1.76 million sponsorship to preserve living history 


YSD CEO Yatela Zainal Abidin presenting the sponsorship mock cheque worth RM1.76 million to Ee Soon Wei, Managing Director of TRP Heritage, witnessed by special guest Professor Emeritus Tan Sri Datuk Dr. Khoo Kay Kim

MALACCA, 16 APRIL 2014 – Amidst the silent degeneration of heritage and cultural facets in this modern age, traditional crafts and heritage buildings in need of rejuvenation hold out with hope for a better future.

Recognising the need to preserve some of these priceless heritage, Yayasan Sime Darby (YSD) has pledged RM1.76 million to help create the country’s first living printing press museum - The Royal Press (TRP) in the historic enclave within the city of Malacca.

YSD's sponsorship, under its Arts and Culture pillar, is to highlight TRP and preserve an age-old tradition in the art of printmaking. The partnership with TRP will be YSD’s first ever support for the preservation and creation of a national monument of international standards for the age old tradition of printmaking. This is in line with the objectives of the pillar to enhance arts and culture appreciation and education; whilst increasing the sustainability of the Malaysian arts, heritage, culture and tradition.

The funding, over the next three years, will be used to revive, document and create a more informed environment for the distinctive craft of letterpress printing and printmaking for future generations.

TRP, believed to be one of the oldest surviving letterpress publishing companies in the world had approached YSD for support to restore and revive its printing art and tell the story of the dying traditional art of printing.

YSD Chief Executive Officer Yatela Zainal Abidin was elated at the opportunity to play a part in the rejuvenation of a living history.

“The significance of this historic establishment has to be highlighted and publicised. YSD is passionate about protecting the diverse and rich cultural heritage and legacies that are uniquely Malaysian, while ensuring their survival in these modern times,” she said.

Founded in 1938 by Ee Lay Swee, TRP survived the Japanese occupation in Malaya in the 1940s but faced its biggest challenge in the 1960s as the offset printing technology began booming.

Ee Soon Wei, the scion of a multi-generation family of printers, said he was mulling over the idea of rejuvenating TRP, with the ultimate goal of turning it into a living print museum, emulating the Gutenburg Museum in Germany, the world’s oldest printing museum.

“We are at the heart of the famous Jonker Walk in Malacca but the throngs of tourists bypass or mostly fail to notice the unassuming doorways of this double-storey shop house that houses one of the world’s rarest polyglot presses. We have to do something now or soon the craft will be forgotten and fade away completely,” he said.

“Over the last couple of years, we have had our share of interest from many parties, however in these challenging economic times, not many are keen to back this venture. The sponsorship by YSD will provide us with much needed funding to revitalise the craft and facilitate the study of forgotten scripts and document the confluence of different languages that shaped Malacca into what it is today.

“The study will include cataloguing of archived printed materials, journals, ledgers, wood and lead letter blocks that are made in four principal scripts – Roman, Chinese, Tamil and Arabic – encapsulating five major languages – English, Malay, Chinese, Tamil and Jawi,” Soon Wei explained.

YSD’s funding will cover renovations of some dilapidated parts of the premises including restoration of the original hand-painted wall murals which have seen better days.

  In her speech at the cheque presentation ceremony, Yatela said the funding would also support development of guided tours, apprenticeship opportunities, engagements with international poets especially the T.S. Elliot prize winners and industry experts. 

“YSD would like to see TRP becoming a global printmaking centre for books using typesetting and letterpress printing methods and as a research centre for novel approaches and traditional methods in the art of printmaking.

“With the launch of TRP as Malaysia’s first living museum dedicated to this particular craft, we hope the assistance we have provided will allow TRP to be not just a famous tourist spot in Malaysia but also an educational centre for the art of printmaking,” she added.

Meanwhile, TRP is already making inroads on the international printmaking front with the Gutenberg Museum which regards TRP as the potential gatekeeper of old letterpress and linotype machinery. The prestigious gallery has indicated interest in a partnership with TRP to maintain its selected hand pressed machines for safekeeping.

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Last Updated:
23 Nov 2017
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