Farewell Lunch June 2010

On June 24, we had a thank you and farewell lunch to several MV volunteers who were leaving Malaysia for other countries. In particular Hayley Holle, who has done so much with the schools programme and been a very active member of MV, and also Alison Fletcher and Marie Bouis who have also been very active.

Our deputy president, Zahara Shariman, most generously hosted lunch at her mother’s house and we ate delicious Malay food.

Both MV President Chrissy Lioe and MV Training Programme Organizer Angela Naylor spoke about the great works that have been achieved so far. The leavers got Malay betel siri sets from the East coast.

Baba Nyonya Wedding

Thursday October 7, 2010

A colourful wedding steeped in tradition

 

IT had all the trappings of a traditional Baba Nyonya wedding although it was just a demonstration.

The one-hour showcase was complete with traditional costumes, decorated bridal bed, tea ceremony, Nyonya dance and a joget session.

It was beautifully staged by Focal Concepts Sdn Bhd at the central atrium of Queensbay Mall in Penang as part of The Star’s Now & Forever – A Carnival of Love bridal event.

The Peranakan Bridal Showcase started off with the groom’s entourage, comprising five Babas, going on the stage with siah nah (dowry trays) containing jewellery,

a pair of dragon and phoenix candles (hong leng chek in Hokkien), wedding biscuits, rock sugar and charcoal.

The charcoal is to remind the bride to boil water to make tea for her parents-in-law and for them to wash their face in the morning while the rock sugar is to bless her with a sweet marriage.

Five Nyonyas then went on stage with their siah nah containing four pairs of slippers, hong leng chek, wedding biscuits and liquor to exchange dowries with the Babas.

The groom and umbrella man (best man) then led a troupe of sedan chair carriers, banner holders and musicians on a procession to fetch the bride at her ‘house’.

After consuming a birds nest drink, the groom passed his bride the flower ball and led her to take her seat on the sedan chair before the troupe left for his ‘house’.

 
Full-fledged ritual: (From right) The bride, arriving on the sedan chair, being received by the groom and his entourage during the demonstration at Queensbay Mall yesterday.

During the unveiling ceremony, the bride unbuttoned the groom’s collar button to symbolically undress him while the groom untied her red waist sash that symbolises virginity.

The couple then sat on a bed under which the matron of ceremony placed a basket containing a cock and a hen.

According to traditional belief, if the cock comes out first, it signifies that the first born will be a boy, but if it is the hen that emerges, the first born will be a girl.

The spectators stretched their necks in anticipation. After much prompting and when the hen finally emerged, with feathers shedding, the crowd burst into laughter as the shy cock

remained crouched inside the basket.

Master ofceremony Michael Cheah, who is also Focal Concepts’ Baba Nyonya wedding consultant, said a typical Baba-Nyonya wedding used to last a whole month.

“However, the ceremony is cut short these days with only the key elements being practised, ” he said.

During the tea ceremony, Penang Tourism and Culture Committee chairman Danny Law Heng Kiang, The Star’s regional manager (operations) Chung Chok Yin and his wife were invited

on stage as the ‘parents’ to symbolically launch the bridal event.

Also present were Japanese deputy consul-general Hiroko Matsuo and The Star’s regional editor (North) Choi Tuck Wo.

Law said Penang, with its affordable cost of living, was one of the best wedding destinations for local and foreign couples.

He said the heritage buildings within the George Town World Heritage Site provided unique backdrops for wedding photos, adding that the state’s beautiful beaches were also good for photo

shoots and a perfect place for wedding dinners.

MV Fourth Anniversary Dinner

Around 40 MV members came along to our 4th Anniversary Dinner on October 13 in Precious Restaurant in Central Market. The food was most excellent Nonya cuisine and we were all very happy to welcome in the fifth year of Museum Volunteers. Our president Chrissy Lioe gave a short speech, and called for new MV members to step forward and take  up responsibilties in our lovely MV. We have come a long way in a short time!

Precious Restuarant, Cenrtal Market

 

 

Sarong

Sunday October 10, 2010

Pieces of heritage

DR Zulkifli Mohamad has had a life-long affair with the sarong. The 46-year-old not only wears it, he dances in it and collects it.

“I’ve been wearing the sarong since I was small,” says Dr Zulkifli, better known as Zubin Mohamad, currently a Fulbright scholar at the dance department (Southeast Asia) of University of California’s Arts Faculty.

He started wearing it to religious classes. “I can’t remember clearly when, but in Kelantan we had to study the Quran from kindergarten, if not earlier,” Zubin says in an email interview.

