The Brooke Gallery: Sarawak #WhataboutKuching 2018
In conjunction with What About Kuching 2018, the exhibition is open to public from 29 September to 28 October from 9.00am till 4.45pm daily. Entrance fee of RM10 applies to adults and children under 7 is Free.
There are two parts of the exhibition, one is at Fort Margherita, where you will find most items relating to the founding of Sarawak as a nation. The second part of the exhibition is at the Old Court House, where Ranee exhibition is located.
We visited the Fort Margherita’s Brooke Gallery. On the way there, you have to try to look for signs like this to guide you in the right direction. You will know you are on the right track if you see these statues along the road.
These Bornean statues resembled the many rock statues found along Asia Pacific islands. After passing these, you should find yourself in front of the fort.
You will be greeted by James Brooke.
The exhibition is presented in dual languages, namely English and Bahasa. So, one does not have to worry about lost in translation. They were very well translated.
Sarawak’s founding as a nation started with the arrival of James Brooke in ships like these in the mid 1800. Sarawak was once a part of Brunei and James Brooke helped Muda Hashim to curbed the rebellion and in return gain sovereignty of Sarawak. That is how the tale of the White Rajah begins.
As there are many items of interest in the gallery, i can only picked a few that i felt were less known to the general public. First off, there was once a wild man of Borneo. It could be the “hobbit” Homo floresiensis that was described.
One of the first established company in Sarawak was the Borneo Company Limited. Its main business was gold and mercury extraction and financial services to the then government.
James Brooke was a visionary. He foreseen the future of Sarawak being exporter of rice and pepper, thus arranged for Chinese rice farmers to settle along the Rajang river district. This economic decision in 1900s was how the population of modern Sarawak came to be.
There were a lot of original items from those days displayed at this exhibition, including ships, guns, stamps, moneys from that era.
You can also go up to the viewing deck, where it serves as the look out for enemy ships during the service of Fort Margherita. The view looks like this.
Dum Spiro Spero was seen throughout Colonial buildings but many do not know its meaning. It means While i breathe, i hope.
One of the items of interest is the uniforms from that era.
Sarawak was recognised as a nation by United States and other countries prior to World War 2. If the World War did not happen, most likely the cessation of Sarawak to Britain would not have happened. We would be an independent nation in 2018. But it was not meant to be, Japan attacked us in 1942 and occupied us until 1945. On display , you can find the banana notes.
Next piece is the most important piece in the exhibition. It is the original content of the letter to cede Sarawak to Britain.
One would appreciate the significance of this letter. There was anti-cessation movement at the time to stop Sarawak from being ceded to Britain. Anthony Brooke appealed to stop the movement, bringing a stop to the campaign.
After that, Sarawak’s decision to partner with Sabah, Singapore and Peninsular Malaysia to form Malaysia in 1963 started a new journey. From a country, we chose to unite with our neighboring states to form a new country called Malaysia which remained until this day. We should never forget that we used to be a country which is recognised worldwide.
Take-way from the visit to the Brooke Gallery was that Sarawak has been in existence for almost 180 years. We have only been a state of Malaysia for only 55 years. Going forward, Sarawakians should be proud of our unique heritage which the next generation of Sarawakians should be made aware of. It is only through the lens of history that one knows that regardless of different ethnic, languages, religions each of us may have, the people of Sarawak who are currently living here can only identified as being Sarawakians, and in conjunction Malaysians. There are no other place we can call home.
In that spirit, let’s celebrate our heritage and be proud that we are Malaysians. Because in this days and age, Malaysia needs to fix itself up and stand again in the eyes of the world.