Tuesday, 27 September 2016

PAGES FROM THE PAST : PROVINCE WELLESLEY

Khoo Salma Nasution highlights the forgotten heritage of the province now known as Seberang Perai in her latest pictorial book




Driving into Seberang Perai is almost like entering a different state altogether. The casuarina trees that pepper the coast of Penang as you head towards the iconic bridge fades into the silhouette of the hills that cradle the island. Warehouses, large but low concrete buildings, and blocks of shophouses greet you in Seberang Perai, the strip of land often referred to as "the mainland" by Penangites.

It is a world apart from the giant trees that shade some of Penang's historical streets, or George Town narrow lanes, opulent clan houses, century-old places of worship and grandis colonial buildings which dot the island. In her latest book, Province Wellesley - A Pictorial History, historian, heritage activist and author Salma Khoo Nasution offers an insight into just how rich this lesser known part of Penang truly is.

PAGES OF THE PAST

"Much of Seberang Perai built heritage is neglected," confides Salma, who has been painstakingly collecting material for the book over the years. "Yet there are isolated examples of heritage which is still intact," she adds.

In 2015, Salma, who's also the Penang Heritage Trust vice-persident (PHT), started putting her research together. "We have a lot of images of George Town and Penang island but it's not easy to find images of Seberang Perai,"  she says, adding that an exhibition and a series of lectures about Seberang Perai's rich past were presented in the lead-up to the book's launch. 



Province Wellesley - A Pictorial History is a collection of more than 200 photos of the early days of Province Wellesley - from ancient artefacts of the Siamese - Kedah Kingdom and the industrialisation of the mainland during colonial times to post war Penang. It also highlights the different components which made Seberang Perai a thriving port in the 1800s, fertile land for agriculture, advancements in transportation systems, strategic locations of rivers and crossings as well as the strength of multi-cultural communities.

"As a Penangite, it's so exciting to discover the history an heritage of the different communities in the book," says Trevor Sibert, one of the speakers at PHT's The Seberang Perai Story lecture. "It opens doors to learning more about the minorities who helped shaped Seberang Perai."

PROVINCE OF PROGRESS

Named after the first Marquess Wellesley, Governor of Madras, and the Governor General of Bengal Richard Wellesley, the strip of land belonged to the Kingdom of Kedah before the East India Company acquired the land in 1800. During the invasion of Siam in Kedah, many, especially the Malays, fled and found refuge in the vast lands of Province Wellesley where they began farming. By 1835, Province Wellesley's population had boomed to 46,800, close to 7,000 more inhabitants than that of Penang island.

The mainland became a hub for agricultural resource - rice, tapioca, pepper, coffee, spices, coconut, with the most profitable being sugar. Pioneered by the Chinese and European, the business brought in both heavy machinery and indentured Indian labour. "With increasing awareness of the importance of ecology and environment, we're now weeing the value of industrial heritage and cultural landscapes," Salma says, noting that prior to this, urban conservation revolved around monuments, historic districts and the people who inhabited those areas. "We need to understand the industrial and environmental history of Seberang Perai as the basis of identifying how we can conserve this sense of place through planning and sustainable development."


Many perceive that restoring heritage is equivalent to stopping progress. However, as Salma points out, it isn't about stopping development, but proper planning. "Early identification and safeguarding of our heritage coupled with good planning will bring development in such a way that the heritage places are centralised as local attractions, landmarks and landscapes that enhance the quality of the developing district." 

USING THE PAST TO PROGRESS

As Salma shares, the importance of heritage lies in how it provides a sense of place which evokes social memory, something she feels is important for people of all ages. "Young people should grow up with a sense of the richness of the past, whereas old people need to familiarise with places as they easily feel disoriented if they cannot recognise places which the feel they should know," she explains, adding that Seberang Perai is changing at lighting pace, hence the urgency to identify historic landmarks and cultural landscapes are of utmost importance. " These landmarks anchor a sense of place," Salma continues.


One of the youngest council members of the PHT, Sibert, 33, echoes her sentiments. "For us young people, it's important to remember our roots, especially for the community in Seberang Perai. Not much is known and there isn't much literature out there about this side of Penang. Hopefully this pictorial history will pique the interest of the younger generation to explore the heritage we have here," he says, noting that almost 75 percent of the audience for PHT's The Seberang Perai Story lecture were above the age of 45.

"There are just so many stories - from generations of families who have been living in Seberang Perai that we haven't heard of yet," says Sibert, who, during the lecture series, presented a talk on the Eurasian community's involvement with Province Wellesley's crucial railway history.

