One’s hometown is often stuffed with nice childhood recollections. It’s a place some ultimately depart to construct their careers, whereas others select to stay and carve out a life for themselves.
Nonetheless, there is no such thing as a denying that every particular person’s hometown has a particular place in his or her coronary heart.
And that’s one thing Bukit Mertajam boy Alan Teh readily agrees to.
The locals know Bukit Mertajam, situated in Penang, as Tua Sua Kha in Hokkien, which implies “the foot of a giant hill”. That exactly describes the geographical location of the city, mentioned Teh.
“If one had been to view it from Penang Hill, one is not going to miss the sharp Bukit Mertajam throughout the ocean. The phrase ‘mertajam’ additionally refers to a sort of tree present in abundance on the hill within the olden days, ” defined Teh.
To protect and cross on collective recollections of their cherished kampung to the subsequent technology, 20 volunteers received collectively to kind Rakan BM (Rakan Bukit Mertajam) in 2018.
“We began as a small volunteer collective in 2016 when Yokohama metropolis council representatives got here to Bukit Mertajam to review its city historical past below the Japan Worldwide Cooperation Company (Jica).
“We supplied our opinions as citizen members, ” mentioned Teh, one of many pioneers and founding members of Rakan BM, or “Mates of BM” in English.
Then in October 2018, the group formally registered itself as Persatuan Rakan Bukit Mertajam.
“The goal of forming the affiliation (relatively than working as an unofficial group) is to obtain funding and sponsorships with full transparency and professionalism. It’s also to stick to the foundations and rules entailed inside a non-governmental organisation, ” defined Teh.
One in all Rakan BM’s plans is to collect consultants in numerous fields to analyze methods to revitalise the historic Bukit Mertajam city and focus on sustainable improvement.
Bukit Mertajam has two essential non secular occasions that appeal to pilgrims nationwide: Bukit Mertajam Hungry Ghost Pageant (that includes one of many greatest Hungry Ghost Pageant effigies in Malaysia) and St Anne’s Pageant.
“Up to now, we’ve got performed three major issues; maintain an annual artwork and cultural pageant; rejuvenate an outdated, abandoned lane into an artwork stroll with landscaping and actions; and collect a knowledge stock of historic buildings and organise guided excursions on the historical past and heritage of Bukit Mertajam, ” he mentioned.
The primary Jom Pi Pasar BM, or the Bukit Mertajam Group Artwork & Cultural Pageant, was held in August 2018.
The four-day pageant efficiently raised consciousness on preserving and rejuvenating the outdated streets in Bukit Mertajam.
Final August, Rakan BM organised Jom Pi Pasar for the second time, with the goal of bringing the four-day pageant to new heights. The theme of the pageant was “Again to Previous Streets”, the place guests walked down reminiscence lanes via streets that got here alive with artwork installations.
Winds of change
Teh used to stay along with his grandparents in Kampung Aston close to Bukit Mertajam city till he was three. Then, his mother and father moved out to remain on their very own. On weekends and festive seasons, they nonetheless returned to spend time along with his grandparents once they had been nonetheless alive.
Teh recalled: “I used to comply with my grandmother to the Bukit Mertajam marketplace for Chinese language New 12 months buying. The streets can be filled with hawkers and merchants promoting foodstuff, praying paraphernalia and ornamental gadgets. We’d store till midnight and the streets would nonetheless be thronged with individuals.”
After Kind 5, Teh left Bukit Mertajam to additional his research. He later selected to quiet down in Kuala Lumpur along with his family and has been there for nearly 20 years.
Teh noticed that Bukit Mertajam has modified so much over time.
“From a thriving enterprise hub and logistic centre of the northern area (by way of its railway and highway transport community), Bukit Mertajam is now in sharp decline.
“The city has grown even quieter now after the Electrical Practice Service (ETS) was established and the railway station relocated out of Bukit Mertajam, ” he mentioned.
Making a extra habitable city
Teh added that Rakan BM is enjoying a supportive and advisory position to the related authorities in figuring out historic landmark buildings within the city because it doesn’t have the capability to preserve these buildings.
The affiliation, he continued, has a heavy accountability to do cultural mapping and placemaking workout routines as they will work with numerous events.
Teh mentioned that when it comes to ethnic breakdown, Bukit Mertajam city contains 90% Chinese language – which has similarities to many historic west coast cities like Taiping, Ipoh and Kampar – and 10% Indian.
In the meantime, the Malay inhabitants is generally concerned in commerce and are available to the city for his or her enterprise actions. They predominantly stay on the outskirts of the city.
At present, greater than 35% of shophouses in Bukit Mertajam have been abandoned or closed down.
An architect by occupation, Teh additionally owned an artwork gallery for seven years till its closure final October.
“I used to be the curator for the Bukit Mertajam Group Artwork & Cultural Pageant. I’ve additionally began to gather and archive the historical past and constructing material of Bukit Mertajam within the hope that in the future, the knowledge may be showcased in an area historical past museum.
“Additionally, via my networking in Kuala Lumpur, I’ve been collaborating with individuals from the lecturers, city planning and conservation, and enterprise and tourism fields, to revive Bukit Mertajam by way of numerous mechanisms, ” he shared.
Finally, Teh mentioned Rakan BM needs Bukit Mertajam to be revived as a habitable city with equal financial alternatives and a spot wealthy in tradition and historical past.
With the group’s ardour and willpower, that’s absolutely a dream that’s inside attain.