Scholars define culture as symbolic communication. A way of life of a group of people, which includes their behaviours, beliefs, values, and symbols that they accept and adopt instinctively. These are then passed along by communication and imitation from one generation to the next. Heritage on the other hand, as defined by UNESCO, is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. In other words, culture and heritage could be likened to the two linked strands of DNA that wind around each other to form a double helix the basis of the human genome and our core identity.
The Universiti Malaya Research Gallery themed Culture and Heritage at the Research Management & Innovation Complex, IPPP, Universiti Malaya was a buzz of activity throughout the month from 4th September to 3rd October 2023. The Research Services Division (BPP) added an extra charm by providing a space for traditional games such as congkak, tengteng, batu seremban, dam haji, dam ular, lompat getah, gasing, tutup botol, and chinese checkers. These games were an immediate hit not only among staff members but also members of the public and school children who dropped by for a glimpse of the gallery.
Some of the traditional games played by visitors during UMR Gallery 2023
Speaking of schoolchildren, the gallery received the patronage of a few groups of schools including Maahad Tahfiz Negeri Pahang, Sekolah Menengah Agama Majlis Agama Islam Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Sekolah Menengah Sains Sultan Iskandar, Sekolah Berasrama Penuh Integrasi (SBPI) Rawang, Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Kuala Pegang, Sekolah Menegah Kebangsaan Putrajaya Presint 9 (2), Sekolah Menengah Jenis Kebangsaan Yuk Kwan, Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Kunak Jaya, and My Cosmic Montessori School.
The children enjoyed every moment spent at the gallery and indulged in the traditional games creating a warm and mirthful environment. Joining them together on the fun were the mobility students from Indonesia, Cambodia, the Philippines, and China.
The Faculty of Creative Arts was the strongest supporting platform for this gallery. They enthusiastically contributed to many elements of cultural and heritage value which increased the interest.
Some of the engaging talks organized by Faculty of Creative Arts during the gallery event include Preview of "Hamdalok", Abstraction & Islamic Aesthetic in Malay: Book Review, New Perspectives in Creative Arts Research, and Art Biomechanics at the Crossroads of Interdisciplinary Studies and Seminar on Intangible Cultural Heritage: Exploring Non-Material Aspects of Culture, Oral Traditions, Performing Arts and Social Practices amongst the Indigenous People in Malaysia.
Apart from Faculty of Creative Arts, the gallery also featured talks on Time in Non-Western International Relations Theory: Moral Time, Golden Eras and Modern Renaissance in Southeast Asia by Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Webinar on Understanding and Preserving Cultural Heritage through Languages and Linguistics by Faculty of Languages and Linguistics, and Bicara Warisan: Antara Pelestarian dan Perniagaan by Academy of Malay Studies (APM).
Faculty of Creative Arts and Faculty of Languages and Linguistics displayed some of the traditional culture and heritage items which attracted many visitors
The gallery, this time around featured notable treasures from UM’s Malay Ethnographic Museum and Geology Museum. Not only the UM community, but the gallery also received the attention of the Department of Museums Malaysia who featured an exhibit on their collection on Muzium Alam Semulajadi. These exhibits were crowd pullers as visitors revelled in the valuables related to our culture and heritage. Apart from treasures, the Faculty of Languages and Linguistics too chose to display dresses of cultural values especially the Korean Hanbok and Japanese Yukata.
Exhibits from UM’s Malay Ethnographic Museum by Akademi Pengajian Melayu
Exhibits from UM’s Department of Geology, Faculty of Science
The UMRG-themed Culture and Heritage has dropped a strong hint of excitement and interest towards our traditions. Despite the hustle and bustle towards technological growth and the race onward for the industrial revolution, the public and the research community have deep yearnings for our traditions, culture, and heritage, including the younger generations. Let us breathe life into our culture and heritage and preserve them for they are the very DNA we identify ourselves with every day.