Aiman Batang Ai

From the Blog


Preserving 175 years of Brooke history

Taken from Sarawak Tribune

FEBRUARY 4, 2016

By Janet Ho

For the past week, the buzz around Kuching was about Jason Brooke, a direct descendant of Sarawak’s last ruling Rajah Muda Anthony Walter Dayrell Brooke, being in town.

On Sunday, Jan 31, Jason was invited to stay at the Aiman Batang Ai Resort and Retreat for a night before heading off to Lingga the next day. News of his stay reached the ears of the local Ibans who were staying at a longhouse near the resort and a group of these locals formed a welcoming committee to welcome the distinguished guest.

Upon arrival, the traditional Iban music was played and Jason, along with his entourage, were led by an Iban warrior who danced and brought them to the area where the locals performed a Miring ceremony with Jason as the guest of honour.

After a hearty meal at the resort that evening, Jason sat down with a few members of the local media and spoke about his programmes and future plans.

Being in the state for 2 weeks, Jason’s main objective in Sarawak is to see to the items of the Brooke Gallery, to be located Fort Margherita in Kuching. The gallery will be showcasing exhibits regarding the history of Sarawak in the first 100 years under the ruling of Brookes.

“The artefacts are sponsored by the Brooke Heritage Trust and it will be a permanent museum exhibit scheduled to open around late April or early May this year,” said Jason, whose trust worked together with the Sarawak Museum Department for this project.

The Brooke Heritage Trust is an organisation founded by Jason with his father, James Betram Lionel Brooke, and younger brother, Laurence Nicholas Brooke. The trust works to share and preserve the heritage 175 year old left by the Brooke Family.

The reason for this exhibit is to share the vital items and artefacts that are related to the history of Sarawak with the Sarawakians and give the locals an opportunity to engage with the items and learn more about Sarawak’s heritage. Among the items which will be showcased are digitised records from the Brooke era.

Just like how the news of his stay in Sarawak has spread like wildfire, news about the White Rajah James Brooke’s biopic has also been one of the hot topics around town ever since it was announced a few years ago. In regards to that, Jason clarified that the film would not be produced by him personally.

“Our (the Brooke Heritage Trust) roles are only as advisers to the producers and helping them make it as historically accurate as possible,” he explained.

However, Jason mentioned that the director has yet to confirm where the location of the film would be although he has been encouraging the director to make Sarawak the destination of filming this biopic.

“The trust feels that Sarawak is the best choice for filming because of the authenticity and also having the right people, like the Dayaks, involved. So we are still trying to get the director to choose,” he said, adding that the original choice was Indonesia due to the infrastructures the country has.

The biopic will be about the life of James Brooke and the movie will particularly highlight the part of his life where Sarawak’s history entwines and come together.

Excited fans would wonder when the movie is finally going to start filming but even Jason couldn’t confirm the exact dates yet.

“The timing of it is still uncertain but it could be starting late this year or in May next year (2017),” he explained.

Under the Brooke Heritage Trust, Jason was also excited to share about the future projects in Sarawak.
“One of the main projects we are looking at is to rebuild James Brooke’s ship ‘The Royalist’ that would be a full scale working replica of the real ship which was used back in the day. It would sail around the world and we hope to recreate the voyage.”

Other than that, Jason’s trust also has plans to work together with the local communities in Siniawan and Kampung Pininjau Lama to rebuild James Brooke’s old bungalow located on a hill at Bukit Serumbu.

“We’re trying to get the locals to be engaged through activities like gotong-royong, clearing up the areas and bringing up the materials for rebuilding. Just like Fort Alice, we want the local community to get involved,” said Jason who added that being involved would make the community want to keep the project alive.

For the past eight years, thirty year old Jason Desmond Anthony Brooke has been coming to Sarawak 2 to 3 times yearly. It began after he graduated from university and wanted to reconnect with his roots. When he arrived in Sarawak, he was warmly received and the locals here were more than willing to share information about Sarawak’s heritage with him. After that, he felt encourage to set up the Brooke Heritage Trust. Back in London, Jason works with the British museum where he is also working on projects with the Sarawak Museum.

Jason tries to make it a point to return to Sarawak at least twice a year and his next visit is expected to be during the launch of the Brooke Gallery around late April or early May.