Talk on the ‘Founding of Kuala Lumpur’ highlights city’s colourful history

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  • Friday, 04 Dec 2015

Sim (left) and Toh taking the audience on a tour of Kuala Lumpur using hand-drawn illustrations at the Founding of Kuala Lumpur talk.

BY RETRACING the footsteps of several memorable figures, a talk on the “Founding of Kuala Lumpur” acquainted a new generation of youths with the city’s exciting past through three unique perspectives.

The talk organised by Badan Warisan Malaysia (BWM) brought to light the more colourful aspects of the city’s history, said BWM executive director Elizabeth Cardosa.

“It’s a look at Kuala Lumpur and its history not from textbooks, but in the way we as a community, KL-ites and people who live in the city, interact and try to understand it in different ways from different perspectives.

“It’s our way of encouraging the sharing of local histories because all these stories contribute to the tapestry of our local culture, adding to our multicultural city,” she said.

What better way to start off than with a street-level tour using beautifully hand-drawn illustrations with two Kaki Jelajah Warisan guides, Novia Shin and Toh Chin Hong.

Faisal started off by introducing the shift in Selangor’s prominence to the building of Kuala Lumpur.
Faisal started off by introducing the shift in Selangor’s prominence to the building of Kuala Lumpur.

The informational graphic strips projected on the walls of BWM’s heritage halls depicted a brief timeline of Yap Ah Loy, also known as “Kapitan Cina”, regarded as one of the city’s founding fathers.

It begins with his arrival on Malayan soil in 1854 from China at the age of 18 and continues with his rumoured gambling issues as well as his involvement with the Hai San secret society and his underworld dealings with prostitution, racketeering and opium.

The timeline also covered the part Yap played in tin mining and the tax collection conflicts of the Selangor Civil War.

“Our tours allow people to imagine what it was like 100 years ago – how rivers were like highways in those days,” said Toh on Selangor royalty Raja Abdullah and Yap’s wanderings in the tropical forests, an area now known as Masjid Jamek.

“They are Kuala Lumpur stories told by people like you and me,” he said.

Great-granddaughter of Thamboosamy Pillay, Santa Kumari, then recounted her family history, revealing pieces of the story known only to her family.

Thamboosamy was recognised for his contribution as founder of the city’s oldest Hindu temple Sri Mahamariamman as well as his reputation as one of Victoria Institution’s original trustees.

“Just like the Chinese, families came over from their countries and brought their own deities, which sometimes belonged to their personal collection.

“He had brought the deities as a shrine for the family, not for the community; but he opened the doors to the public for everyone to pray.

“The Government then said all temples had to come under the charity act, but his family did not want to give up,” she said, relating the complications her family faced with a civil suit against the Government.

Great granddaughter of Thamboosamy Pillay, Santa Kumari recounting her family history, revealing little bits of hidden history only known to the family during the 'Founding Kuala Lumpur' sharing of knowledge organised by This KUL City in collaboration with Badan Warisan Malaysia and Think City Sdn Bhd.
Santa Kumari revealing little bits of KL’s hidden history only known to her family.

The final perspective came from Association of Tourism Training Institutes of Malaysia (ATTIM) president Faisal Abd Rahman, who tied together the pieces by introducing the shift in Selangor’s prominence to the building of Kuala Lumpur.

Tales of pirates hiding in mangrove forests and little islands made Selangor a less popular area to set up base compared to Malacca.

Faisal took participants through Sultan Abdul Samad’s era, when Kuala Lumpur was coming into prominence, elaborating on the Selangor Civil War as a catalyst.

“When relating the story of Kuala Lumpur, it’s very important for people to understand the context of the story.

“Because of the progress made in tin-mining technology in the Klang Valley, Kuala Lumpur provided the most money to the royal coffers and when the British wanted to set up the capital, they moved it up to Kuala Lumpur where the centre of economy was,” he said.

The recent talk, which was organised in collaboration with Think City Sdn Bhd and the Malaysian branch of the Royal Asiatic Society (MBRAS), is part of a series of events, including talks and tours familiarising Kuala Lumpur residents with a past forgotten and the Discover KL Tour tomorrow.

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