Archive for the 'Culture' Category

Women at Work in Ipoh Methodist Girls’ School

Text and photographs by Law Siak Hong

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The main building of the Ipoh Methodist Girls’ School, built circa 1930. The principal’s office sits above the porch.

For almost half a century, the mural has lived quietly in the corridor outside the principal’s office, which was, and still is the place students and teachers do not choose to linger.
It was Wai Chun, my Sixth Form schoolmate in ACS Ipoh who told me about the mural. I was intrigued and asked to see it. A couple of years went by. When she finally took me to her old school, I was stunned by her ‘masterpiece’. What a ‘hidden’ treasure! However, I was alarmed to see that the panels had suffered some water damage and electrical conduits and fixtures had run over one of them. Assured of help from me, the intrepid Wai Chun began to mastermind the restoration of this MGS mural in which she had an indelible hand.

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The mural is located outside the principal’s office, seen here in the back wall, during restoration.

Volunteers are critical. They are recruited from among old school friends, but scheduling work sessions to suit them is tough because they live either in KL, Penang or overseas. Support from the school administration for the project has to be sought. Paint and materials must be acquired. The restoration work needs direction and some conservation expertise. Problems abound, but perseverance pays off. The path is set when the school principal Datin Mungit Kaur orders the intrusive electrical fixtures removed; thus, the mural reclaims the wall. The rest, as they say, is history.

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Wai Chun and Siak Hong taking note of the unwelcomed intrusions on the mural.

Back then, under the guidance of art mistress, Mrs Vivian Chong, eleven girls had pencilled their design and coloured it with wall-paint. Wai Chun has kept a black-and-white photograph of the time: girls in shorts, standing on stools stacked precariously on classroom furniture. This time, however, to repair and refresh this extraordinary artwork, a couple of steel scaffolding has been employed; no longer light and stealth, the older and heavier volunteers prefer to work on a steady platform.

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Working from the scaffolding

Occupations of Women’, as it was titled, was conceived as a triptych, three panels depicting women at work: manual workers, vocational workers and professionals. Each panel measures 7-feet wide by 5-feet tall. At first sight, the images appear like mosaic. However, upon scrutiny, you would see they are composed of little ‘tiles’, painted in a full spectrum of colours, laid on a pale pink background resembling stonework.

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Manual workers. The petrol brand of Caltex was new to the Malaysian market then.

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Vocational workers. The year which dates the work is disguised as the car’s registration number.

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Professionals. This is the panel which Wai Chun designed.

The figures are girlish, but why not? The women are Asian; they have black hair and their skin tone in shades of light brown. But why styled it like mosaic? Mosaic evokes the venerated decorative art of western antiquities. Painting the mosaic was what the young artists could manage. The result is convincing, and has fooled many casual viewers. Perhaps, the evocation of mosaic was inspired by what Mrs Chong saw during her tour of Europe.

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The portrait of the Raja Permaisuri Agong lends weight to this WOMEN only scene.

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Square by little square, Wai Chun painstakingly brushes on the missing ‘tiles’. Note the architect’s red dress with black and white pattern – the young artists were obviously fashion-conscious.

Wai Chun confesses that the school motto of ‘Our Utmost for the Highest’ is what sustained her through this ‘call of duty’. The process has been time consuming but the experience is both meaningful and satisfying for all concerned. It has fostered old friendships. The volunteer painters had loads of fun despite the painstaking work which none of them are unaccustomed to. Happy or sad, memories of school days live on, perchance to air at opportune time, like when old school friends gather for a worthy cause.

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Wisdom runs along the corridor of the main building.

This mural has long been taken for granted. Having endured the passage of time and neglect, it is now primed and poised for glory, as the school advances towards its 120th anniversary celebration in 2017.

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The triptych: Seated on these comfy padded sofas you would miss seeing the ‘women at work’.

Is this mural unique in Malaysia for its subject of women at work? Do tell us if you know of any exceptional school mural with special themes. We will be delighted to document their stories and share them in this PHS blog. ○H

Postscript:

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Kenyon Cottage, formerly the headmistress’ residence.

We heard that the building is set to become the school ‘museum’ for the display of its movable heritage and archival material. The PHS notes similar set up in Yuk Choy High School and St Michael’s Institution in Ipoh, and St George’s in Taiping. Please share with us if you know of others.

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The 1964 edition of the school magazine, ARGOSY, illustrates a new mural at the school canteen shared with the primary school. Incomprehensibly, this vibrant mural, depicting children at play, has been painted over with a far less interesting mural.



UPDATE – 29th December, 2015: A dedication ceremony was held in the school to mark this exemplary effort given to the mural’s restoration. The PHS thought it deserves something special to help fix this memorable advent. Siak Hong sought sponsorship of the commemorative plaque from Royal Selangor. It was a success!

