Innovation in Safeguarding Local Art and Cultural Asset

by Kenneth Wong

Since March 2016, PEOPLE IDEAS CULTURE (PIC Consultancy) sees the need in disrupting the current norm of corporate social responsibility approach. Local corporates look into CSR as something solely limited to orphanage, single mother, underprivileged children and refugees etc, neglecting the fact that social reengineering or social mobility boost could also be achieved through cultural programming and place making. In simple term, cultural programming refers to curation of art and cultural activity in shaping the value of the society. While place making refers to guerrilla tactics in revitalising the under- utilized public space or abandoned premises.

The very first cultural programming initiative kicked off by PIC Consultancy was to collect the oral history of senior citizens in Bangsar. The interviews were conducted through the initial communication with the residency association in Bangsar. Bangsar is currently undergoing an rampant redevelopment which is nearly unknown by outsiders. In viewing the land scarcity and the fact that most KLites cannot afford purchasing premium housing products, the developers have overlooked the potential of brownfield development in amidst of oversupply of these products range in the market. Brownfield development or “infill development” refers to re-adaptive use of abandoned or long forgone premises. These means instead of keep exploiting the land resources that create the problem of land scarcity and urban sprawling, it is worthwhile to look into the rejuvenation of the run down area. This also leads to Kinrara Artist Village in my sequel article, as an experimenting ground in revitalising an abandoned army dormitory in Puchong.

Bangsar Heritage Walk project aims to create a quick awareness on the rampant redevelopment in this area. Bangsar may follow the development traits of high rise building cluster in Mont Kiara which jeopardized the close knit relationship of neighbours. Especially threatened in this regard are Bangsar Park and Lucky Garden townscape, which are the first two models of a residential scheme since SOCFIN, the rubber estate company which sold off the rubber estate for housing development. Since the 1960s till now, we have witnessed how Bangsar flourished from an undesired flood prone area in early days to a hipster pub area and high end neighbourhood today. We have overlooked the ageing community in the neighbourhood and the brain drain concern of younger community who studied abroad and opt not to return to their home country. Hence, the oral history exercise came in time for safeguarding the collective memory of the senior citizens and hoping through the walks curated, this will highlight the hidden gems of Bangsar.

Figure 1: Bangsar His-Story Walk

Figure 2: Bangsar Trademark Walk

Three walks have been curated since April 2016 till the last one took place in October 2016. The walks have been parked under a community guide platform called LOKALOCAL.COM which supports the local experts, as an alternative for the existing tourism products pool. The very first walk curated is BANGSARIAN HIS-STORY WALK ( Figure 1). This walk showcases some of the significant historical landmarks of Bangsar: from a rubber estate and how it evolved into an affluent neighbourhood and hipster pub area in Kuala Lumpur. BANGSAR TRADEMARK WALK (Figure 2), is the second segment of Bangsar Heritage Walk project that rolled out in mid-June 2016. This walk brings the public to the old business premises that run more than 20 years in Bangsar, be it a grocery shop, hardware shop, barber shop, pub, kopitiam etc. It is not easy to sustain that long in Bangsar as the new ventures who come in usually don’t last more than three years in the neighbourhood due to the rocket high rental.

Figure 3: Bangsar Place Making Walk

BANGSAR PLACE MAKING WALK as the third walk (Figure 3), is a by product of an award winning proposal during the Young People Lab workshop, that has been presented in the World Class Sustainable Cities International Conference in September 2016. It is an educational walk to showcase what role urban intervention and initiative from the local stakeholders could play in further enhancing the vitality of the neighbourhood. This walk is more targeted towards those who appreciate the architecture, landscape and urban regeneration topics. Place making refers to a collaborative process by which we can shape our public realm in order to maximise the shared value, e.g. Basikal rooftop cafe cum bicycle workshop and L45 community library.

These walks have gained media exposure and awareness of KLites about Bangsar and informed that the redevelopment scale could have not be like the one which took place in KL Sentral, whereby most of the youngsters have no much association in regard of the history there, besides from the mushrooming high rise development of several commercial towers nowadays.

Subsequent from the success roll out of the Bangsar Heritage Walks as a community guide initiative, Overhead Bridge Festival in Dec 2017 has been proposed by PIC Consultancy due to the concern of rich poor disparity in between of Bangsar and Abdullah Hukum. In fact, the Abdullah Hukum apartment are inhabited by foreign workers and low income group tenants that work in KL Sentral, Mid Valley and Bangsar. With RIVER OF LIFE project that is supposed to enhance the riverbank of Sungai Klang, PIC foresees that the portfolio of Abdullah Hukum will become awkward in the midst of premium redevelopment in Eco City, Bangsar and Bangsar South. PIC advocates every new township development should have the provision for affordable housing as depicted in Malaysia town planning guidelines. We are not blaming the gentrification of the old printing factory that has been converted into a hipster co-working space and cafe cluster but we have concern on how the nearby inhabitants (especially the neglected Abdullah Hukum) being put up the barrier even though some of the events took place in APW is free admission and with good intention.

In balancing the awkward feeling of the working community there before the redevelopment or gentrification which will take place aggressively, PIC feels the need to bring the art and cultural element closer to them. Hence, the theme of the festival is SILVER LINING and the objectives are:

  1. As a symbol in bridging the urban poor and the rich
  2. To make art accessible to everyone
  3. To promote the sense of belonging to the community within the vicinity.

This article sums up a part of the initiatives put up by PEOPLE IDEAS CULTURE in assessing the conventional CSR approach that wittily using art and cultural to tell our own home city story and revitalising the public space, for the betterment of the society together.

For more info, please go to the public page of PEOPLE IDEAS CULTURE at https://www.facebook.com/peopleideasculture/

Or contacting Kenneth Wong at 0183668770 or peopleideasculture@gmail.com

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