‘Potential’: A celebration of George Town’s living heritage

Visitors try to make ‘Bunga Rampai’ at the one of the workshops at the ‘Potential — Of the Past, In the Present, For the Future’ heritage celebration in George Town July 7, 2018. — Pictures by KE Ooi
Visitors try to make ‘Bunga Rampai’ at the one of the workshops at the ‘Potential — Of the Past, In the Present, For the Future’ heritage celebration in George Town July 7, 2018. — Pictures by KE Ooi

GEORGE TOWN, July 8 — How do you perform the kaikottikali and what is the significance of the dance?

How do you prepare bunga rampai and what is it for?

What is a “san hung” and how do you make it?

Can you speak Penang Hokkien and identify the common phrases of the language?

These and so much more make up the rich cultural diversity of George Town, and in turn is part and parcel of the heritage city’s outstanding universal values.

The Unesco World Heritage Site celebrated the 10th anniversary of its inscription by focusing on what makes the city unique — its living and intangible heritage.

Titled “Potential — Of the Past, In the Present, For the Future”, the heritage celebrations is not just a street festival of food and performances but one that gets the people involved in the myriad traditions, crafts and cultural practices of the Malays, the ethnic Chinese, the ethnic Indians and even Taiwanese, Thai and Japanese culture for added diversity.

Visitors trying their hand on making the Ark Bhua, a sticky rice cake at the ‘Potential — Of the Past, In the Present, For the Future’ heritage celebration in George Town July 7, 2018.
Visitors trying their hand on making the Ark Bhua, a sticky rice cake at the ‘Potential — Of the Past, In the Present, For the Future’ heritage celebration in George Town July 7, 2018.

A total of 25 workshops, set up by respective communities, taught participants the intricacies of each culture, whether it is performing the kaikottikali or making of the red san hung at different locations all around the Armenian Street heritage enclave.

The George Town Heritage Celebrations 2018 executive producer Ang Ming Chee said this year’s theme explores George Town’s potential in moving forward based on its past narratives and current experiences.

“In this year’s celebration, both the living and tangible cultural heritages in George Town are celebrated and appreciated,” she said.

The celebration, that began at 6pm and ended at 11pm last night, looked into the potential of the past that can be explored, the potential of the present opportunities and the potential of the future that can be developed.

At one of the workshops, the North Malaysia Malayali Samajam thought the kaikottikali dance, a dance performed by Malayali unmarried women during the Onam and Vishu celebrations for luck in marriage and marital bliss.

Meanwhile, over at the workshop by Badan Warisan Masjid Melayu Lebuh Acheh, participants were thought how to make bunga rampai by slicing pandan leaves and shredding flowers.

The shredded flowers and leaves are then sprinkled with rose water before it is bundled up in a handkerchief.

The bunga rampai is given out during celebrations such as at Malay weddings and engagement ceremonies.

A woman trying her hand at clay crockery at the Manpandam section at the ‘Potential — Of the Past, In the Present, For the Future’ heritage celebration in George Town July 7, 2018.
A woman trying her hand at clay crockery at the Manpandam section at the ‘Potential — Of the Past, In the Present, For the Future’ heritage celebration in George Town July 7, 2018.

“It is bonding time for us when we prepare bunga rampai as we would gather at the bride’s house to make it together,” Kamariah Mohd Nat said.

The “san hung”, which means red deity in Cantonese, is a decorative ball of red fabric that is usually hung up at altars, entrances and stone lions.

The Cantonese usually change their altar’s “san hung” each year and the red flower-shaped ball is believed to ward off evil.

The Kwangtung and Tengchow Association’s workshop at the heritage celebrations taught participants the art of making the “san hung” using a roll of red cloth.

There were also workshops to introduce Taiwanese culture such as rush-weaving to make a dumpling-shaped ornament and Japanese culture to learn sachiko, a style of stitching used by the Japanese to patch torn garments in the old days.

The tangible heritage of George Town was also a feature in the celebrations as eight houses of worship were opened to the public for site excursions.

Registered participants were taken on site visits to the St George’s Church, the Church or the Assumption, the Kapitan Keling Mosque, the Kramat Dato Koyah and the Acheen Street Malay Mosque.

They were also taken on visits outside George Town heritage zone to Nattukottai Chettiar Temple along Jalan Kebun Bunga, Police Gurdwara Sahib Penang along Jalan Patani and Thai Pak Koong Temple along Jalan Tanjung Tokong.

Visitors learning to stitch Sashiko at the ‘Potential — Of the Past, In the Present, For the Future’ heritage celebration in George Town July 7, 2018.
Visitors learning to stitch Sashiko at the ‘Potential — Of the Past, In the Present, For the Future’ heritage celebration in George Town July 7, 2018.

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