Revisit Ipoh’s Past via Gua Tambun Rock Art

Gua Tambun, a rockshelter hidden in the midst of Gunung Panjang limestone massif, is a living “photo-album” which showcases the lifestyles of early hunter-gatherers of Tambun – the meaning of their life, their culture and their world view some 3000 to 4000 years ago. To date, the last inhabitants of Gua Tambun still remain unknown, but the study into their art is a means of reconnecting Ipohites to the early cultural history of Tambun.

What impressed the archaeologists is that the ancient artists of Tambun were observant because some of the depictions are thoroughly illustrated. What the ancient Tambun’s men left behind are the stories painted on the wall, hoping that one day, the future Tambun community would interpret them.

As an archaeologist, I tend to give meanings to these depictions based on rock art literature. But Tambun Rock Art is indigenously Tambun’s. We should give way to Tambun community to ascribe their meanings to these depictions – to decode their very own cultural past, from the eyes of contemporary Tambun. The question is, how?

As such, Gua Tambun Heritage Awareness Project has initiated a programme focusing on collating community interpretations of these paintings as a means to promote local awareness on Tambun Rock Art. On Wednesday, September 16, a group of Ipohites joined us to revisit Ipoh’s past through Tambun Rock Art. We shared the beauty of cultural history of Tambun through a small poster exhibition at the foothill and a 2-hour rock art interpretation session at Gua Tambun. Many were amazed by how the ancient people of Gua Tambun produced these aesthetically powerful rock art. We worked together to decipher the old messages preserved on the cave wall.

So fellow Ipohites, why wait? Do join us for our next programme! We are going to run a poster exhibition at the foothill of Gua Tambun on Saturday, October 3, from 9.30am to 1pm. Do swing by if you have time. We will visit the cave and let you share with us your Gua Tambun story!

For more information and updates on our project, please follow us on Facebook – Gua Tambun Heritage Awareness Project, or drop us an email at tambunrockart@gmail.com.

Hsiao-Mei Goh

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