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Celebrating Kuching’s culture and heritage

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THE Rainforest Fringe Festival has become a firm fixture on Kuching’s calendar of events ever since it burst onto the scene in 2017.

Back for its third edition this past week, the festival was packed with all manner of events and activities related to arts, culture and heritage, from music and storytelling performances to exhibitions, talks and art installations.

In short, there were so many things happening and no time to see them all, but what I did manage to catch was generally worthwhile.

For a start, the “Over Sarawak” exhibition by photojournalist David ST Loh at the UOB Building displayed some striking shots of notable landmarks and less-well-known scenes in Sarawak, including a number of images taken directly from above with a drone.

I had the opportunity to interview Loh and he said his aim was to show people a different perspective of the places that they think they know, and through that to inspire a deeper appreciation of Sarawak’s beauty and rich culture.

“I want to show people something they’ve not seen before. So you won’t find me shooting a scene that everyone can see.

“That’s why I took up drone (photography) because immediately it gives you a different perspective,” he explained.

A personal highlight was the Museum of Kuching at the Old Court House, a pop-up exhibit tracing Kuching’s journey from the time of James Brooke’s arrival to its present-day status as the state capital.

What stood out was its clever use of augmented reality (AR) to enhance the viewing experience, including an animation of James Brooke speaking about Sarawak and archive footage of the centenary celebration of Brooke rule in 1942, the handover to British colonial rule and the proclamation of Malaysia’s formation in 1963.

Viewed on tablets handed out to visitors, the AR portions brought history to life and gave an intriguing glimpse of Kuching’s past.

The good news is that the Museum of Kuching is not just a festival event but will become a permanent exhibition. It is currently in the process of inviting Kuchingites to record and share their stories and memories of their city, to be displayed in the permanent museum.

In the final panel in the Museum of Kuching, we read this: “Today, Kuching is a hub of creative industries, arts, culture and heritage, and a tourism hotspot for those seeking something a little bit different. Major community festivals have taken root – the Rainforest Fringe and What About Kuching festivals are helping to curate for the community and visitors what it means to be a Kuchingite today.

In concert with this, the younger generations are now beginning to return and settle here in their hometown, reversing a trend of outward migration and bringing with them a sense of vibrancy and civic pride.”

This optimism sums up what the Rainforest Fringe Festival and similar events are about – preserving and celebrating heritage but also encouraging creativity and innovation so that our cultural traditions live on and remain relevant.

More importantly, all this creative energy should be first and foremost be directed at local needs and interests, rather than focusing solely on visitors. Because it’s when the local community appreciates and enjoys our own heritage and culture that we can preserve and sustain it for generations to come.

[Source: “Celebrating Kuching’s culture and heritage” published by The Star Online]

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