last year, including a public forum jointly organised by the Sarawak Tourism Federation and Sarawak Heritage Society, to raise public awareness on heritage matters. – Bernama

The Malaysian Songket

The Star

By Mae Chan | Sep 25, 2009

The Malaysian Songket: The Precious Gift of Heritage

Company/Seller Details

Yayasan Tuanku Nur Zahirah (YTNZ) was founded in 2007 under the Royal patronage of Her Majesty the Queen of Malaysia, Seri Paduka Baginda Raja Permaisuri Agong Tuanku Nur Zahirah. It aims to improve the lives of artisans, weavers and craftsmen by raising the level of skills and creating fair employment opportunities for them, also introducing contemporary designs and innovation in local crafts to enhance their value and to expand the Malaysian crafts market. Employing 60 weavers from both Terengganu and Sarawak in their pay-and-train scheme, the Foundation believes in empowering these weavers to be independent and all-rounded. YTNZ also supports single-mother weavers by buying songket from them as well as providing financial aid to improve and upgrade their work infrastructure. Selling their products under the Royal Terengganu Songket brand, the Foundation aims to open a flagship store in Kuala Lumpur, to educate and expose the art of songket to the Malaysian people, with plans to take this Malaysian art to the world.

Royal Terengganu Songket
Yayasan Tuanku Nur Zahirah
No.83, Jalan Telawi,
59100 Kuala Lumpur
+603 2284 8253

Songket is traditionally a luxurious hand-woven cloth, which is historically associated Malaysian royalty. Intricate patterns are painstakingly woven with gold and silver threads into silk or cotton yarns, yet the inspiration for songket often reflects the simpleness of the surrounding nature. Leaves or flowers such as the Orkid or Pucuk Rebung are common motifs. Fashioning a songket is a laborious and tedious process that requires a high level of skill, each thread repeatedly woven through a method called the supplementary weft technique to create patterns on the cloth itself.

The Terengganu songket weavers believe that the technique originated from Indian traders during the time of Srivijaya, who brought along their weaving looms and introduced it to the local people. From then, this precious art form has become an important part of the Malaysian identity.

As with most traditional art forms, songket weaving has been gradually overlooked and the number of weavers has dwindled over the years. The Yayasan Tuanku Nur Zahirah (YTNZ) is founded to address this problem, raising the standard of living for artisans and weavers as well as to create viable means to support and expand the usage of songket, making it a sustainable art.

A major achievement by the Foundation is the production of the light-weight contemporary songket that breaks away from the typically thick and stiff materials of traditional songket, its technique allowing for lighter and thinner materials to be woven without breaking. This “new generation” songket maintains the traditional elements of the art while also creating new uses such as the songket shawl and modern clothing fit for the local weather.

Apart from just producing raw materials, YTNZ also produces a wide range of products through their Royal Terengganu Songket brand, widening the usage of songket through collaboration with various designers both local and international, such as Tom Abang Saufi, Radzuan Radziwill, Melinda Looi, Jovian Mandagie, Rizalman Ibrahim, Tangoo, Pink Jambu, Annick Goutal and Bagatelle.

Through some of these collaborations, the Foundation is able to produce unique and creative home and lifestyle products, a varied range that currently includes cushion covers, place mats, table runners, songket wall panels, curtains, songket wall frame, songket chairs, gift boxes and upholstery.

Combining traditional and modern designs, these songket products are of not only great artistic value, but also a timely reminder of our proud heritage, a great gift of inspiration not only for us, but for our future generation. Passed on through Indian traders who introduced the traditional weaving looms, using fine Chinese silk brought in from the ports of Malacca, shaped by the Malay community and influenced by our surrounding nature, the art of songket weaving is a truly Malaysian legacy to be cherished.

Lacquer gift boxes (Oval Silver)

Price: RM1,800
Intricate songket gift boxes that are perfect as gifts or to add a touch of elegance to any festive occasion. Available in silver and gold, with round, oval, square and rectangular shapes.

Interview with Elizabeth Cardosa, executive director of Badan Warisan

The Star Saturday April 3, 2010

Up Close and Personal with Elizabeth Cardosa


THE Indian restaurant in Section 11, Petaling Jaya, was probably not the best place to conduct an interview. It was a hot Sunday afternoon and the place was packed, and noisy.

