Heritage, Still Relevant, or Not?

Written By
Annisa Puspa Andira

Edited By
Fazrah LR Heryanda

Photograph By
Adhelia Sani Pramita
Fazrah LR Heryanda
Fadhli Zaky

Since we a child, we’ve been told to preserve our heritage as we own it.  Heritage considered to be a landmark identity to distinguishes it for another—or in this case a city. However, the problem is preserving a heritage today become an unpopular thing to do and easy to left behind. Perhaps, Ayos Purwoaji’s opinion about culture would open your eyes.

Ayos’s doubt on heritage begins when he sees strange pillars stand-alone located in front of Tunjungan Plaza 5, Surabaya. He researches to fill his curiosity on the meaning of those peculiar pillars. Turn out it was a Toko NAM (NAM’s store) façade that’s been rebuilt as a reminiscent of its glory to be great shopping center in 1935. With a push from heritage enthusiast, those pillars today become one of the Surabaya’s heritage. Confusion strikes and made Ayos rethinking again what heritage means.

In his search of heritage meaning, he found himself to a conclusion where heritage that we believe and know are determined patriarchally based on a legacy from the colonial period, which means that monuments, national park or preservation that feel as a ‘heritage’ are decision embodiment of certain parties which refer to the government and the academia. What Ayos believe in heritage is that society should be the one who’s owning the decision. Unbiased, free from any parties’ interests and genuinely associated with society’s memory.

However, another question popped up, why society has to be the owner of heritage decision? Why not just the government and the people who expert to that field doing itself? This is because sometimes the heritage designation was impacting the society.

"To me, heritage should be existing when there are still people who want to remember it when there's one memory that embedded in people's mind."

For better comprehension, let’s take a look at the ‘Rumah Abu Han’ issue. Rumah Abu Han, located in Jl. Karet, Surabaya is a particular house that happened as a funeral home to Han’s family ancestor. For decades, ‘Rumah Abu Han’ become a place to store the ashes of Han’s late relatives. But, people weren’t aware of its existence, and there was a plan to knock down the house for a shopping center. “Even though the house has been considered as a heritage by the owner and his family, the government said otherwise,” said Ayos reliving the tale. Luckily, the owner could save his funeral home despite his struggle to prove that it’s worth saving. So, in this case, we learned that government recognition is crucial.

While reading those paragraphs would lead us a perplexing feeling, but actually, we should take time to process Ayos perspective on heritage. Ayos added, “To me, heritage should be existing when there are still people who want to remember it when there’s one memory that embedded in people’s mind.” It means heritage is more on its ownership belongs to society and pure from the community and this the reason why there are still many who hesitate in preserving the heritage because it is considered irrelevant where there are no attached memories to it.

Through the journey in continuing to redefine heritage, Ayos and his friends were not stood by but undertaken step by established Surabaya Contemporary Heritage Council (SCHC). “There are particular heritage communities in Surabaya, but we choose a different path.

SCHC is an institution that creates our heritage as a legacy for our children in the future. We’re here to celebrates the things that still exist around us and give a strong memory,” said Ayos. Till today, SCHC has established two contemporary heritage in Surabaya, ‘Adu Doro’ and Shin Hua Barbershop as a celebration of living heritage.