George Town in Penang is a teeming heritage city where the East and West have converged over the centuries to trade, celebrate and live. The city’s unique cultural and physical environment was recognised in its 2008 inscription as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The city’s celebrated landscape is a reflection of its tightly-woven multi-cultural community that has fostered a unique spirit of place, shaped by the shared aspirations and over 200 years of interaction.
George Town’s cohesive environment has encouraged the continuation of age-old traditions, as well as the transfer of artisanal skills and trades through the generations. The book Penang’s Living Legacy – Heritage Traders of George Town features 36 unique heritage trades and offers a rare glimpse of the skills and talents of its practitioners.
From the Malay Mail: “There are plenty of unique trades and skills that have been passed down through the generations but there is a danger that these will eventually die out as the traders either have no one to pass on their legacy or their children are not interested in continuing the trade,” says Lim Chooi Ping, general manager of GTWHI.
This is where the [intangible heritage] inventory project comes in as it serves to lay the groundwork for future community-based programmes to safeguard the city’s intangible heritage and to make it more sustainable.
One of the first outputs from the inventory project was the completion of 20 case studies of heritage practitioners — individuals who represent the spirit of George Town with their localised skills.
This culminated in GTWHI’s release of Penang’s Living Legacy: Heritage Traders of George Town which was launched by Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng last week.
Chooi Ping said the book is the rightful recognition that the artisans and traditional traders deserve as they are the proof of a living multi-cultural society.
Today, through the project, a total 63 different trade categories have been identified in George Town with about 26 businesses more than a century old and 403 businesses that are between 50 and 100 years old.