Exhibit retraces a Frenchman’s journey, surveying tin mining prospects in old Perak


  • Arts
  • Thursday, 23 Jan 2020

A visitor reading Jacques de Morgan's book during the recent launch of the exhibition 'Jacques de Morgan - Exploring Perak In 1884' in Kuala Lumpur. The show celebrates the drawings and notes from the French archaeologist Jacques de Morgan. Photo: Bernama

When French archeologist Jacques de Morgan arrived in Perak in 1884, his tin mining expedition started around the Perak River and covered the entire stretch right to the Pattani border.

He was only 27 when he began his work in Perak, a state which had the richest alluvial deposits of tin in the world back then. The young Frenchman's observations and notes while prospecting for tin mines lives on till this day - in the form of his drawings and notes from his journal.

The public can now get a glimpse of his impressions of Perak - from the natural environment to the wildlife and the local populations - at the Jacques de Morgan - Exploring Perak In 1884 exhibition, now on at the Alliance Francaise de Kuala Lumpur (AFKL).

Landscapes of mountains, caves, rivers and mangroves, as well as portraits of the people he met along the way, are among some of the exhibits in this showcase.

“His notes are still relevant to today’s Malaysia because they are among the few written sources available to us today, to understand in more detail the history of Perak and in particular the history of the orang asli populations, ” says Frédéric Laplanche, French Ambassador to Malaysia.

A Chinese ink drawing by Jacques de Morgan showing a Senoi longhouse. The forest has been cleared around the spot and it is probably planted with cultigens. Photo: Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS)A Chinese ink drawing by Jacques de Morgan showing a Senoi longhouse. The forest has been cleared around the spot and it is probably planted with cultigens. Photo: Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS)

It offers food for thought on how French tin mining companies, including the one started thanks to de Morgan’s survey, were pioneers among European investors in the region in the late 19th century.

The exhibition, organised by the embassy and AFKL, will run until March 11 in Kuala Lumpur.

It will travel to Perak in the second half of the year.

“I am sure that the people of Perak will find it very interesting to compare these drawings of their home state, made 140 years ago, with today’s environment. My dream is that one day we will have a Jacques de Morgan Heritage Trail in Perak, it would be a great experience to be able to walk in the footsteps of de Morgan!” says Laplanche.

Jacques de Morgan - Exploring Perak In 1884 is on at Alliance Francaise de Kuala Lumpur, Lorong Gurney in Kuala Lumpur till March 11. Opening hours: 9am-5pm daily (Tuesday to Saturday). Closed on public holidays. Free admission. Call 03-2694 7880. Facebook: Alliance Francaise de Kuala Lumpur.

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