Monday, January 16, 2017

Brooke Gallery sheds light on watershed of White Rajahs

KUCHING: To inspire the future, one needs to explore the past; and an exploration of Sarawak’s history is now made possible at the Brooke Gallery.

What comes to your mind when you think of Sarawak’s history? “The White Rajahs,” one may point out.

However, not all Sarawakians are knowledgeable enough to tell the story of one of the most remarkable kingdoms in the state’s history — the White Rajahs.

The Brooke Gallery, a joint collaboration between The Brooke Trust, Sarawak Museum Department and Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, was officially opened last Sept 24 by Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg (who was recently appointed as the sixth Chief Minister of Sarawak) and director of The Brooke Trust Jason Brooke.

Seventy-five artefacts and 175 images are presently exhibited at the gallery at Fort Margherita in Petra Jaya here.

The gallery, which was founded in conjunction with the 175th anniversary of the state, takes visitors on a thematic journey that enables them to understand why Sarawak’s history under the White Rajahs’ ruling ranks as one of the most exceptional in all of Southeast Asia.

This permanent exhibition focuses on the people, places and events that had shaped Sarawak.

The gallery takes visitors on a journey from how the first White Rajah James Brooke intervened in the rebellion in September 1841, to when the White Rajahs’ rule was shattered by the Japanese invasion in 1941 and ended in July 1946 with Sarawak’s annexation as a British Crown Colony.

Met at the gallery yesterday, Jason said the Brooke Gallery is not just about the Brooke family but the history of Sarawak and what took place during the period from when his adventurous ancestor James sailed all the way from the United Kingdom to Borneo, to Anthony Brooke advising the British government on the constitutional matters leading up to the formation of Malaysia in 1963.

He said he was a little overwhelmed by the response  received so far.

Since opening, the gallery has registered more than 10,000 visitors from 51 countries including the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, France, the Netherlands, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Singapore, New Zealand, China, Taiwan, Slovakia and Finland.

According to Jason, 90 per cent of the visitors so far are locals.

“This is something that the local people support. The local community sponsored the CCTVs and other facilities.”

The gallery is not equipped with air-conditioners, he said, “but it is quite comfortable because we’ve got thick walls.”

Upon entering the gallery’s welcome area, visitors will make their way to the first of nine themed displays, ‘The Allure of Borneo’, where they will learn about explorers and traders who were attracted to Borneo’s shores over the centuries leading up to James’ arrival in 1839.