New exhibition offers fresh look at Sarawak’s rich ethnic and cultural heritage


  • Community
  • Saturday, 01 Oct 2016

(From left) Nurshamilya Amira Annuar and Siti Marziana Abdul Khalid admiring the beauty of these ethnic bangles . — Photos: ZULAZHAR SHEBLEE / The Star

KUCHING: A new exhibition at the Sarawak Art Museum here offers a fresh look at the history and culture of Sarawak and its people.

Aptly called “Urang Sarawak: An Exhibition About Us”, it explores themes of culture, ethnicity, history and political development through key artefacts from the Sarawak Museum, some displayed for the first time.

It aims to showcase Sarawak’s rich ethnic and cultural heritage and to give visitors a better understanding of the state’s history and political development through the eyes of local people.

Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem says, Sarawakians will be able to recognise and appreciate themselves and their heritage through the exhibition.

“With our own artefacts on display, it reflects the fact that we are a civilised, cultured people, even in the past. I hope young people will appreciate what we were like in those days and what we will become in the days to come,” he said when opening the Urang Sarawak exhibition recently.

(From left) Nurshamilya Amira Annuar, Halmi Junaidi and Siti Marziana Abdul Khalid looking at an Orang Ulu baby carrier in the Urang Sarawak exhibition.
(From left) Nurshamilya Amira Annuar, Halmi Junaidi and Siti Marziana Abdul Khalid looking at an Orang Ulu baby carrier in the Urang Sarawak exhibition.

Assistant Tourism Minister Datuk Lee Kim Shin said the exhibition would educate the public about Sarawak’s cultural heritage and history.

“Cultural heritage is an important part of any civilisation. It needs to be preserved and conserved because it represents the values and identity of the various ethnic communities in Sarawak,” he said.

Lee noted that the Sarawak Museum, established in 1886, was the oldest in Borneo and second oldest in Malaysia.

It was set up on the advice of British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, who visited Sarawak in the mid-19th century to collect flora and fauna specimens.

The final section of the exhibition explores what Sarawak is today.
The final section of the exhibition explores what Sarawak is today.

“The museum started in 1886 at the Square Tower and moved to its present premises in 1891. Today we are building a new museum campus which will be ready before 2020.

“We have the biggest collection of Borneo artefacts and we welcome researchers who want to do Borneo studies to our museum,” Lee said.

The Urang Sarawak exhibition starts by inviting visitors to discover Sarawak’s people and culture through their cosmology, spiritual beliefs and adat, or customs, surrounding birth and childhood, marriage and death as well as the native court system and fines for offences.

The artefacts exhibited in these sections include a traditional baby carrier, wedding outfits and burial jars as well as a nifty interactive display of the omen birds of the Iban.

The Urang Sarawak exhibition is housed in the Sarawak Art Museum in Kuching.
The Urang Sarawak exhibition is housed in the Sarawak Art Museum in Kuching.

After this, visitors are taken on Sarawak’s journey from the arrival of James Brooke through to the Japanese occupation during the Second World War and the colonial era under the British to independence and the formation of Malaysia.

Interspersed here are archaeological discoveries in the state, focusing in particular on the work of former Sarawak Museum curator Tom Harrisson on the Niah Caves and Santubong.

The final section looks at the state’s achievements so far and what Sarawak is today, seen through portraits of contemporary Sarawakians and what young people think of Sarawak.

A visitor looking at a display of Iban ceremonial artefacts and spears in the Urang Sarawak exhibition.
A visitor looking at a display of Iban ceremonial artefacts and spears in the Urang Sarawak exhibition.

Interactive multimedia displays are placed throughout the exhibition, inviting visitors to explore Sarawak’s forts, archaeological sites and the state constitution. There are also screens playing archive footage of important moments in the state’s history, such as the handover to the British.

The Art Museum is open daily and admission to the exhibition is free.


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