Ministry seeks more kids to become ‘ambassadors’ of culture, heritage as part of preservation efforts

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Dr Elena Gregoria Chai

KUCHING (Oct 23): The Ministry of Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts Sarawak is striving to run more engagement programmes on heritage awareness involving schoolchildren.

Its principal assistant secretary (Arts, Culture and Heritage) Dr Elena Gregoria Chai said this would encourage the younger generation to uphold and conserve the heritage of the state, and suggested this be done by collaborating with schools.

“One of the programmes that we are very interested in is heritage programme awareness in school.

“Because to love and preserve our own heritage, it has to come from the younger generation,” she said when met after attending the ‘Heritage Talk Series on Uncovering the Story of the Mythical Red Bridge at Kampung Seropak’, conducted by Sarawak Heritage Society at Telang Usan Hotel here yesterday.

Adding on, Chai said such effort would ensure the effectiveness of the measures taken by the state government in conserving Sarawak’s tangible and intangible heritage.

However, she also acknowledged the challenges in implementation.

“I’m an anthropologist by practice, so sometimes when I visit a longhouse or a village, the children are very interested, but they just don’t know how to start.

“Even though we no longer do some of the old practices, we should acknowledge the traditional knowledge that has been passed down from our forefathers.

“That is why we want them (children) to become the ambassadors. They should be the ones invited to come to our museums because from there, we can inculcate in them the love for culture and heritage. They should be our spokespeople.

“Unfortunately, Sarawak Museum has not done any of this talk in the school, especially on Sarawak Heritage Ordinance 2019,” she added.

Chai also pointed out the need to raise public awareness of the importance of conserving cultural heritage, both tangible and intangible.

In this regard, she observed that Sarawak had yet to make it on the National Heritage Department’s list of intangible cultural heritage.

“We have found out that on the department’s list, as of now, we have ‘Mak Yong’,‘Dondang Sayang’, ‘Silat’, ‘Pantun’ and six intangible heritage categories of songket, but none of them is from Sarawak.

“So are we saying that our 34 ethnic groups do not have any intangible cultural heritage? Not true right?”

Thus, Chai called upon all communities, including advocacy groups and professionals, to participate and work together in ensuring that any heritage conservation effort would bring significant impact and meaning not only to society, but the whole of Sarawak.

“Many activities and events organised by artistes and associations have helped promote awareness of the importance of Sarawak’s rich and diverse heritage, arts and culture.

“So we are pushing our implementing agencies to come out with a list of tangible and intangible heritage representing the 34 ethnic groups here – and we really want to see more engagement and awareness programmes being run in schools,” she added.

On the seminar, Chai said such programme would enable the community to better understand the history of their heritage sites and culture.

“We (ministry) are also working together with Sarawak Heritage Society, to encourage higher participation from the public,” she said.