KUCHING: Telling the story of a great lady who came from outside Sarawak, fell in love with Sarawak and became a ‘native’ of Sarawak and what that means to us, is to love our culture, says Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development Minister Dato Sri Fatimah Abdullah.
She was referring to the legend and legacy of Margaret de Windt, also known as the Ranee Margaret of Sarawak.
Margaret de Windt at age 19 married the second Rajah of Sarawak and embraced a new life as queen of this remarkable kingdom, a role she fulfilled for almost a century (1849-1936).
Fatimah, who toured the Ranee Museum, housed at the historic Old Court House here yesterday, said she came to find out for herself about this great lady who came to Sarawak and became a native of Sarawak itself.
“The Ranee is one great lady who embraced the local culture, and appreciated the local culture. Through the exhibitions here, we see her contributions not just about culture, but education and the artefacts that she left behind and became a legacy.
“She was such a multi-talented woman, very strong character, she just didn’t sit pretty but she actually took her role very seriously and made sure that the beauty and culture of Sarawak is being appreciated.
“She recorded it and then she developed it further and apart from that, she was also a motivator to the local people at that particular time,” Fatimah said during the tour, accompanied by the director of the Brooke Trust & Brooke Museums, Jason Desmond Anthony Brooke.
From every exhibit that is being displayed, the Ranee, she added, gave inspirations and motivation to women at that point of time, who later became women leaders.
“Although she is no longer around, her legacy is continued by her generations.
“These have been the best contributions from someone who doesn’t come from Sarawak but when she arrived here, she took her role as the Ranee seriously.
“Because she was multi-talented, she used her expertise to ensure that what she felt important in terms of Sarawak culture and heritage could be documented which later became a history for all of us until to this very day, and these culture and heritage mean a lot to Sarawak.
“When she went back to England, she still wore her ‘Kebarung’ (a mix of Kebaya and Baju Kurung),” Fatimah said, and added that the tour was priceless and her experience through the gallery had truly inspired her.
“If the Ranee could be an example, why can’t our women from Sarawak be like the Ranee to preserve our culture and heritage for the next generations to come especially in doing a local Malay shawl (known as Keringkam) which must be continued by the families of the ‘Keringkam’ crafts, Kebarung, and Songket Sarawak,” she added.
The small Ranee Museum at the Old Court House tells the life of the Ranee whilst in Sarawak, a multi-talented and powerful and a strong woman on her own.
“Not so much focus on the Ranee herself and I think what I learnt from the subject, is how extraordinary this woman was, the way she approached life in Sarawak, setting up European community here and embracing the culture, respecting and loving the culture, and this thing lives on in her textiles,” said Brooke.
The Ranee Museum is open from 9am to 4.45pm from Monday through Sunday, including public holidays.
Further information can be obtained from www.brookemuseums.org or www.brooketrust.org