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Labelling multicultural heritage in George Town, Malaysia

George Town on the Island of Penang in Malaysia was recognized as a World Heritage site in 2008 for its “multicultural heritage."

Watch this video to understand how George Town, Malaysia became a World Heritage site.

UNESCO recognized the value of the city’s multicultural heritage.

The following criteria justify the listing of George Town along with Melaka:

  • Melaka and George Town represent exceptional examples of multi-cultural trading towns in East and Southeast Asia, forged from the mercantile and exchanges of Malay, Chinese, and Indian cultures and three successive European colonial powers for almost 500 years, each with its imprints on the architecture and urban form, technology and monumental art. Both towns show different stages of development and successive changes over a long period of time and are thus complementary.
  • Melaka and George Town are living testimony to the multi-cultural heritage and tradition of Asia and European colonial influences. This multi-cultural tangible and intangible heritage is expressed in the great variety of religious buildings of different faiths, ethnic quarters, the many languages, worship and religious festivals, dances, costumes, art and music, food, and daily life.
  • Melaka and George Town reflect a mixture of influences, which have created a unique architecture, culture, and townscape without parallel anywhere in East and South Asia. In particular, they demonstrate an exceptional range of shophouses and townhouses. These buildings show many different types and stages of development of the building type, some originating in the Dutch or Portuguese periods.

What do you think?

In George Town, public authorities have used the World Heritage label to portray an image of inter-ethnic harmony. But this discourse may not reflect the reality that populations face in their daily life.

Are labels supposed to portray an idealised vision of cultural diversity? Do you think they can also raise awareness of the difficulties that some minorities are facing?

This article is from the free online

Cultural Diversity and the City

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