HOW does a simple Indian flower garland break down racial and linguistic barriers while instilling a love for heritage?
Or Chinese tanglung, apom, ais tingkap, phor teh hi (hand puppets) or flour figurines for that matter?
The secret ingredients were young, innocent children who saw only a lot of fun happening during the craft and food festival held in the stone courtyard of the Khoo Kongsi in Penang prior to the Heritage Heboh Street Festival last Saturday.
Chinese boys learnt how to string together jasmines and chrysanthemums to make a flower garland traditionally used by Indians to honour gods and humans while Malay girls sat learning how to paste glass paper onto a wire frame to make a Chinese tanglung (lantern) from local tradesmen.
“They learn fast! They took just an hour while I took two when I first started making garlands,” said Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling (Pitt Street) florist K. Vickneswaran, 25, adding that the children asked him a lot of questions about how to string the flowers together.
The traders were not hesitant to reveal their well-guarded trade secrets to this budding young generation.
“I wouldn't normally show people how to make my putumayam (string hoppers) because they might copy me, but I teach them (the participants) as they are children,” said Market Street putumayam seller Abdul Wahab, 48.
Batu Ferringhi popiah (spring roll) seller Yeap Cheng Siew, 52, patiently showed a bunch of girls how to swirl the dough to fluff it to the right consistency before smearing it on a flat pan over charcoal fire to make popiah skin.
“They can't really swirl the flour properly though and so the dough won't spread out nicely,” said Yeap.
Most of the children learnt about the festival because of the Heritage Heboh mascot Mr Love Lane and his side- kick Miss Love Lane who made their rounds to schools in the inner city of George Town. To participate in the free fes-tival, the children just need- ed to confirm their partici-pation.
“My mother and I thought it would be a good event so she brought me,” said Niklaus Ooi, 11, who was happily making a green and yellow flour figurine dragon.
Tan Zhen Wei, 12, who was stringing garlands with his friend Vincent Ong, also 12, said it was nice to learn something he never had the chance to try before.
The children also had the chance of printing their choice of Mr Love Lane, the Masjid Kapitan Keling mosque, a Peranakan couple or a mythical god design onto the trademark yellow DiGi's Amazing Malaysians T-shirt with co-lourful fabric dye.