Wawasan Open University (WOU) together with Universiti Sains Malaysia and Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) organised a Penang folklore awareness workshop that focused on celebrating and preserving the people’s traditions at USM. The workshop was officially opened by Penang Yang di-Pertua Negeri Tun Abdul Rahman Abbas.
The three universities are collaborating to preserve, rediscover, document and disseminate the cultural heritage of the people of Penang, especially their living traditions, and to promote these as a tourist attraction.
The data on folklore was gathered via literature search, visits to agencies and participatory dialogue with the communities. Folklore is defined as ‘the traditional beliefs, practices, customs, stories, jokes, songs, etc of people handed down orally or behaviourally from individual to individual’. The documented folklores of the three major ethnic groups were disseminated at the workshop to create awareness among the academics, communities, government agencies, NGOs and tourism-related agencies on the importance of appreciating and preserving the folklores.
Participants of the workshop were also entertained by cultural activities like boria, gasing, congkak, guli and joget, They witnessed demonstrations on making beaded shoes, henna painting, Indian kolam (decorative artwork drawn on the ground), Chinese calligraphy, and making thong yuen, a Chinese traditional dessert, and an exhibition of crafts made of rattan and shells by Rumah Nur, the Women Support Centre under the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development.
At the same ceremony, the Penang Yang di-Pertua Negeri launched a blog on cultural preservation, http://www.penangfolklore2010.blogspot.com, which will record and document information on traditional songs, stories and games.
"The information collected on the blog will be shared among students, researchers and the public so that the living traditions will become part of our future generation,” he said, adding that the information will continuously be updated to eventually form a complete archive for the reference of people from around the world.
A forum on ‘Penang Traditions’ was also arranged to discuss and strategise on ways to promote the living traditions. Four panelists, Prof Dr Mogana Dhamotharan from WOU, Dr Agnes Liau from USM, Assoc Prof Dr Azlena Zainal from UiTM and cultural arts activist Omar Md Hashim, shared their comments at the session.
This inter-varsity effort is perhaps the first such collaboration among the higher education institutions, and will benefit the regional community and other institutions of higher learning.