This has always been a favourite meeting place for a motley crew of politicians, social activists and academics who can mingle freely with the ordinary people here, unlike their counterparts who hang out at air-conditioned coffee houses in five-star hotels.

It provided the perfect backdrop for heritage crusader Elizabeth Cardosa as she spoke passionately about how we tend to glorify beauty over the ordinary, of how we treat history only as a record of things past, but not of lessons to be learnt.

(Above and below): Elizabeth Cardosa at Suffolk House, one of the success stories of heritage conservation in Malaysia. The project to restore Suffolk House is a good example of public-private partnership between the Penang state government, HSBC and the Penang Heritage Trust. Badan Warisan Malaysia was subsequently given the contract to manage Suffolk House for five years.

Having spent much of her life in cultural and heritage work, the executive director of Badan Warisan Malaysia has a naturally exuberant personality and is determined to put heritage firmly on the agenda of the masses.

She is constantly on the move, which is why it took us some months to finally meet up face-to-face. Because of her current assignment at the restored Suffolk House in Penang, we arranged for the photo shoot to be taken there instead.

Heritage work is not easy, says Elizabeth, because it is still seen as a niche cause.

There is also a tendency to equate heritage work with the grand old buildings, especially those that have been legally granted heritage status, when ordinary homes and little kampungs throughout the country have equally powerful heritage value.

According to Elizabeth, the real heritage value is not just in the physical structure, but in the stories that are part of that building and its surroundings. It is when the stories are known that people begin to understand what it is that they are seeking to conserve.

The problem, as she puts it, is that the people currently in the vicinity are often not the ones who have the real ties to the building.

“As a people, we don’t map our culture. We never map our heritage. We look for what is beautiful, but we never look at what is ordinary,” says Elizabeth. “We have to learn to appreciate little stories, but many people don’t have the means to tell their stories, So the physical manifestation in the buildings cannot come alive.”

Elizabeth uses two examples to make her point – the Bukit Bintang Girls School (BBGS) and Bok House.

“In the case of BBGS, because it was a school, it affected a lot of people, not so much as a physical building but as a place where many lives were touched,” she explains.

“As a physical structure, not many are aware that when the US embassy was being built, the architecture blended with BBGS. The eaves, the varendahs and the columns were done up in a similar style. But without the school there, that relationship is lost. The land was valuable, no doubt, but the constituents had moved out.

“For Bok House, the people who were concerned were the older ones who remembered it as the first fine dining restaurant in Kuala Lumpur.”

So people will react differently even though the core issue of heritage conservation is still the same, depending on their own experiences.

She illustrates the point further with another two examples – Pudu Jail and Carcosa Seri Negara.

“We were surprised that the plan to demolish Pudu Jail excited a lot of young people. It was discussed in their blogs. We felt that even the young people were interested in heritage. To them, this was a very real issue because Pudu Jail was a place they passed by every day so they could relate to it.

“On the other hand, very few people talked about Carcosa. In the press, Carcosa got greater coverage, especially in the business newspapers, while Pudu Jail was ignored.”

Conservationists, says Elizabeth, still has a lot to learn about how to make things relevant to people in a language that they can undertand.

She wonders if the time will come when people will get excited about heritage like they do about environmental conservation.

“People can now identify with the environment cause because it affects everyone,” says Elizabeth. “If there is a drought or the haze comes back, everyone feels it. So for the people involved in environmental issues, they can now talk about the carbon footprint or climate change and these are translated into everyday issues that the ordinary citizen can identify with.”

The key to a greater understanding of heritage, she says, must begin at an early age.

“We are not taught values in school. I love history and had good history teachers in my schooldays. But nowadays, history is simply recording things of the past but not about lessons to be learnt.”

She laments that although Malaysia is very rich culturally, we often come across as bland.

“Why can’t we be a rainbow? Why must we always be a melting pot, when everything mixes together and the outcome is a dull grey?”

By her argument, an understanding of our diversity will invariably lead to an appreciation of our heritage, in both the grand and the ordinary.

