How you can help tell the stories of Malaysia’s two iconic hill stations


A view of Maxwell Hill (now known as Bukit Larut) in Taiping, Perak. Photo: Filepic/The Star

Are you ready to tell a tale of two hills?

Anyone who has been to Penang Hill (George Town, Penang) or Maxwell Hill (known now as Bukit Larut in Taiping, Perak) will know how stunning they are as holiday destinations.

However, many Malaysians are still unfamiliar when it comes to their backstories despite both being the earliest British colonial-era hill stations in the country.

But that will soon change with the A Tale Of Two Hills initiative, which is a community-based project to document images and historical/community stories surrounding these misty highlands.

The Habitat Foundation, a charitable trust based in Penang, and Think City, an urban impact organisation, have put together this unique four-month programme with the help of a team of mentors.

"Participants will have the opportunity to collaborate with other participants and be mentored by highly regarded photographers, researchers, and writers on a project which sets out to capture the rich tapestry of life on these hills – its people, nature, history and sense of place. The work created from this creative journey will be showcased to the public at the end of the programme," outlines a statement about the project.

The Penang Hill funicular train service, the main public transport to get up the hill station. Photo: Filepic/The StarThe Penang Hill funicular train service, the main public transport to get up the hill station. Photo: Filepic/The Star

A Tale Of Two Hills project coordinator Jeffrey Lim, recognised for his community research work and box camera photography, hopes to inspire people through this programme to bring back the essence of these historical landmarks.

“Participants will be able to discover the ins and outs of each hill station, from the cultural to historical aspects and their environmental significance. This newly acquired knowledge will give them a more well-rounded understanding of the hill stations," says Lim, 44.

“The main aim is to shine a spotlight on the importance of local perspectives in cultural heritage curation in both visual and narrative forms. Some 20 applicants will take part in the workshop series. Then a list of eight candidates will be finalised for the programme after the workshop. Shortlisted individuals will then have to put forth a proposal of their choice of Maxwell Hill or Penang Hill for review,” he adds.

Lim highlighted that successful participants, via this programme, can document the unique history, people and rhythms of life on both hills and the surrounding areas, and also showcase their artwork in exhibitions in Taiping and George Town in February 2023. Documentation of stories can be done in various forms, including paintings, films, and photographs.

Wan Atikah, an urban anthropologist and researcher from Penang, and Liew Suet Fun, a prolific writer, historian and environmentalist from Taiping, are among the other mentors involved in the programme. They will help to uncover the untold stories and shape the alter-narratives alongside the shortlisted participants.

If you want to try your hand at researching and storytelling, you can email: ataleof2hills@gmail.com (for more details) or apply for the A Tale Of Two Hills programme here.

Keep in mind that the application will close on Oct 20.

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