Let’s Talk Heritage: Preserving Place Names for their Cultural and Historical Contexts; Kampung Kerinchi – A Case in Point
The print and social media was all abuzz following the proclamation ceremony on 19 January 2019, when the urban settlement of Kampung Kerinchi which started in 1870s was declared to return to its original name, thus shedding its ‘up-market’ alias of “Bangsar South”, which nevertheless remains the name of one of the developments in the area.
Badan Warisan heartily welcomes this move; we believe it is high time Malaysians are more cognisant of the cultural, historical and communal contributions that have made Kuala Lumpur what it is as usually expressed in the original name of a place. We also advocate for the authorities responsible for the naming of areas and roads to take a stronger stand against approving names (and especially name changes) to support the gentrification rationale to ameliorate against the “inferior” connotation of the term “kampung”.
The coordination of geographical naming activities in this country is undertaken by the Malaysian National Committee on Geographical Names (MNCGN), which was established in 2002. At the state level, State Committees on Geographical Names (SCGN) are established to coordinate and implement the guidelines and procedures formulated by MNCGN. For the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, the state committee is chaired by the Secretary General of the Federal Territories Ministry and its members comprise representatives from various government agencies, regulatory and enforcement bodies, including Kuala Lumpur City Hall, as well as private organisations and non-governmental organisations. This committee decides on the naming of areas, streets, including for new developments in Kuala Lumpur, and where a name is proposed by the developer, the committee takes into consideration the rationale for the name.
Kampung Kerinchi was formerly perceived as a squatter area and over the years much of the land here was bought over by developers, who branded their new developments with names of the more well-heeled neighbourhoods such as Bangsar (and in other areas, Damansara, Kiara, etc.) to widen their attraction.
The names of places do not exist in a vacuum; they have historic context and connections with ties to collective memories, sentiments, feelings and past. The naming of a place presents its identity and it reflects its roots and the communities who first settled in and developed the area. This significance is lost when names of places are changed.
Badan Warisan’s resources show that Kampung Kerinchi’s roots are closely linked to Kampung Abdullah Hukum. Kampung Abdullah Hukum was opened by Indonesian pioneer Abdullah Hukum, who came to Kuala Lumpur in the mid-1850s from Kerinchi, West Sumatra. Abdullah led the Kerinchi community who had accompanied him here, and eventually settled on Bungsar Road (now Jalan Bangsar) in what had come to be known as Kampung Abdullah Hukum. As an aside, we hope that Kampung Abdullah Hukum does not get “lost” in the regeneration of the area and becomes only known as KL Eco City!
While Kuala Lumpur’s official boundaries up to 1924 included Kampung Abdullah Hukum, it was only enlarged in 1954 to include this area of Kampung Kerinchi. It is noteworthy that Kampung Kerinchi was identified in the Kuala Lumpur Structure Plan 2000 as an urban renewal or redevelopment area, but its redevelopment in fact goes back to the 1990s, a decade or more before the Bangsar South development started.
Read: Know about the KL’s Cultural, History contribution, urges expert – New Straits Times, 2 February 2019.
ABOUT THE TALK
Brickfields is a diverse neighbourhood with dozens of religious institutions, schools, associations as well as social and welfare organizations within a square mile, all with a history of more than a century. It is in serious threat of rapid change and is at odds with its own past and its future.
Brickfields: As Witness explores the changing image of this neighbourhood through Mano’s eyes. He fears that Brickfields will no longer reflect that colour and become just a giant communication “go-to/come-from place”.
This narrative will also uncover the stories he has experienced as an inmate of this colorful suburb.
ABOUT THE SPEAKER
An actor, director, teacher and voice over artist, Mano Maniam is well known for his roles as Uncle Chan in the local TV series ‘Kopitiam’ and as Moonshee in Hollywood’s ‘Anna and the King’.
As a cultural anthropologist, he is curious on examining how cultures merge, collide and intertwine. Brickfields has become the center of his curiosity and observation.
Having lived in Brickfields for over 30 years, Mano has seen the land and peoplescape change, unsure of its destiny.