What he remembers well is that because his mother had a little business in textiles and jewellery in the village, “we got to wear the best pelikat – Chap Gajah – from Arab Street, Singapore. I got my first sampin songket, a songket Terengganu, probably when I was

seven.”

 
 Zubin Mohamad dances and sleeps in his sarong. He also gives talks and presents papers on textiles. – National Textile Museum

In 1985, Zubin bought his first songket – an all-black bunga penuh songket Kelantan from Che Bidah Penambang (a songket brand). He paid RM400 for it.

By then, he knew quite a bit about kain batik Jawa (Javanese batik), tulis (handwritten technique for material) and kain pelikat, having accompanied his mother on shopping trips – “more like work, actually” – to Singapore during the school holidays.

It was a matter of time before he started his own collection, by digging into his cupboard for the pelikat, songket and tenun which he had been wearing.

“I got my first collection of pua kumbu from my student’s mother in Kuching. Apparently that was how he paid his fees every semester. I was in Sarawak for five years and travelled all over Borneo as part of the Borneo Research Council group.”

Naturally, he picked up textiles/sarongs from Brunei, Pontianak, Sambas, Banjarmasin and Samarinda.

“Then I started writing for textile conferences in Java, the World Batik Conference in Jogja and the Singapore Textile Conference at Nanyang Academy. I started looking at Indonesian and Malaysian batik and collected more along the way.”

Men go for kain pelikat with checked patterns, and Ooi Poh Khoon has many such pieces in his collection.

Zubin’s collection expanded when he moved to Bangkok in 1998.

“I was passionate about research on Langkasuka, as my mother was originally from Pattani. My ancestors were probably from Champa – typical of many Kelantanese. It then that I went on a textile adventure along the Mekong river, and all over Indo China, getting to

know not only textile scholars, collectors and dealers but also weavers.

“I would go to Scot market in Yangoon and buy a gunny sack of sarongs as they are so beautiful and so cheap. Or, I would go crazy in Vientienne and Luang Prabang, the Russian Market in Phnom Penh, the Chatuchak weekend market in Bangkok and smalls markets like

Batambang in Cambodia.

“First, you will want to get new pieces for their colours and patterns. Then you’d get one piece of an old textile to keep,” he adds.

Presently, his focus is on Southeast Asia. But nothing can compare with the kain limar (limar cloth) given him by his mother, “the most valuable piece” he owns.

“She said it would be mine before she passed away. She asked that we cover her with the kain limar. She is gone, but she is always with me.

“I’m trying to develop my collection with pieces from Kelantan, Pattani, Terengganu and Pekan, the kain limar, songket and tenun. What I would like to do is compile a book on my collection.

“Now that I am in California, I’m also trying to understand the Indian and Mexican textiles. I wish to visit the Mayan Temple in Cancun and, hopefully, organise a Mexican textile exhibition in the future!”

For Zubin, the sarong represents civilisation. He says: “We were travellers of the world; the Malays were a civilised race, well travelled, well mannered. An old textile give us a taste of tradition and heritage. Looking at old works reminds me of our glorious past.”

Penang-based graphic artist Ooi Poh Khoon became interested in the kain pelikat when, as a young boy, the bus that took him to school daily passed by Tanjung Tokong, a predominantly Malay community.

“What I liked seeing was the men wearing kain pelikat around the house or the surau. Or, sarongs hanging on fences to dry. I admired their colours and designs. Of course I wanted to buy one for myself, but I couldn’t afford it then. I was too short to wear it too.”

Today, 12 years after he started buying sarongs, he has 350 pieces in his collection.

“I have to hold myself back from buying more. There are just too many to keep in my room and my mum nags me about, saying, ‘Even the Malays don’t have so many sarongs as you do!’”

Ooi, 30, likes the bigger checked designs, and favours the colour blue.

“The material is the most important factor when choosing what to buy,” he says. “In our climate, cotton sarongs are preferable to the tetron/polyester/cotton combinations. Cotton sarongs are mainly from India while the mixed fabric ones come from Indonesia.”

But Indian cotton sarongs are slightly narrower and shorter than those from Indonesia, thus they may not be as comfortable for those who are bigger. The colours for Indonesian sarongs are more vivid too, he adds.

Ooi gets his sarongs from the Penang Bazaar at Penang Road. To him, the sarong transcends borders.

“It can be part of a heritage or tradition depending on your culture or race. It’s the uniqueness of wearing the sarong that makes us all Malaysians.”

