KUCHING: Architect Graeme Shankland once said: “A country without a past has the emptiness of a barren continent; and a city without old buildings is like a man without a memory.”
With this in mind, the Sarawak Heritage Society and Urban Sketchers Kuching have put together a charming exhibition of sketches and paintings of heritage buildings in Kuching and beyond.
Fittingly, it is being held in the Old Courthouse on Main Bazaar, a historic building which was restored through the work of the society’s past president Mike Boon.
There are delightful drawings of familiar spots like the Waterfront, Chinese History Museum, Fata Hotel, Padungan and even a typical coffeeshop scene, as well as watercolour paintings of Annah Rais longhouse, Sarawak Cultural Village and more.
Also on display are sketchbooks and paraphernalia like pens, brushes and watercolour paints, giving visitors a fascinating glimpse of the artists’ work.
The exhibition is bound to inspire visitors to look at Kuching through new eyes, something the organisers hope will happen in order to raise awareness on heritage preservation.
“The Urban Sketchers’ work showcases unique views of our tangible cultural heritage and the intangible, the life inside it. This group shares the society’s love of Kuching and Sarawak’s urban landscape.
“Their work immortalises the story and images of Kuching, thereby raising awareness of it and preserving it for future generations,” the society’s president Karen Shepherd said.
She said the society’s main goal was to raise awareness of Sarawak’s rich cultural heritage, both tangible and intangible, and to work towards its preservation for the future.
She described heritage as the story of a society told through buildings, objects, practices, traditions and the lives of its people.
“Right now we are creating the heritage of the future. We build buildings that reflect both our needs and aspirations. We fill those buildings with objects that we use, objects that represent us, objects that we think are beautiful. Then we carry on our lives in those buildings, with those objects, creating practices and traditions out of them that reflect the people we are or the people we want to be.
“One day, we will pass those buildings, objects and traditions to our children they will tell our story: the way we lived, the fashions we followed, the beliefs we had and the ideals we cared about.
“This is our heritage, tangible and intangible: the story of our lives and the lives of the people who came before us. This is why we must preserve it, because if we wipe it out, then we wipe out our own collective story,” Shepherd said.
Organising chairman Anna Wee said the exhibition was held to celebrate the launch of the society’s year-long membership drive, which aimed to build awareness and engage more community participation of a shared responsibility in cultural preservation.
She said the society carried out a three-pronged role of documenting heritage buildings, sites and monuments; advocacy; and initiating involvement with government agencies towards a stronger institutional policy to conserve heritage wherever possible.
The exhibition runs until Friday and is open from 9am to 5pm.