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(Above): A week before the dedication ceremony, Wai Chun deputised the PHS in receiving the plaque from Datuk Seri Chen Mun Kuen at Royal Selangor showroom in Setapak, KL.

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(left): PHS President Mohd Taib Mohamed presents the pewter plaque to MGS Principal Datin Mungit Kaur. (Right): Chan Wai Chun presents a souvenir photo book to PHS. The photo book chronicles the mural restoration process, with messages from Datin Mungit Kaur, Mrs Vivian Chong and reflections from all the girls who worked on the restoration project.

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Inscribed with a brief history of the mural, the pewter plaque is fixed to the wall below the mural. No more excuses for not knowing about this incredible mural that is almost half-a-century old.

Read More : The extraordinary passage of Taiping’s Central Market

e-flyer for Perak Stamp Fair & Exhibition

Stamp Fair v2

Taiping’s Old House Museum

Text and photographs: Law Siak Hong

The Old House Museum in Taiping is intriguing, to say the least.

It has not been that long since the former owner passed away and the building sold. But in that short time, antiques and curios dealer, Mr Tan Kok Siew, the curator of Old House Museum, has managed to turn it into an Aladdin’s cave. The large townhouse is filled with his impressive collection, comprising furniture, kitchen utensils and wares, period paraphernalia, household items, and some rare historical prints and artifacts.

Shining silver trophies from a sporting life; a vintage lantern with decorative etched glass.

There are plenty for everyone to like and admire. In the rooms, the displays go by theme. The passages are not spared; interesting framed and flat items are judiciously grouped and arranged. It reminds me of The Time Tunnel in Kea Farm, Cameron Highlands – this is another must-see.

Portraits from the family album; old, decorated glass oil lamps with hood illuminated by a spotlight.
Colourful tiffin carriers in the kitchen; back windows of the house looking out to the stable below.
This passage way is a gallery of pop icons and movie stars as well as photographs of 1950s and 1960s.

It is commendable that Tan has left the house as found but had it cleaned from corner to corner. Pulling him aside, I suggested that he should investigate the heritage of the house and tell the story of the generations who lived there. It would be quite a riveting story, a part of the tapestry of Taiping’s social history.

Lim “Ji You” built the house, probably the first three-storey townhouse in Taiping; historical items hang in the passage way.
Out of bounds to visitors, the jaw-dropping wooden spiral staircase can only be admired.
Freshly-painted brick column and the original terracotta floor.
Wouldn’t it be better if the hall is fitted out as original as possible to tell the story of the Lim family?
A welcome speech during the briefing session.
Go admire the beautifully preserved screen behind Sharon Chan and Tan Kok Siew.

Organised by Sharon Chan for the Taiping Heritage Society, the group visit attracted over 30 members and their family, who were taking photographs with great enthusiasm, posing with the myriad of artifacts on display and sharing memories evoked by the place and its display. When all’s done, we were treated to an afternoon snack of delectable nyonya kueh, provided by the Taiping Heritage Society.

By the dining table is an ornate ancestral altar which faces the main road, Jalan Kota.

Ever the hospitable smiling host, Tan must be congratulated for a job well done.

Located at 2A, Market Square, the Old House Museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Entrance fee is RM5 per person. For further information, phone 019-5513058 or email tpgkapitan@yahoo.com.

Public Relations in Practice – UTAR Style

Text: Law Siak Hong

The Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) public relations programme on Volunteerism Campaign for Culture and Heritage had the makings of a reality TV show. Despite early jitters, the students managed to pull it off in style. The challenges were reconciled; their course assessment, pass or fail, had depended on their execution. As I see it, while they might not have excelled in all the challenges, the students did apply themselves satisfactorily. Even though there was no crowd at the exhibition, the performances of the charity night enjoyed a tremendous response from an enthusiastic audience, 250-strong.

PHS’s participation in this university programme goes back to November last year. The UTAR tutor, Pong Kok Shiong, acquainted through his proposed survey on a visit to the UNESCO World Archaeological Heritage Site of Lenggong Valley, had asked if PHS would be one of the NGOs in his UTAR public relations student project. At the eleventh hour, Yeow Jian Hui replaced him, but that posed no problem. However, in all honesty, it was clear from the start that the students were too ambitious or perhaps too idealistic. Still, in the end, good sense prevailed to save the day.

We met the very hospitable Mr Loh of the Perak Chinese Chamber of Miners who delivered a brief history of tin mining in Perak. Each of us also received a gift of his book.

Students at the very old STAR Printing Work; they were fascinated by a tricycle, an old mode of delivery of goods and a rare sight today.

