Public invited to attend talk on 40 never before exhibited paintings created by Berawan artists in 1955

One of the paintings on a ceiling panel created by a Berawan artist from Long Jegan in 1955.

KUCHING, March 24: A public talk on the history and stories behind some 40 unique traditional paintings created by Berawan artists from Long Jegan for Kuching Supreme Court in 1955 that had never been exhibited before will be held on March 31.

The public talk titled “Political by design: The 1955 painted ceiling panels of the Kuching Supreme Court” is scheduled for 2.30pm at the Institute of Borneo Studies of Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas).

According to a press statement from the Institute of Borneo Studies, former Sarawak Museum curator Tom Harrisson engaged a group of Berawan artists from Long Jegan to paint 60 ceiling panels for the Kuching Supreme Court-cum-Legislative Council building in 1955.

He had also commissioned the artists to create traditional paintings and carvings for museum exhibitions.

In doing so, Harrisson used his position as a museum curator to make a political statement regarding the implementation of a colonial code of law.

Today, only 40 of the paintings remain and are now in the Sarawak Museum storage.

Never before exhibited in the Sarawak Museum, these paintings contain the historicity of the Berawan people of Long Jegan, the Museum and the colonial government of 1947 to 1963.

The Institute of Borneo Studies said that this talk will not only tell some of the stories of the paintings but also aims to raise awareness of the importance of museums conducting thorough object biographies.

“Gathering narratives from multiple viewpoints help us to see the many human stories that museum objects contain,” it said.

The talk will be presented by Louise Macul, a final year doctoral candidate at the University of Leicester, UK School of Museum Studies.

Her doctoral thesis focuses on the de-colonisation of museum notions of authenticity.

Macul has lived in Southeast Asia for the past 25 years and in Kuching since 2010. She was a founding member of Friends of Sarawak Museum (2012) and was the executive director from 2012 to 2017 and advisor (2018-2021).

Members of the public, especially historians, lawyers, heritage practitioners, arts historians and artistes, are invited to join in the talk.

The talk will also be streamed online via Zoom. For more information, those interested may contact Hella at 019-8360295. — DayakDaily

A promotional material of a public talk on “Political by design: The 1955 painted ceiling panels of the Kuching Supreme Court” by Louise Macul on March 31, 2023.