ABOUT THE SPEAKER:
Statement by Badan Warisan Malaysia on the Revocation of Heritage Site status of MaTIC by Jabatan Warisan Malaysia
The notification in the NST on 28 December 2016 from Jabatan Warisan Negara (JWN) to revoke the designation of the “Old Building of Malaysia Tourism Centre (MaTIC)” as a heritage site raises many concerns and issues.
Law does not Provide for Revocation of Heritage Site Status
First, the section 31 (2) of the National Heritage Act 2005 (Act 645) which was cited in the Notice describes the process for designation of a heritage site. It does not deal with revocation of a gazetted site. And we understand that this site which comprises Lots 45 and 139 (Section 58) and part of Lot 158 (Section 57) was gazetted (Gazette Number P.U. (B) 290) as “Warisan” on the National Heritage Register on 16 June 2016. The criteria for listing specified in documents from JWN refers to its historical importance as well as its architectural and aesthetic character.
The National Heritage Act (NHA) does not have any provision for revocation of gazettal of a heritage site. Therefore, it would appear that unless the NHA is amended to allow for this, it is questionable if the Commissioner has the power to revoke a site which has already been gazetted; i.e. is this revocation ultra vires the Act?
Significance of the Heritage Site
So what can we find on Lots 45, 139 and the part of 158 which is identified in the Notice as MaTIC?
Lot 45 is used as a car park which services the tourism centre.
There is a modern five storey building housing the KL Tourism Office on the part of Lot 158 which has been gazetted.
Lot 139 is by far the largest lot. There are several other buildings on this lot, including the house of wealthy business tycoon Eu Tong Sen and the Dewan Tunku Abdul Rahman. In keeping with the social standing of the owner Eu, many social activities were held in this house from the time it was built (1935) until the start of World War II. During WWII, it was used by the British, and then the Japanese army as a war office. In 1956, it was acquired and renovated by the government of Malaya, and in 1957, the installation of the first Agong was held there. In 1958 a conference hall, the first air conditioned hall in Kuala Lumpur, was added at the rear of the building.
In 1959, the first meeting of Parliament of the independent Malaya was held there. Following the building of the new Parliament House, by the early 1970s the original house and hall were converted to house the National Art Gallery for the next decade or so. In the 1980s and 1990s several new blocks were added; these include Saloma Bistro and retail stores serving visitors and tourists. In the mid 1980s, the conference hall was converted into a theatre. This ensemble of buildings that has served as the Tourist Information Centre for over 20 years is now known as MaTIC.
NHA and New Development Initiatives on a Heritage Site
Then there is the issue of new development on a heritage site. It is important to note that there is nothing in the NHA which precludes new development. As in the case of all applications for planning permission, owners will have to comply with guidelines and conditions imposed by the local authority – in this instance it will be Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur (DBKL). When it comes to gazetted heritage sites however, there will be additional guidelines and conditions imposed by JWN in line with provisions found in paragraphs 40, 41 and 42 of the NHA, all of which could potentially affect the scale and nature of the proposed development. This would include the provision of a 200 meter “buffer” from the site boundaries for any new development to mitigate against any (negative) impact on the heritage values of the gazetted building and/or site.
One could speculate that this revocation is to redress the fact there are no heritage buildings on Lots 45 and 158, and therefore the gazettal should not have covered these two lots, only Lot 139 which has heritage properties. If this were the case, it would also beg the question why the Gazette in June 1026 included all three lots.
One would definitely expect a high level of rigour as well as resources in all endeavours to undertake the gazettal of any heritage site. The NHA provides for the process to include notification to the owner/s, an objection period, hearing and eventually, the decision to, or not to, designate a heritage site; and all along the way, there are clear steps to ensure the public are notified of these decisions in the printed press. This process takes time, and it has been our past experience that JWN does not take this responsibility lightly.
Badan Warisan Malaysia believes it is critical to understand the implications and legal ramifications of this Notice to revoke the designation as heritage of MaTIC.
Due process of the law has to be followed for the future protection of heritage sites in Malaysia.
Badan Warisan Malaysia
30 December 2016
Save My Heritage Initiative (#SMHI) is a platform created by Badan Warisan Malaysia to extend our message of heritage appreciation and conservation and to promote the significance and value the tangible and intangible cultural heritage of Malaysia.
