Bonding with Gaya Street

Plans are afoot for the Kota Kinabalu City Day celebration in the month of February, 2012.

One of the events underway is “Bonding with Gaya Street”—a community heritage exhibition that will be co-organized by Dewan Bandaraya Kota Kinabalu (DBKK) and North Borneo History Enthusiasts (NBHE) – a group dedicated to discovering, preserving and sharing the rich heritage of Sabah.

The two-day event to be held February 11 and 12, is also being supported by the Sabah Tourism Board, Information Department, Sabah Museum, Sabah Archives Department and RTM, amongst others, according to Organizing Chairperson, Datin Fazar Datuk Arif from the North Borneo History Enthusiasts.

To celebrate Gaya Street is to celebrate the growth and tenacity of Kota Kinabalu City and her community. In lieu of this, it is also Gaya Street’s 61st anniversary, this year.

The first 17 shop-houses were built along an area called Bond Street that would later be re-named Gaya Street. Hence, the title and theme of the event, “Bonding With Gaya Street,” a little name play, as conceived by one of NBHE’s members from the younger generation, Nadira Ilana, a Sabahan script writer and film maker based in Kuala Lumpur.

On a communal level,  the organizers will be collaborating with Gaya Street shop owners to host ‘mini exhibits’ which will include stories, photographs and artifacts contributed by the general public to explore Gaya Street’s community heritage and history.

The exhibition program will encompass the Gaya Street area, including an ‘A Go Go’ inspired concert called ‘Together Again’ celebrating our veteran musicians and musical heritage as well as an antique car exhibition. The creative team is being led by Sabahan artist, Yee I-Lann.

“NBHE’s creative team intends to set Gaya Street abuzz from February 2nd with the community heritage exhibition. The launch of the event and the coffee table book will be on February 11th (Saturday), with the ‘Together Again’ music concert charting the popular musical journey of Sabah circa the 50s, 60s in the evening,” said Datin Fazar.

Furthermore, NBHE is taking the opportunity in the run up to the actual event to collate, preserve and publish the stories that have been collected for future generations, culminating in the publication of a coffee table book entitled “Bonding With Gaya Street.”

The research and writing team from NBHE are led by dynamic duo Susan C Bansin (a Sabahan scriptwriter based in Kuching) and “Footprints in the Paddyfield” famed author, Tina Kisil.

DBKK and NBHE are encouraging the participation of the public in the making of this event.

NBHE invites members of the public to take part in the event by contributing their personal stories and photographs of Gaya Street. Please e-mail your stories and photographs to [email protected]. Please include full name and contact details for accreditation purposes. Contact numbers will be kept confidential.

A “collection dropbox” with an on-location photocopier machine will be set up specifically for public contribution purposes. This small booth will be located at Kedai Kopi Sen Chong Wah, along Gaya Street. This dropbox will be open from 11.30am to 6pm, Monday to Sunday.

NBHE needs old photographs depicting an assortment of subjects from weddings and babies; to fashionable youngsters; at the cinema; music band photos; depictions of banking, shipping and commerce, architectural details of old shops and life around Gaya Street, in general — anything to bond Kota Kinabalu with Jesselton and our community with its past.

The concept of collating these pictures is about sharing our collective memories through our community’s histories – from family businesses to the individual. Materials collected may be used as exhibits throughout the event or published in the book.

For further information and updates, please visit the Bonding With Gaya Street blog at and by contacting us via the e-mail address mentioned.

How it all started

North Borneo History Enthusiasts (NBHE) initially started as a Facebook group, founded on May 7, 2011 by Beaufort-based entrepreneur Justin Sunam Wong, dedicated to sharing and reclaiming the rich and almost-obscure heritage of Sabah.

The members consist mostly of Sabahans from all walks of life, of different generations, residing in various parts of the world sharing the common interest of Sabah or North Borneo’s history and culture.

Its mission is to inspire and enable the present and future community to recognize the value of the State’s built heritage and the people who have helped shape the character of Kota Kinabalu and Sabah as a whole.