Trip to Mughal Art Exhibition at Islamic Arts Museum

Focus on Treasury of the World: Jewelled Arts of India in the Age of the Mughals
Date: Monday October 4, 2010
Time: 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Location: Islamic Art Museum Malaysia
Notes: Treasury of the World: Jewelled Arts of India in the Age of the Mughals
Guided tour by Adline binti Abdul Ghani
This is the most lavish display of historic jewellery ever seen in Malaysia. The pieces in this exhibition exemplify the artistic sophistication and technical finesse of Indian craftsmen in the age of the Mughals, especially during the 16th to the 18th century.
Over the past ten years the exhibition has travelled to a number of leading cultural institutions, including the Louvre and the British Museum. Kuala Lumpur will be the last stop on this global tour.
MV members only. Please sign up with our Focus coordinator Kokkie.

2010-2011 training programmes now underway at National Museum and Textiles Museum

The Museum Volunteer Training Programmes for 2010 are all now underway. We have 50 volunteers training at the Muzium Negara (National Museum) and the Muzium Tekstil (Textile Museum). If you are interested in joining this programme for next year, September 2011, please click on the tag above labelled “MV Training”

Malacca and Penang history…

Saturday July 24, 2010

Malacca and Penang: History in abundance

THE REAL ESTATE WITH ANGIE NG
angie@thestar.com.my

THE saying ‘Old is Gold’ certainly holds true for many things.

Among the things that appreciate over time are family relationships, friendships and the value of some tangible things like real estate.

Many so-called “city folks” in Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya actually do not hail from the city; their hometowns are in other parts of the country.

Home is where the heart is and many of us have set up homes in places where we work, after settling down with our own family, and have children attending schools or colleges in the city.

The Malacca government has turned the once old and quiet Jonker Street into the now vibrant and ‘happening’ Jonker Walk.

With passing time and wisdom, we learn to appreciate our loved ones better.

And despite the “rat race” of city life, it is important to stay connected with our loved ones and old friends back in the kampung or in other places.

Likewise in the built environment, we can find many undiscovered gems around, which, in spite of their old physical exterior, are actually hidden treasures with strong history and many untold stories within their walls.

The first thing that comes to mind is the many pre-war houses and buildings that can be found in large numbers in the inner cities of Penang and Malacca.

Despite being old and dilapidated, many have the potential to be restored and given a new lease of life.

Some of the ways to reuse these buildings and “monetise” them include turning them into museums, heritage hotels, alfresco dining and restaurants specialising in local fares.

It is interesting to compare Penang and Malacca as they share many similar traits and history.

Both will benefit by learning from each other new ways to improve and manage their built and unbuilt environment.

Since my other half is a Malaccan, I must admit that I tend to compare my hometown, Penang’s George Town, with Malacca whenever I’m back for holidays or family events.

After all, both have been declared Unesco World Heritage Sites and have many interesting buildings and structures that are reminiscent of their rich history and heritage.

Penang and Malacca are both former Straits Settlement states with a long history of early settlers from various parts of the world converging there for trade.

And both are renowned for their Baba/Nyonya culture and heritage.

Being port states, both also have strong foreign connection and influence.

Penang was a bastion of trade for the English and the East India Company after it was founded by Captain Francis Light in 1786, while Malacca was a confluence of Portuguese, Dutch and English influence.

Those influences can still be clearly seen in the architecture of the buildings today.

It is evident that both Penang and Malacca have their own distinctive assets and attractions that have endeared them to many loyal visitors who throng the cities in droves whenever there is a long stretch of holidays.

This could be one of the reasons for the traffic-choked roads during the holiday season and major festivities.

It is common to find many outstation cars among the long lines of cars on the roads during such times.

To give a boost to their intrinsic value as natural tourist attractions, there is a need to improve the public transport system in the two heritage cities to ensure that the different modes of transport are well integrated and connected to each other.

Being on the radar screen of tourists is one thing, but it is equally important to ensure that visitors have convenient access to a good public transport network.

More should also be done to further boost the alluring old world charms of these cities while at the same time, revitalise the inner cities and keep them alive as living heritage.

To achieve this, the old and new attractions and facilities should co-exist and blend seamlessly with one another to make them relevant and refreshing to the people.

Malacca has made some interesting headway in this regard with many old buildings and “once quiet” historical enclaves being given a new lease of life.

One just needs to hop over to the happening and vibrant Jonker Walk, which comes alive every evening, teeming with traders and visitors.

