It was a quiet, cloudy afternoon when we decided to take a drive out to Carcosa Seri Negara to check out the Jalan Merdeka exhibition.
Called Jalan Merdeka: Traversing the Routes towards Independence
, it is the pilot project of the Asian Heritage Museum, the new tenants of Carcosa Seri Negara.
The exhibition, which tells the story of the struggles our forefathers had to go through before we achieve our independence, features never-before-seen artefacts.
If that alone doesn't convince you to pay the exhibition a visit, here are eight reasons why you need to visit this exhibition, before it ends!
1. A Sejarah lesson revisited
The exhibition houses a series of collage pictures of the pre-independence days, among other things. The chronological murals depict the journey Malaya faced as a colonised state, through the Japanese occupation and the communist threat, the formation and then dissolution of the Malayan Union, the declaration of independence, and the eventual formation of the ruling coalition, the Alliance Party. The old photographs and accompanying captions are a real treat, akin to an extension of our Sejarah lessons back in secondary school, albeit much more interesting as one reads about the actual struggles our forefathers went through.
2. Read about our unsung heroes, those who didn’t make it to the textbooks
Of course, we know the popular figures, those who have roads named after them, but there are actually many more unsung heroes who have eluded the pages of our history textbooks. These brave men and women transcended the boundaries of race and fought for the nation’s independence, thus freeing us from the shackles of colonialism. Treat yourself to some patriotic artwork depicting these heroes, all done by our local artists.
3. Colonial economics and communication
The second part of the exhibition really hit a raw nerve as we read about the colonial economics and the rise of the political consciousness among the labourers and migrants of the time. It was really eye-opening to read about the struggles faced by the labourers, rubber tappers and miners pre-Merdeka.
4. Marvel at how the workers’ revolution reached Malaya
It is nothing short of amazing, how the proletarian revolution that began in the Russia made its way to Malaya in a time when telegrams (not the app) were the fastest way to communicate. The communist ideology penetrated Malaya and led to the formation of the Malayan Communist Party, who fought tooth and nail for their principles. It was quite exciting to read about how the members of the MCP retaliated to the measures taken to curb their activities.
5. Relive the lives of our great-great grandparents
Times were different back then. Could you imagine living a life amongst the million that died in the rubber estates due to poor living conditions, scarcity of food, and almost non-existent sanitation? The exhibition is full of stories like these, some of which are so wretched that it make our blood boil. Feel yourself being transported back into the time of the 12-year Malayan Emergency, where you are stuck between the Malayan Communist Party and the Government of the Federation of Malaya. One could only get access to food if they had a ration card. This was part of the government’s counter insurgency plan to restrict supplies to the communists.
6. Check out some artefacts from our pre independence days
Among the items up for display at the exhibition are booklets, mining instruments and old bank notes. Ever heard of banana notes? This is probably the best opportunity to have a look at the notes used during the Japanese occupation. There’s even a Japanese military bicycle on display!
7. Read the ACTUAL Proclamation of Independence
The Proclamation of Independence of Malaya is on display, and it was a beautiful way to end the exhibition. After briefly ‘living’ through the struggle our nation faced, just reading this document felt empowering, and will leave you brimming with pride. Also, you could check out the actual table on which the proclamation was signed by Tunku Abdul Rahman! There was also the pen he used and our first national flag on display.
8. An opportunity to check out Carcosa Seri Negara
How many of us have even heard about this colonial building? Unlike the overpriced colonial hotels in KL, this building has managed to retain its old school charm, and getting there is quite a spectacle on its own. Picture a narrow road with hairpin bends, and strategically placed mirrors, devoid of any vehicles, that just keeps going. Upon arriving at the main entrance, you’ll see that the building that Carcosa Seri Negara is actually two colonial buildings, Carcosa, and Seri Negara. The exhibition begins at Carcosa, and when you’re done, take the buggy or walk over to Seri Negara. The lush greenery and well-manicured lawns of the property will astonish you!
This exhibition should be made mandatory for all Malaysians. We take too much for granted, and seem to have imbibed the ‘complain culture’. Only when we see the labours of our forefathers for us to live the cushy life we do, will we be truly grateful to be Malaysian.
The Jalan Merdeka exhibition
will be held up to 30 September 2017
. It is open daily from 8.00am to 5.00pm
. Admission is free.