Since they chose to do the project on culture and heritage, I thought the students must know more about these topics. It was the morning of the first Friday in January when we took a walk in Ipoh Old Town. It is gratifying that the experience turned out to be the inspiration for their main exhibit – the Time Tunnel which depicts the history of Ipoh in snippets of social history, material culture and landmarks.

The weeks that followed were a little uneasy for me. In late February, we had one last meeting on campus when the photography competition had already been launched. Three weeks later, it was the official launch of the students’ programme, at which the PHS delegation, comprising President Mohd Taib, members Normiah and Jayaraj, volunteer Vera and me, were treated like real VIPs.

Group portrait after the programme launch at the Students Pavilion.

Team united: group portrait after the walkabout and a night out in Kampar New Town.

After this experience, it was necessary for me to step up my game. Our exhibition featured a total of five groups of displays. For visual impact, with the help of Sam Tan of UTAR’s Green Technology Faculty, we showed the architectural models on the Kinta Valley town of Gopeng produced by his construction management students. The exceptional feature was a large map of the Dr Sun Yat Sen Ipoh Trail, and a print of an oil painting depicting the Chinese revolutionary leader among his supporters in Kampar, reproduced with the permission of the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall, Singapore. For culture, on a table with items for sale, colourful handicrafts and soft toys supplied by Ipoh Craftsnerds found buyers. That evening, Vera and I were invited to a light dinner among the VIPs, and later to enjoy the performances at the charity night.

Vera at the sale table.

Vera and student volunteer hold fort at the sale table.

Models of Gopeng reneal project by students in construction management plus panels of information – courtesy of Faculty of Green Technology, UTAR.

The display on Perak Heritage Society and shophouse typology, and heritage maps.

The display on the industrial heritage of charcoal making heritage

The display of children art is an encouraging sign of the culture of creative development.

The display of containers and holders to echo culture and heritage: baskets of bamboo, rattan, straw and plastic, paper bags, and containers in metal, ceramic and wood.

“Revive The Forgotten” is the slogan created by the students for the charity night. The show, featuring singers, musicians and dancers from UTAR and Kampar was graced by the Vice President of UTAR, Professor Dr Teh Chee Seng.

All the way from KL, International Salon Chairman of The Photographic Society of Malaysia, Mr Harry Woo, Vice President Mr C T Goh and Head of Competition Department Mr W H Koh, gave away the prizes to the winners of the photography. On the screen to the right is the winning entry.

Here on stage with the emcees, the mascot appears in all the programmes of the campaign.

The impressive student choral singers.

The well-adorned Orang Asli flutist is a native of Kampar.

As Mohd Taib was otherwise engaged, I represented PHS at the public relations programme’s closing ceremony the following Wednesday. All four teams that took on their own NGO in the UTAR programme gathered together with a representative from their respective NGO. A sense of achievement and fun saturated the academic air. It looks to me like most of the students would all pass with flying colours.

Was it not Vice President Associate Professor Teh who told me during the show that 97 per cent of UTAR graduates find work, mainly in Singapore? The others, he intimated, had chosen to take time off to travel and perhaps, I venture to say, join the entertainment industry.

Footnote: PHS is grateful to Assistant Professor Dr Cheah Phaik Kin, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Mr Ng Eng Kiat and Ms Lee Lai Meng, Mr Pong Kok Shiong and Ms Yeow Jian Hui of the of the Department of Public Relations as well as all the students under their director Lo Vui Che who worked to raise some money for PHS. Let’s do it again next semester!

University Programmes and PHS

Over the years, as the flag bearer for Perak heritage, PHS has cultivated a network of supportive and creative individuals. While we have also assisted many researchers, both local and foreign, we tend to maintain an extended friendship with teachers from institutions of higher learning. They explore our resources in different ways, but invariably our cooperation has produced impressive results. The recent visits from teams of architects and future architects remind us it’s time we acknowledge their faith in us.

Teaching and writing are the key elements in the career of the UCSI University lecturer, Teoh Chee Keong. In the past decade or so, he has written a book and a weekly column in a national Sunday newspaper on subjects close to his heart: community, architecture and heritage. He is a tireless campaigner for building conservation. Apart from exposing his architecture students to Perak’s heritage, Chee Keong has also conducted summer projects in Taiping and Ipoh for visiting Taiwanese students. Chee Keong is Taiping born-and-bred, and there is extra satisfaction in his contribution.

UCSI students studying Waller Court

Students braved the heat of the afternoon to look at the commemorative plaque at the obelisk marking Waller Court.

This year, for the studio design programme of third-year architecture students, Chee Keong has chosen a neglected part of the green lung of Ipoh, the D R Seenivasagam Park, as a building site for a hypothetical cultural complex: a performing arts centre which includes a hostel for actors and production crew. Unfortunately, due to the scope of the study, blocks of the adjacent Waller Court could not be considered for the hostel. Nevertheless, the upshot is that PHS may host an exhibition of the best submissions in mid-year. That is surely something to look forward to.