For Salma, who was born and bred on Penang island, Seberang Perai has remained a place continues to fascinates her. " I know many people who grew up or live in Seberang Perai feel passionately about their heritage," confides Salma, who remembers the ferry rides to Butterworth and sprawling emerald paddy in the North with great fondness.

But the future of Seberang Perai's heritage, she says, lies in the hands of the people who call it home. "As the primary stakeholders, they need to find a collective voice to champion their heritage. People like me can share our experiences and insights but ultimately, the Seberang Perai people have to champion their own heritage."

Somewhere beyond the industrial warehouses and concrete shop houses lurks rich history - a landscape of peoples, places and culture that are testament to Seberang Perai's glorious past. Now, its just a matter of unearthing it.


Written by : Kerry-Ann Augustin

Source : New Straits Times - Plush Heritage
Date : 11th September 2016


KENANGAN SILAM : PROVINCE WELLESLEY


Khoo Salma Nasution mengimbas kembali warisan wilayah yang telah dilupakan, kini dikenali sebagai Seberang Perai dalam buku bergambar terbaharu.



Memandu kereta ke Seberang Perai seperti memasuki sebuah negeri yang amat berbeza. Pokok ru yang membarisi perairan Pulau Pinang ketika menuju ke jambatan ikonik, hilang di sebalik barisan gunung yang mengelilingi Pulau Pinang. Terdapat gudang bersaiz besar dan sedikit bangunan konkrit dan blok rumah kedai menyapa anda di Seberang Perai, sering kali dikenali sebagai "tanah besar" oleh warga Pulau Pinang. 

Ia umpama dunia berbeza jika dibandingkan dengan bangunan bersejarah di Pulau Pinang yang dilindungi oleh pohon besar atau lorong sempit membarisi di George Town, rumah mewah kaum kerabat, rumah ibadah berusia berkurun lamanya dan bangunan kolonial agam menghiasi Pulau Pinang. Dalam buku terbaharunya, Province Wellesley - A Pictorial History, Salma Khoo Nasution, ahli sejarah, aktivis warisan dan penulis memberikan gambaran kekayaan yang didapati di sebahagian lagi Pulau Pinang yang kurang dikenali ini.

MASA SILAM

"Kebanyakan bangunan warisan di Seberang Perai tidak dipedulikan," akui Salma yang mengamabil masa bertahun-tahun untuk mengumpul bahan untuk menulis buku ini. "Walaupun begitu, terdapat bangunan warisan yang masih kukuh," tambah beliau.

Pada tahun 2015, Salma yang juga Timbalan Presiden Persatuan Warisan Pulau Pinang memulakan kajian beliau dengan menggabungkan kesemua elemen penting. "Kita mempunyai banyak gambar George Town dan Pulau Pinang tetapi sukar untuk menemukan gambar Seberang Perai," katanya sambil menambah bahawa satu pameran dan siri penerangan mengenai nilai sejarah silam Seberang Perai diadakan sebelum pelancaran buku.


Province Wellesley - A Pictorial History adalah kompilasi lebih 200 keping gambar yang menunjukkan penempatan awal Province Wellesley - artifak kuno dari Kerajaan Siam-Kedah dan perindustrian tanah besar semasa zaman kolonial sehingga zaman selepas perang Pulau Pinang. Ia juga menunjukkan pelbagai komponen yang menjadikan Seberang Perai, sebuah pelabuhan yang maju pada tahun 1800-an, tanah subur untuk pertanian, sistem pengangkutan yang maju, lokasi strategik sungai juga ikatan kuat pelbagai komuniti.

"Sebagai anak watan Pulau Pinang, saya amat teruja untuk mengetahui sejarah dan warisan komuniti lain yang ditulis dalam buku ini," kata Trevor Sibert, salah seorang pengucap dalam penerangan PHT The Seberang Perai Story. "Ia membuka pintu untuk mempelajari lebih banyak sejarah kaum minoriti yang turut membantu membentuk Seberang Perai."

KEMAJUAN SEBERANG PERAI

Dinamakan sempena nama Marquess Wellesley pertama, Richard Wellesley. Beliau ialah Gabenor Madras dan Ketua Gabenor Bengal. Seberang Perai dimiliki oleh Kerajaan Kedah sebelum Syarikat India Timur membelinya pada tahun 1800. Apabila Kedah diceroboh oleh Siam, ramai penduduk Seberang Perai, terutamanya orang Melayu melarikan diri dan mendapat perlindungan di Province Wellesley dan memulakan pertanian. Menjelang tahun 1835, populasi Province Wellesley telah meningkat kepada 46,880, hampir 7,000 penduduk dengan Pulau Pinang. 


