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Advocate of national treasures

05 May 2021 / 10:06 H.

PETALING JAYA: Having spent much of her life in cultural and heritage work, Badan Warisan Malaysia’s former executive director Elizabeth Cardosa (pix) is determined to put heritage firmly on the agenda of masses.

“People often see heritage buildings or sites as big, grand and whimsical, but they are more than that. Heritage is about legacy and memory, at both the personal and national levels,” the 20-year veteran of the National Heritage Foundation told theSun.

Cardosa’s love for heritage and history had its roots in her childhood.

“I was privileged to have parents who nurtured my love for these two things. My parents also shared my love for history and heritage.

“They understood the importance of legacy, culture and tradition and made sure that we had the exposure we needed.”

That love would eventually define her adulthood and career as an advocate for the preservation and maintenance of historical buildings and sites.

“History and heritage go hand-in-hand. We cannot separate the two. Every heritage has a meaning, a series of events that defines it.

“That explains why it is important to understand what happens after a heritage building or site is sold,” she said.

“For example, if you sell your great grandmother’s house – a home that holds your family’s stories and history – the impact may not seem significant to your generation, but it will be for those who come after you.

“The intangible value and spirit of heritage cannot be quantified in dollars and cents.”

Cardosa noted that the value of heritage is felt most profoundly in its absence. “When we can see it, we are indifferent because we think it will always be there.”

Badan Warisan Malaysia was set up in response to the rapid changes in the physical urban environment. Buildings are being torn down or reshaped based on a more modernistic point of view.

“There was an elderly Malay couple who lived in a traditional Malay wooden house. However, three months later the house was replaced by a new brick building. When asked, the couple responded that if they continued to live in a wooden house or rumah papan, people would assume they were not progressive enough,” she recounted.

“It’s a sad situation when a heritage building is rebuilt. It loses its original uniqueness and value.”

Cardosa urged heritage lovers like her to continue to care for the nation’s heritage. “Rather than just scratching the surface, we should look at things from a deeper perspective.”

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