Sunday, February 14, 2016

Sarawak - Sharing a unique heritage


WHEN thinking of Sarawak’s romantic era, many would look to the time of the White Rajahs.

The Brookes have always been the subject of nostalgia, which is probably why the frequent visits to the state by the grandson of the last ruling Rajah Muda, Anthony Walter Dayrell Brooke, have invariably caught the attention of the local communities.

Jason Desmond Anthony Brooke’s two-week-long visit this time included an overnight stay at the Aiman Batang Ai Resort and Retreat on Jan 31 that quickly created a buzz among the local Iban community who formed a welcoming committee to receive him.

Brooke and his entourage, including Sarawak Tourism Federation (STF) advisor Lim Kian Hock, its executive secretary Willie Kueh and Borneo Adventure senior manager Emong Tinsang, were greeted at the resort by a traditional Iban dance before they were brought to witness another important cultural rite — the miring ceremony.

Brooke was also invited to sign the ‘Fort Alice Escapade’ brochure, featuring one of the resort’s new activities where guests can visit Fort Alice to learn more about Sarawak’s history. In the evening, thesundaypost had a chance to sit down with Brooke for an interview on his current updates, programmes and plans.

According to Brooke, his last visit to Sarawak was in early 2015 where he represented the Brooke Trust, a UK charity working to preserve and share Sarawak’s unique heritage and use it to inspire communities.

“My recent visits had focused on work for the Brooke Gallery at Fort Margherita. The permanent museum exhibit will display a collection of my family’s artefacts, sponsored by the Brooke Heritage Trust that tells the history of Sarawak for the first 100 years under the Brookes.

“The exhibit aims to share the important items and artefacts related to the history of Sarawak with Sarawakians and provide opportunities for them to engage with the items and learn more about their local cultures and heritage. The Gallery is scheduled to open in April or May this year,” he said.

He described the Brooke Gallery as an exciting project by his Trust, working together for a few years with the Sarawak Museum Department, saying: “Among the items to be showcased are digitised records from the Brooke era.”

Interesting projects planned

The Brooke Heritage Trust is an organisation founded by Brooke together with his younger brother Laurence Nicholas Brooke and his father James Betram Lionel Brooke. It works to share and preserve the 175-year-old heritage left by their family.

Besides the gallery, the Trust has a number of other interesting projects in the pipeline, including a biopic titled ‘White Rajah’ which tells the story of James Brooke’s first 20 years in Sarawak.

The proposed feature film has captured the attention of many film enthusiasts, especially Sarawakians.

While the film is not produced by Brooke personally, ‘White Rajah’ has been supported by private investors in Malaysia as well as the Sarawak government. The Brooke Trust is a technical adviser to the producers, encouraging them to shoot the film in Sarawak and trying to make it as historically accurate as possible.

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