Working with cultural practitioners, heritage professionals and educators, #SMHI will introduce a varied programme with opportunities for people of all ages from school children, students, academics, professionals and the general public to participate in, and enhance their understanding and knowledge of our heritage. Activities will include talks and lectures, walks and visits to heritage places, training workshops, seminars and events for a wide audience to better understand and be involved in caring for their heritage.
Badan Warisan Malaysia has been championing our nation’s built and cultural heritage since 1982. Our role has been that of a civic trust, building preservation advocate, heritage consultancy and charitable institution with the mission to Educate, Engage and Empower our fellow Malaysians.
To complement and amplify our objectives we will soon launch a new website called SAVEMYHERITAGE.ORG which is an informative and interactive platform where the public can identify heritage assets under threat and generate support for them.
The series of talks and live presentations around the theme Save My Heritage will kick off on 30 July 2016 with Restoring Fort Alice by Ar. Mike Boon.
Talk By Dr Sandra Khor Manickam “Mr. Inquisitive”: Ivor H. N. Evans’ life in the Malay Peninsula and Borneo
“Mr. Inquisitive” was the title given by anthropologist Ivor H.N. Evans (1886-1957) to his autobiography before he changed it to the more straightforward title, “The Years Behind Me”. Housed in the University of Cambridge’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology archives, the manuscript has never been published.
Now, in conjunction with NIAS Press, an annotated version of the memoir relating to his travels in Malaya and Borneo is planned for future publication along with illustrations and maps where available. Evans has left an indelible mark on scholarship relating to Malaya and Borneo with his anthropological works on both areas and his involvement with the Federated Malay States Museums and journal. This talk will discuss selected chapters of his autobiography, what insights it brings to the workings of British Malaya and Borneo, and the complications of using biography to elucidate history.
About the Speaker:
Dr Sandra Khor Manickam is a historian of colonial Malaya, with an emphasis on the history of ideas of race and colonial anthropology of indigenous peoples, and the history of the Japanese occupation of Southeast Asia. She is currently Assistant Professor of Southeast Asian History at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore and has held positions as Junior Professor in the Department of Southeast Asian Studies, Goethe University of Frankfurt am Main, Germany and Visiting Fellow in the Department of History, National University of Singapore. Her book, Taming the Wild: Aborigines and Racial Knowledge in Colonial Malaya (NUS Press) was published in 2015. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Many architectural heritages look back at a long and complex history. For example, during the colonial history, the old town of Malacca had been changed in particular by the Portuguese and by the Dutch.
These spatio-temporal changes of buildings and other built in structures as well as man-made environmental modifications are documented in cartographic works (maps and map like illustrations), old paintings and drawings, as well as historical documents such as books, diaries, treaties, letters and charters.
They involve not only changes of building geometries, but also semantic alterations as property owner, building usage, etc. But how can we make this information adequately understandable by the general public? A visual 3D representation of such evolving information can be one of the most appropriate and effective methods to communicate this history.
This talk by Dr Stefan Peters will highlight 3D modeling and reconstruction approaches for spatial heritages, choosing roman cities (Noma, Neapel, Nemi) and the historical town of Malacca as study cases. A special focus will be on procedural modeling, 3D cartographic web rendering, reconstruction uncertainty, and geocoded images in 3D. The presentation demonstrates technical perspectives and limitations.
About the Speaker:
Holding a PhD in Cartography, a Diploma Engineering Degree in Geodesy and Geoinformation, and a professional ‘Surveying and Catastre’ training certificate, Stefan Peters has a strong educational background in geographic data acquisition, geodata modelling, database management, data analysis, information retrieval, and cartographic visualization including web mapping.
With over 15 years of working experience in the field of Geomatics and Geoinformatics, specialising in geospatial data analysis and visualization, he has actively participated in various projects related to geological, land cover, land use, atmospheric and climate applications.
Dr Peters was Senior Lecturer at the Department of Geoinformation at the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) until May 2016. Prior to that, he was a Research Associate at the Department of Cartography at the Technische Universität München (TUM) for more than six years where he was involved in several diverse GIS and Mapping projects as well as research activities. In addition to his teaching responsibilitieshe hwas coordinated and supervised a project related to an excavation in Italy including geodata acquisition, GIS-modelling, visualization of archaeological findings, and the 3D visual reconstruction of antique assemblies.