Thank you for the invitation to contribute to this conversation. In what role, is still being defined. At least as a Very Interested Party ~ who is a designer and educator. What follows is pretty much an open letter and will be posted in a number of directions.


The capital of a State not a city state.

I gained this insight since the note enclosed here was presented by DL to the ICOGRADA BOARD, supported by being witness to recent local elections. An intuitive response is now a better informed one. Enhanced and confirmed – but not changed – by the experience of being in THIS GOOD PLACE for 3 months, framed by a better understanding of INDIGO goals as they are communicated on the website. The 2012 conference is the hard launch of a globally significant organization broadly committed to the conservation and promulgation of culture – more specifically design knowledge, as global culture.


To: David Lancashire ~ Chair: INDIGO ICOGRADA

David ~

Not sure what you would want – but If I was arguing for a conference location with all its amenities of a global standard ~ but one which also challenges participants to reflect on design and it’s practice in a place ­where the magnificent fragility of the environment and human culture are a back drop ~ where nature is an overt and ever present phenomena in the city (3- 4 metres of rain 22 >32 C pa – rainforest + mould ) where multi-culturism has been an ongoing successful experiment for centuries (3-4 languages in common use and English a required language ) ~ where traditional rainforest born crafts are fast approaching a possibly terminal intersection with technology and modernity~where a local vernacular graphic design and language evolves spontaneously and vigorously alongside/despite global marketing strategies ~ where superb indigenous architecture is lost in time and the forest ~ where the clouds are an engrossing narrative ~ where eating is a pleasure to be enjoyed in publicwhere orangutang are considered citizen ~ where tattoos are indigenous where the people are so nice ~ where Islam is the ‘state’ religion but evangelical Christianity roams free and beer is generally ok 

Sarawak is A Good Place.

Kuching is also strikingly beautiful – to this traveller – small – an invention of necessity not empire – 600,00 people – everything within walking or affordable taxi ride distance – including the beach – the mountains. After 10 weeks in Sarawak I know it is a place to hold onto – An island that time didn’t forget but to a large extent allowed it to remain a pretty manageable micro version of the world – where all the human experiments – successful and unsuccessful from neolithic onward have happened and at many levels are continuing to happen parallel with the unselfconscious uptake – not the invasion of modernity.

best regards


The original pitch theme REDISCOVERY or even Re:DISCOVERY for me still encompasses the above text and the DESIGN WEEK it will be part of.  It does sound however – a little ‘colonial’. Perhaps nostalgic? However the implication of an invitation to scrutinise is there, and there lies Kuching and Sarawak’s  ace in global design terms. It is an unknown. Modern and surprisingly ancient. Waiting to be (re)discovered. Only to find it is understood. Rediscovery is about confirmation of something implicitly known – but displaced in memory.

Design Week would in my opinion be best to elevate, celebrate and communicate the integrity of what is – than flirt with that courtesan of PROGRESS – INNOVATION  or equally dangerously its generic – ‘creativity’ – in front of  a local, regional and global student, academic and business audience.

An audit of designated stakeholders would be a first step toward equitably volunteered contributions, to the conference and the bracketing Design Week , locally, nationally, regionally and internationally.


It is almost inevitable under an economic imperative to be ‘creative’; that much that is real might be deemed unsuitable . Of less value. Unmarketable. To be written over with a new ‘up to date’ text. Reduced to stereotype so much that is so naturally, humanly creative about Sarawak  could be displaced by unsustainable  artifice .


It is the job of a better written paragraph than mine to define the event –  it will be a paragraph not just a keyword

~ something like this ~


A conference dealing in part with the politics and processes of cultural colonisation locally,regionally and internationally. It will also cover the historical spectrum of these processes over thousands of years in this unique place. The roots, evolution and movement of Iban, Kenya, Malay, Chinese, Indian and European cultural output,design and crafts – into language, imported technology, media and commerce. Kuching is a vibrant regional focus for an ongoing process, a knowledge marketplace – a meeting place on Sarawak. An island in, and of the world , evolving for millennia – it will continue to evolve as Sarawak does . How to sustain A Good Place and local engagement with sustainable designed development will constitute an imperative for discussion in a forum where both the successes and failures of the World are being enacted in microcosm.

With a conference (that might sound like this) at its centre the Design Week and collateral events would best support it not simply be opportunistic marketing but related supportively. To integrate photography as a published outcome of a major DESIGN WEEK activity would deliver a short term incentive for participation and long term memorialisation of the theme. The graphic design project – Mother Tongue  is scheduled to be launched globally at Kuching . A global photography event culminating then could be developed over a 12 month period.  With that possibility in mind I’ve updated REDISCOVERY to what I believe a global audience might REDISCOVER (as I have ) that Sarawak is – a MICROCOSM or even THE MICROCOSMOS  –  The Small World.

In the service of an open discussion, all above is my speculation offered with no authority other than that which is mine as –


 Lecturer in Graphic Design ~Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak ~ Sometime INDIGO Ambassador to Sarawak


Good Friday 2011

One Response to “A CANARY IN THE MINE”


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