Tanah besar ini menjadi hub untuk sumber pertanian - beras, ibu kayu, lada hitam, kopi, rempah ratus, kelapa dan paling menguntungkan ialah gula. Dimulakan oleh orang Cina dan orang Eropah, perniagaan ini membawa masuk peralatan berat dan buruh dari India. "Perkembangan kesedaran mengenai kepentingan ekologi dan persekitaran membuatkan kita melihat lanskap nilai warisan industri dan warisan kebudayaan," kata Salma yang menyatakan konservasi urban melibatkan monumen, daerah bersejarah dan penduduk yang tinggal di kawaan terbabit. "Kita perlu memahami perindustrian dan persekitaran sejarah Seberang Perai sebagai asas untuk mengenal pasti bagaimanakah cara dapat kita mengekalkan kawasan ini menerusi perancangan dan perkembangan mampan."


Ramai menganggap membaik pulih warisan seperti menghalang kemajuan. Namun, Salma berkata, ia bukannya menghalang kemajuan tetapi memerlukan perancangan rapi. "Mengenal pasti dan menjaga warisan kita dengan perancangan rapi akan membawa kemajuan dengan menjadikan tapak warisan sebagai pelancongan, tanda tempat dan lanskap akan meningkatkan kualiti kemajuan daerah tersebut."

MASA SILAM ASAS UNTUK KEMAJUAN

Seperti kata Salma, kepentingan warisan terletak cara bagaimana ia membangkitkan memori sosial yang beliau rasakan kepentingannya bagi semua lapisan masyarakat. "Golongan muda harus membesar dengan perasaan terdapat kelebihan pada masa silam dan golongan terdahulu harus membiasakan diri mereka dengan tempat baharu kerana golongan ini akan merasa kurang selesa apabila menyedari mereka tidak mengenali tempat yang harus mereka ketahui," beliau menerangkan sambil menambah, kini Seberang Perai sedang berubah dengan kadar pantas. Maka, keperluan untuk mengenal pasti lanskap tanda tempat dan lanskap kebudayaan sangat penting. "Tanda tempat ini menimbulkan satu perasaan," kata Salma.   

Salah seorang ahli majlis PHT termuda, Sibert, 33, menyatakan sentimennya. "Bagi orang muda seperti kami penting untuk mengingati asal usul kami, terutama sekali bagi komuniti di Seberang Perai. Tidak banyak diketahui dan tidak banyak kesusasteraan mengenai sebahagian lagi Pulau Pinang ini. Diharapkan buku sejarah bergambar ini akan menimbulkan minat generasi muda untuk menyelami warisan yang kita miliki," katanya. Beliau menyedari hampir 75 peratus penonton untuk PHT The Seberang Perai Story berusia 45 tahun ke atas. 

"Terdapat banyak cerita - daripada generasi keluarga  yang tidak pernah kita dengar, pernah menetap di Seberang Perai," kata Sibert. Semasa siri penerangan beliau memberikan penerangan mengenai penglibatan komuniti Eurasian dengan sejarah keretapi Province Wellesley.

Bagi Salma, anak kelahiran Pulau Pinang, Seberang Perai sentiasa mengagumkannya. "Saya tahu ramai orang membesar atau pernah tinggal di Seberang Perai merasa gembira dengan warisan mereka," kata Salma. Beliau mesih mengingati perjalanan feri dari Butterworth dengan sawah padi yang menghijau di bahagian utara.
Akan tetapi, beliau berkata, masa depan warisan Seberang Perai terletak di tangan penduduk yang tinggal di sana. " Sebagai penduduk Seberang Perai, mereka harus mencari wakil untuk menyuarakan warisan mereka. Orang seperti saya hanya boleh mengongsi pengalaman kami dan keadaan Seberang Perai, tetapi, penduduk Seberang Perai yang harus menjaga warisan mereka."

Di sebalik kawasan yang hanya mempunyai gudang industri dan rumah kedai konkrit, ia memberikan kekayaan dari segi nilai sejarah - iaitu landskap penduduk, lanskap tempat dan lanskap kebudayaan yang menjadi bukti sejarah silam kehebatan Seberang Perai yang hanya tunggu masa untuk dirungkai.


Diterjemah oleh : Teratai Melur

E-mel : terataigenius@gmail.com
**Jika memerlukan khidmat terjemahan, sila e-mel ke alamat e-mel tertera di atas. 

Terima kasih.