Historic town revisited in photo and art exhibition

by Jeremy Tan

An old photo of the Prai River harbour and Bukit Mertajam Rice Mill on display at the 100 Images of Province Wellesley Exhibition that is part of the Butterworth Fringe Festival.

An old photo of the Prai River harbour and Bukit Mertajam Rice Mill on display at the 100 Images of Province Wellesley Exhibition that is part of the Butterworth Fringe Festival.

STEP back in time and see how mainland Penang evolved over the centuries in the 100 Images of Province Wellesley Exhibition in Seberang Prai.

The event, held in an old shophouse unit at 19, Jalan Jeti Lama in the historic town, is part of the inaugural Butterworth Fringe Festival this weekend.

Open from 11am to 10pm daily and running until Sunday, its exhibits include old photographs, maps and paintings dating from the early 19th century up to 1979.

The exhibition started yesterday.

Curator Khoo Salma Nasution said the exhibition came about as she was compiling materials for a bilingual book on Seberang Prai.

She had sourced numerous old postcards and books from private collections, organisations and archives like the Penang Public Library.

This old shophouse at Jalan Jetty Lama in Butterworth, which is the venue for the exhibition. - Starpic Mustafa Ahmad (2/08/2015).

The exhibition venue is at this old shophouse unit in Jalan Jeti Lama, Butterworth.

These include one that shows the exact street where the shophouse and event venue is located, with a view of the Sree Mariamman Temple further down the road.

Another was contributed by the Indian Museum, and shows the Buddhagupta Stones, which was once recorded by James Low, a member of the Asiatic Society of Bengal.

He sent it to the Indian Museum, which was set up in 1814 by the British not only for the India subcontinent but also for the Asia Pacific region.

Khoo said the stones, which are now displayed in Muzium Negara and the Lembah Bujang Museum, are replicas, so this might be the first time some see a photograph of the original.

Some images were also bought from foreign archives, like the watercolour images of Bukit Tambun and Batu Kawan by John Turnbull Thomson dating from 1848, obtained from the Hocken Collection kept by the University of Otago Library in New Zealand.

The earliest photographs of Bukit Mertajam and sugar-milling in the Caledonia Estate, dating to 1863, came from the University of Massachusetts Amherst Library.

“It is not possible to write a history of Penang, without understanding the history of Seberang Prai.

“As not much has been written about ‘the other side of Penang’, I wanted to start by mapping Seberang Prai geographically and with images,” Khoo added.

The exhibition is organised by Areca Books, with the support of Seberang Prai Municipal Council, George Town Festival (GTF) and Think City.

The Butterworth Fringe Festival (BFF) is a satellite event of the annual GTF, and features exhibitions, presentations, live performances, pop-up bookstores, creative crafts, movie screenings and more.

Artists from all over the world, including instrumentalists from Australia, puppeteers from Japan, and dancers from Belgium, France and Malaysia, are part of its diverse line-up.

First published in The Star on 14 August 2015.