Time to embrace and celebrate our differences 

by DATIN DONA DRURY WEE & JAMES YONG / Pic by TMR

AHEAD of World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development on May 21, we must recognise the role we, as individuals, play in promoting and preserving our heritage. The phrase, “we must embrace our differences”, is one often thrown around. But why does it matter so much?

Our differences, as influenced by our culture and heritage, is what sets us apart from everyone else. It defines a nation’s identity and provides citizens with a sense of place and belonging. In conversations on tourism, we wonder what we can do better to attract international and domestic tourists, often forgetting that the answer already exists within our very walls — our built and intangible heritage.

Badan Warisan Malaysia (BWM), the leading national heritage NGO with a reputation for excellence in heritage conservation services, has, for over 30 years, been raising awareness of heritage issues and advocating for a conservation-friendly environment in Malaysia.

BWM is currently promoting Malaysia’s unique heritage through its free webinar series, “BWM Talk Series: Spotlight In Sarawak”, also known as #TokSarawak. With the present focus on Sarawak, we are happy to be given the chance to share our thoughts on the many aspects of Sarawakian heritage, such as the rich history of Sarawakian forts, the exotic food, traditional textiles and more.

For Malaysians, our heritage and past bind us together. By understanding our origins, we also learn to embrace the many ethnicities and communities around us, hence helping to promote peace and harmony, and uniting us as one people.

Heritage can come in many forms, such as through architecture, language, arts and craft, traditional customs, cuisines and more. By embracing these, we also welcome the various communities of artisans, tradesmen, musicians and more, all of whom are reliant on our diverse culture and heritage, and who add value to our tourism potential.

There are many stories of Malaysians visiting western nations and the excitement felt when they read “Roti Canai” on a menu or hear a foreign man asking “Apa Khabar” on the streets. It is in these moments that we recognise the pride and joy of being Malaysian, and why it matters so.

At the heart of it, the responsibility of preserving our heritage falls into our own hands. It is up to us to learn about, protect and embrace it. Only then can we carry on that knowledge to the next generation. It is important for us to be more engaged and willing to speak up on preserving these heritage assets.

Ahead of World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, we take this opportunity to celebrate Malaysia’s diverse culture and heritage by acknowledging its impact on our social, economic and national development. We hope to encourage more conversations on heritage through the upcoming “BWM Talk Series: Spotlight on Sarawak”, or #TokSarawak, sessions.

Organised in partnership with Petra Energy Bhd and supported by Creador Foundation, Cahya Mata Sarawak Bhd, COPE Private Equity Sdn Bhd and Centriq PR Sdn Bhd, the webinar series is free for all registrants. For more information and to register, kindly visit badanwarisanmalaysia.org/spotlight-on-sarawak/.

Datin Dona Drury Wee is the chairperson of the Culinary Heritage and Arts Society Sarawak, while James Yong is the president of the Sarawak Heritage Society.


The views expressed are of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the stand of the newspaper’s owners and editorial board.