And what about the role of government and Corporate Malaysia?

Elizabeth is optimistic.

She sees an increasing awareness and commitment on the part of governments, especially at the local council levels, where organisations like Badan Warisan are able to work together.

“The government is supportive in many ways,” she says. “But we also understand that as long as heritage conservation is seen as a niche thing, it will always rank behind bigger issues like education, poverty eradication. Our job is to collaborate with them and share our research.”

As for Corporate Malaysia, she notes that some companies already see heritage conservation as a social responsibility that transcends economic opportunities. This is a form of CSR, she says, and the challenge is to let them realise that they can own property that may not be on the heritage list but are heritage property, nevertheless.

Elizabeth believes strongly that society is what you build, and if you, as a corporate entity, do not contribute to helping build it, you won’t have much to speak of at the end of the day, “You will have money, but no soul,” she declares.

She cites the example of Stadium Merdeka and how it was thankfully saved from being taken down to make way for a massive commercial development.

“We have to give Tun Ahmad Sarji Abdul Hamid (former Chief Secretary to the Government, and now president of Badan Warisan) credit for saving the two stadiums and restoring them to their former glory,” she says.

“Can you imagine preserving such a heritage site only on a video clip? You tell your children about our independence being declared at Stadium Merdeka, and you can’t show them the stadium.”

To Elizabeth, if even such an important monument can be at risk, what more the ordinary but meaningful heritage sites that dot the length and breadth of the country.

Away from work, spending time with her lawyer husband and their two children, a son, 21, and a daughter, 17, is a wonderful way to relax.

“I read and also go walking with friends… the usual things,” she laughs.

“I am glad that my children understand and appreciate the work I am doing. My son used to complain that everywhere he goes, people ask about his famous mother.

“My husband gives me valuable insights into weighing the needs of conservation with the property rights of the individual.”

I could not resist asking her, at the end of the interview, about her equally famous sisters, Jane and Mary.

She laughs out loud. “They tell me that when they meet people, they are always asked about Elizabeth. Of course, the reverse is true, and I am often asked about them.”

Jane is a professor of virology at University Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) while Mary is an anaesthesiologist at Selayang Hospital. Which is why, for the purpose of this story, we are using Elizabeth instead of Cardosa.

Tea with Datuk Ibrahim bin Ismail 24 May 10am

Monday 24 May 10 am Dataran Muzium  (outdoor shaded area between Muzium Negara and National Museums Department)

Datuk Ibrahim bin Ismail, Director-General, National Museums Department

Come and meet Director-General Datuk Ibrahim Ismail, National Museums Department, Ministry of Information, Communication and Culture. This is your opportunity to ask questions and learn about future plans the National Museums Department has for working with the MVM.

Please do come. Chrissy needs numbers for catering purposes so email her if you are attending.

Visit to Yogyakarta, Borobodur and Prambanan

Visit to Indonesia

In March, seven intrepid MVMers flew off on AirAsia to Yogyakarta in Central Java. We spent two nights in Yogyakarta and visited two major UNESCO sites – the Prambanan complex of Hindu Temples and the Buddhist stupa and temple complex of Borobudur. We also visited the Kraton or royal palace of the Hamengkubuwono Sultanate, in the centre of Yogyakarta. This is the last remaining Sultanate in Indonesia.

Wow! What a cultural feast we had. The two UNESCO sites are quite different in style with the Hindu Prambanan temple complex being a collection of sharp, jaggedly sculpted towers in contrast to the vast horizontal bulk of Buddhist Borobudur. However, they both date from approximately the same period, around the middle of the Ninth Century AD. Both were also forgotten and swallowed up by the jungle until colonial explorers relocated them in the Nineteenth Century. And both are a reasonably short drive from Yogyakarta.

We climbed up Borobudur for sunrise, which was totally magical.  Even though Borobodour is the biggest tourist destination in Indonesia, there were only a dozen other people watching the sun come up.

Please enjoy the pictures, courtesy of MVMer Karen Loh.

Lorien Holland

Early morning at Borobodur
Zahara and See Ting watching sun rise at Borobudur

Prambanan Temple Complex

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