Ensuring that Culture, the Arts and Heritage Survive

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Iskandar Regional Development Authority (IRDA) recently launched the Iskandar Malaysia Beyond Boundaries Programme (IMB2P), a grant scheme to support the promotion and development of arts, culture and heritage in Iskandar Malaysia and a coffee table book, The Illustrated Heritage of West Johor Strait

Iskandar Malaysia isn’t just about rapid economic and technological development; it’s also about keeping the arts, culture and heritage of Johor especially in keeping the Iskandar Malaysia region alive and booming.

The Johor Straits was once a vital trading route for merchant ships between the South China Sea and the Straits of Malacca and beyond into the Indian Ocean before it was split into two by the building of the Causeway into Singapore in 1924.

But the centuries as a vital shipping lane made Johor culturally rich and diverse with influences from the many cultures that landed on its shores to trade and intermingle.

The launching of two new initiatives on 18th October 2018 underscores IRDA’s commitment towards keeping the arts, culture and heritage of Johor’s region that borders the Straits alive and vibrant for the benefit of the people that live and visit Iskandar Malaysia.

The two initiatives are the Iskandar Malaysia Beyond Boundaries Programme (IMB2P) and a coffee table book published together with Universiti Teknologi Malaysia called The Illustrated Heritage of West Johor Strait.

IMB2P is a grant programme that funds arts, culture and heritage projects of Iskandar Malaysia with collaborative international partners abroad or are already in Malaysia.

The Illustrated Heritage of West Johor Strait features the lives and livelihoods of the people living in the west of the Johor Straits but with a focus on two important villages, Kampung Sungai Melayu and Kampung Tebing Runtuh.

In officiating the dual launch of IMB2P and The Illustrated Heritage of West Johor Strait, Mohd Khuzzan Abu Bakar, the state’s Youth, Sports and Culture Committee Chairman, echoed UNESCO’s (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) statement that any development is not sustainable without a strong cultural component.

According to UNESCO, culture is both an enabler and a driver of the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development, yet until recently culture has been missing from the development equation.

“Therefore, as to ensure that culture takes its rightful place in the development strategies and processes, the state government is striving to preserve our local culture, arts and heritage amidst rapid development and modernisation under the Johor Sustainable Development Plan,” Khuzzan said.

“We need more initiatives such as this one (IMB2P) to support the state government in realising and driving the agenda of the Johor Sustainable Development Plan,” he added.

Khuzzan lamented that there have been some historical buildings and structures that have already been demolished and destroyed and he hopes IRDA and the public can be more vigilant in halting the destruction of such vital components that are symbols of the richness of southern Johor’s important past.

Datuk Ismail Ibrahim, IRDA’s Chief Executive said, “With its aim to be the preferred destination to invest, work, live and play, Iskandar Malaysia’s development continues to be guided by the Circle of Sustainability, a holistic and resilient ecosystem where economic, social and environment agendas are of equal importance and receive equal attention.”

“We are mindful of the importance of arts, culture and heritage in creating a soulful, diverse and exciting atmosphere for locals and foreigners alike,” he added.

According to statement by IRDA, IMB2P aims to recognise and appreciate the artistic and cultural diversity as well as to support and encourage collaboration and sharing for better use of resources and sustainability.

Supported by the Iskandar Malaysia Social Project Funds, IMB2P will allow participation and involvement from local artists, practitioners and students in Iskandar Malaysia in collaborative projects of arts, culture and heritage with any related international partners in Malaysia and overseas.

(For information and details of the grants, please visit www.facebook.com/IMB2P).

The coffee table book, The Illustrated Heritage of West Johor Strait, a collaborative effort between IRDA and UTM (Universiti Teknologi Malaysia) is based on thorough research on the “tangible and intangible heritage of the villages located along the West Johor Straits,” according to the statement.

The Illustrated Heritage of West Johor Strait weighs heavily towards the Malay villages of Kampung Sungai Melayu and Tebing Runtuh, looking into their fishing practices, culture and heritage.