Handling the Intangibles: Heritage Management in George Town

Penang Monthly - July 2019

In order for the learning to have a prolonged impact, it cannot be just about getting the grade. “The thing with culture is, you can’t just talk about it and not do it,” says Foo Wei Meng, programme manager at Arts-ED. “It’s a way of living. You can’t just tell the kids, ‘Learn how uncle does this.’ They’ll only do it for fun one time – there’s no sustainability. This is the reality of kids nowadays – they’re learning it to get it over and done with.”

“So we’ve turned it into a value-based approach – let’s take a dance as an example,” says Chen. “You don’t necessarily have to maintain the form; you have to understand the value of it first. It’s the adaptation, expressing the value of whether it should remain the same, and whether it means something to you today. It’s not about copying it 100% – how it looked like 100 years ago – and then executing it. For us, the authenticity always changes – kids change.”

What’s important now is not just emphasising the importance of heritage to the young, but how the young can take ownership of heritage in their own personal lives; and how they can come up with their own ways to appreciate and to write the next chapter in the story.

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Chen Yoke Pin