A Market that Reeks of History

By Dennis Ong, William Tham

August 2021 FEATURE
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The fountain at the entrance was likely a drinking fountain being too small for handwashing Drinking water was not easily accessible during the early 20th century so such facilities were introduced for the public seen in places like Singapores 1864 Gemmill Drinking Fountain and even Balik Pulaus 1882 Fountain Roundabout for livestock The nearby keramat is just a few steps away out of sight. Pictures taken by Monty Williams
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THE CAMPBELL STREET Market was built on what was once part of a Muslim cemetery, colloquially called “Utan Mayet”1 – the forest of corpses. There are however few signs of this history etched in the heritage brickwork and Victorian neoclassical architecture of this oldest market building of its kind in George Town.2Located deep in the dense urban core, it would henceforth be regulated by the regime of order and sanitation imposed by the colonial authorities. Yet to this day it...

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References
  • Khoo, Salma Nasution. 1999. “Colonial Intervention & Transformation of Muslim Waqf Settlements in Urban Penang:Second Edition. Petaling Jaya: SIRD, p.77.
  • Pillai, Janet. 2020. Cultural Mapping. Petaling Jaya: SIRD, p.80.
  • Chang, Jiat-Hwee. 2016. A Genealogy of Tropical Architecture: Colonial Networks, Nature and Technoscience. London: Routledge, p.6.
  • Stagno, Bruno. 2001. p.65–92, 78, as cited in Beynon, David. 2017. “‘Tropical’ Architecture in the Highlands of Southeast Asia: Tropicality, Modernity and Identity”, Fabrications, 27:2. doi: 10.1080/10331867.2017.1295502, p. 259.
  • Chang, op. cit., p.7.; and Arnold, David. 2002. p.10, as cited in Bowd, Gavin and Clayton, Daniel. 2020. Impure and Worldly Geography: Pierre Gourou and Tropicality, London: Routledge, p.5.
  • Beynon, David. 2017. “‘Tropical’ Architecture in the Highlands of Southeast Asia: Tropicality, Modernity and Identity.” Fabrications, pp. 260–1.
  • Tariq Jazeel. 2013. Sacred Modernity: Nature, Environment, and the Postcolonial Geographie of Sri Lankan Nationhood. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, p. 99.
  • Chang, op. cit., p. 100.
  • Por, Heong Hong and Tan, Miau Ing. 2021. “Contested Colonial Metrological Sovereignty: The daching riot and the regulation of weights and measures in British Malaya”. Modern Asian Studies, p. 1-20. doi:10.1017/S0026749X21000019.
  • “Fishy!” Morning Tribune. 14 June 1938, p. 22.
  • “Human Ears [sic] in Market Place”. Morning Tribune. 30 August 1938, p.2.
  • Pillai, op. cit., p. 84.
  • Khoo, op. cit., p. 81.
  • Pillai, op. cit., p. 92. There has been plenty of interest in wet markets and their links to the Hungry Ghost Festival, as seen in a 1990 issue of the Pulau Pinang magazine, vol. 2 no. 4, edited by Khoo Su Nin.
  • Middlebrook, S.M. 1983. Yap Ah Loy. Kuala Lumpur: Art Printing Works, p. 39.
  • Middlebrook, op. cit., p. 83, 93.
  • Gullick, J.M. 2000. A History of Kuala Lumpur. Kuala Lumpur: Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, p. 95–6.
  • “A Disgrace To K.L.” Malaya Tribune. 24 September 1934, p. 10.
  • “K.L. Market Is Most Modern In The East.” Morning Tribune. 5 December 1938, Page 3.
  • “Leaf Wrappers not Allowed.” Morning Tribune. 13 June 1938, p.3.
  • “Pasar Besar Kuala Lumpur tempat yang paling kotor”. Berita Harian. 29 August 1968, p.8.
  • “Girl and boy friend detained for 45 minutes for ‘holding hands’ at market Accused of ‘behaving in offensive manner.’” Straits Times (Overseas ed). 5 August 1989, p.9.
Dennis Ong

Dennis Ong is a heritage and culture enthusiast with a great fondness for all things KL - his kampung. He enjoys exploring towns and cities with his camera during his free time. Currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Visual Culture, he is also a member of the Museum Volunteers, JMM.

William Tham

His novel, The Last Days, is set in 1981 and covers the continuing legacy of the Malayan Emergency. He is currently an editor-at-large with Wasifiri and also an MA candidate at Universiti Malaya.


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