“Nasi lemak and teh tarik, since you don’t find this common in any other country”, was one such reply when the question ‘What’s the Malaysian People’s Best Shared Heritage’?
Indeed, some say food is our best heritage, or ‘foods’ since there are so many types that we Malaysians can pick and choose from among the different races in our multi-cultural nation. But is that all? Our best heritage is just an affair of the stomach? Nothing ethically wrong with that but it’s a bit shallow, ya tak? There must be more.
Recently to commemorate our 50th Merdeka celebrations, the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage came up with an initial list of 50 Warisan Kebangsaan or National Heritage items that included old native manuscripts, historic buildings, regalia items, cultural performance arts and so on. http://www.sioloon.com/sudut-informasi-f33/50-warisan-kebangsaan-t1516.htm
It’s a fantastic move to create awareness on our country’s heritage and its values, even for tourism as well. Inevitably, it is also controversial as everyone has different views of what is important to be included, or even more basic, what is heritage.
Many people always think of ‘heritage’ as things that are cultural, especially tangible ones such as old buildings, artifacts, arts & crafts, costumes, even dances and yes, cuisines as well. But essentially; Heritage is anything that has affected our local lifestyles and shaped our surrounding environment or the way we live.
Maybe we should step back and take a broader view of what elements have shaped our collective lives and thus become a shared heritage. For this we sometimes must even look from beyond ourselves and our boundaries to get a good wide look from other angles. Look even from outside the country, compare and contrast with the world at large.
Heritage may even be negative just as much as we like to think of heritage as positive, and even then negative or positive is subjective. In Cambodia, the sad heritage that has coloured the perception of the country as much as the famed Angkor Wat temple is the brutal regime of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge, which committed genocide on 2 million-odd of its own people.
Whatever it is as we search, Malaysia has an overall record of relative peace and tolerance among its numerous different ethnic, regional and religious groups. That peace and tolerance in itself is a great heritage.
Look out for more on heritage in these pages… Nadge