By Ekamiezza Kamil
BISHOPGATE Road in downtown Kuching, which is usually bustling with activity, is silent and calm save for the sound of metal being hammered which could be heard loudly as this writer walked in the alley towards Carpenter Street.
I was on a leisure evening stroll to enjoy the beauty of Kuching city, but the sound caught my attention and I went to look for the source of it.
In front of an old shop, there was an old man sitting on a small stool, focused on crafting something out of a piece of metal.
After using a hammer to alter the shape of the metal a few more times, he was satisfied with the end product evident by the smile on his face.
I approached the old man to see what he was doing and his shop is filled with a lot of metal pieces, from old rusted pans to long and rusted metal sheets and poles.
His hands remained steady and his eyes focused intensely on the piece of metal that he was working on.
Ho Leng Chiew, 84, is a metal crafter and his family has been in the business since 1927. The shop, Ho Nyen Foh, which is located on Bishopgate Road has been operating in Kuching city for more than 90 years.
Ho said that he still uses the traditional way of crafting metal — by using his hands — instead of the more modern way of using machines.
His daily routine consists sitting at the door of the shop and hammering away at some metal pieces. Among the items he has made are kettles, lamps, liquid funnels, bowls, lanterns and even pots and steamers. Everything is made by hand without the help of high-tech machines.
The shop was established by his family who migrated from China. Every product that he makes takes some time depending on the customer’s demands and the size of the product.
A family member, Lo Sang Fat, who happened to be at the shop, said the shop had been operating for a long time even before he was born.
“I am now 72 years old and this shop has been here even before I was born,” he said.
Customers who come to the shop usually ask to produce specially designed products that are not sold in the market.
“Metal lamps are among the products that are in high demand every time the Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebration comes,” he said.
The arts and crafts produced are considered to be part of the historical heritage in Kuching. In fact, the shop has also received appreciation and recognition from the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture.
If Ho’s knowledge and skills are not passed down to future generations, then the art of metal crafting will be lost and the sound of metal being hammered will never be heard in Bishopgate Road again.