As highlighted in a previous blog, Waller Court represents an outstanding example of the architectural heritage of historic public housing. Last year, students of construction management from the Faculty of Green Technology, Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) in Kampar investigated its exceptional construction. Sam Tan, their supervising lecturer believes that Waller Court is an important piece of Ipoh’s architectural heritage. Not surprisingly, its strategic location has attracted redevelopment schemes. But as Sam suggested, it would do us good to learn about ‘the value of the community and its intangible contribution to the fabric of the city; the true cost of destruction must be addressed’. By the way, last month Sam had also helped us draw up the last conventional lime kilns in Bercham. 

The team who worked on the Royal English School.

The team in front of Rumah Tetamu.

In January, through the efforts of the staunch PHS supporter Casey Ng, a measured drawing tutor of Taylor’s University, Izwan Nor Azhar came to us. He and his colleagues eventually assigned two buildings in Batu Gajah to their student project. The buildings are The Royal English School, built 1916 as a residence and Rumah Tetamu, a rest house by the golf course, which has seen better days. Of the latter, we learn that demolition – rather than conservation – is in order. We wonder if the interest shown by Taylor’s University could avert its doom. The Royal English School building fares much better. As the last remaining historic residence in Batu Gajah, it will be restored, and a sympathetic new annex added to make its adaptive re-use a sustainable venture. 

The most ambitious student programme that PHS has ever worked with is the University of Malaya–National University of Singapore (UM–NUS) Joint Studio Project in 2012. The study, after a similar one on Taiping in 2010, resulted in an excellent book which was launched in Ipoh early in 2013. That was celebrated with ‘Celebrating Perak’s Built Heritage’, an exhibition which combined both studies. The book is the first thorough study of Ipoh’s urban fabric in the inner-city area for 50 years.

The book, Encounters with Ipoh: Familiar Spaces Untold Stories is now available through PHS. Returning Taiping, a study by the same UM–NUS programme, is also available. Both titles are sold at RM90 per book. For PHS members, the discount price is RM80. Place your order by emailing perakheritage36@gmail.com and siakhongstudio@gmail.com.

Model and old shophouse by Sam Tan’s students.

PHS @ UTAR Perak Campus

“HUES OF DIVERSITY”
FOR CULTURE AND HERITAGE
PR Campaign Volunteerism 3.0
by UTAR Faculty of Arts and Social Science

VOLUNTEERS WANTED

  • Help us install PHS displays and exhibitions and sell books and handicraft
  • To volunteer or just to watch the show at night, contact Hong by 19 March. Phone 0175061875 or email siakhongstudio@gmail.com

The venue: Heritage Hall. (Source of photo: UTAR web site)

What it’s all about?

At the School of Public Relations, Faculty of Arts and Social Science, Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR), Kampar, forty-four students flex their brains and muscles.

Their Aim Fundraising for charity – to benefit PHS awareness programme

Objective To encourage volunteer activities

The Concept
E = Educate participants on volunteerism
R = Revive the volunteerism spirit
S = promote Sustainability and volunteerism through campus events

Programme on Hues of Diversity

  1. 21 February
    –  Programme launch
    –  Photography Competition – currently in progress
  2. 12 March
    –  11 a.m. to 2 p.m.: Soft launching + campus awareness, Students’
    Pavilion, followed by parade through UTAR campus
    –  6 to 8 p.m.: off-campus parade and ticket push, Kampar New Town
  3. 22 March
    –  3:30 p.m. onwards – Culture & Heritage Exhibition, Heritage Hall
  4. 22 March
    –  7:30 p.m.-10 p.m. Charity Night, Heritage Hall, UTAR
        Programme of recitals, cultural dances and more. Ticket @ RM10

Content of Exhibition

Content of Exhibition

TIME TUNNEL – a students’ installation

UTAR Construction Management project models

Ipoh Craftnerds’ modern handicraft for sale

Dr Sun Yat Sen Ipoh Trail

PHS exhibitions and displays

Books on Perak Heritage for sale

VIPs and event mascot at the soft launch of the campaign.

Icons of culture and heritage as portrayed and crafted by the students.

Happy Deepavali!

To all Hindu members and readers,

PHS wishes you a

HAPPY DEEPAVALI !

______________________________________________________________


Perak Heritage Society

Persatuan Warisan Perak
(Reg. No. 1254) was registered with the Registrar of Societies in August, 2003.

Office and Postal Address:
85C, Jalan Sultan Abdul Jalil,
30300 IPOH, Perak, Malaysia.
(opposite the Syuen Hotel)

Fax: 05-253 5507

E-mail:
perakheritage36@gmail.com
Website: https://perakheritage.wordpress.com

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