Penangites can certainly take a leaf from their Malaccan counterparts to liven up George Town’s dilapidated inner city.

Deputy news editor Angie Ng is keeping her fingers crossed that the old and new charms of our cities will be the pride of our present and future generations.

New Museum in Kelantan

Kelantan to build wau museum in Bachok

2010/07/20

// BACHOK: Kelantan, home of the country’s traditional kites or wau, will finally get its own kite museum next year.State Local Government, Tourism and Culture Committee chairman Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan said it would be housed temporarily in a government quarters until a permanent building was constructed.

“We felt is appropriate that a kite museum be built in the state as the wau is well known locally and internationally. It will be able to attract visitors as there are many kite fans around the world.
“Bachok has been chosen to house the museum as it will be the new permanent site for the annual Kelantan International Kite Festival.

“The wau will also become the district’s icon and used widely to promote Bachok,” he said after the closing of the Kelantan Invitational Kite Festival at Pantai Irama here on Sunday. Deputy Menteri Besar Datuk Ahmad Yaakob represented Menteri Besar Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat at the ceremony.

Takiyuddin said the museum would showcase the many types of wau from the state, besides kites and accessories from all over the world.
“We have many wau enthusiasts who are keen to hand their collections to the museum.”

On the kite festival at Pantai Irama, Takiyuddin said it was not opened to participants from other countries this year as it was held for the first time there and the organisers were uncertain of the infrastructure and other facilities.

“Even though it was not opened to international participants, we managed to attract nearly 300 people from all over the country.
“However, we hope to organise it on a grander scale next and extend our invitation overseas. Last year, we managed to attract participants from 20 countries,” he said.

Kelantan emerged overall champion in the four day competition which started on July 15.

TRADITIONAL MALAY COSTUME

THE BAJU KURUNG

The Baju Kurung, or more specifically, the Baju Kurung Teluk Belanga, is the Pahang traditional Malay costume for women.

 

And in more “modern” times, we have the Baju Kebaya, more specifically the Baju Kebaya Turki (also known as Baju Riau-Pahang or Baju Belah), become another popular and favorite attire for ladies in Pahang.

Well, just go to any Malay house, open the cupboard of the lady in the house, and you can definitely find at least one Baju Kurung dress in the wardrobe, if not a full line of the traditional Malay women costume.

This is because even though some women prefer modern western attires, the Baju Kurung is still an elegant and sweet dress for women in Pahang and Malaysia.

And worn with matching shoes and handbag, well the lady will look… should I say… demure… charming and… with a well mannered poise — ahh, a real lady.

POPULAR ATTIRE FOR ALL

That is why in Pahang and in fact in Malaysia, we will find not only the Malay women dorning the Baju Kurung, but other Malaysian races too, like the Chinese, Eurasians, Indians, Ibans and Kadazans.

They put on the Baju Kurung not only when attending formal and ceremonial occasions, but also for the office.

Besides adding extra elegance, simple beauty and style to the wearer, the Baju Kurung, since it is loose fitting, is very comfortable to wear in the hot and humid weather of the equatorial climate.

Being a very loose fitting attire, even fat or pregnant ladies will look smart and elegant in the Baju Kurung.

So although it is the traditional Malay costume and appropriate wear and attire for traditional occasions like weddings, engagements and public functions, the Baju Kurung is also popular and worn daily by the masses for comfort.

More so to the Muslim women, the Baju Kurung also fits and conforms with the Islamic requirement to enclose the body (except the face and hands) and that clothes should not be tight and body hugging as to show the outlines of the wearer’s body.

BRIEF HISTORY OF BAJU KURUNG

The Baju Kurung for women, like the Baju Melayu for the men, is said to originate from the Malaysian state of Johore about 200 years ago and is said to be styled and fashioned by the late HRH Sultan Abu Bakar of Johore in 1866.

It was said that HRH fashioned and popularized the attire to reminisce and leave a legacy following the change of the Johore state capital from Teluk Belanga to Johor Bahru (new name for Bandar Tanjung Puteri).

This Baju Kurung Teluk Belanga for both men and women was popular during the Sultan’s reign as he regularly wore this style, and made it the official attire of the Johore Malays.


SIDE-NOTE

Teluk Belanga is located on the island of Singapore and was the administrative center of the Johore Sultanate before it moved to Johor Bahru.

Singapore was made a crown colony of Britain in 1867 and became part of Malaysia in 1963 until it left to be on its own in 1965.

END OF SIDE-NOTE


Although HRH Sultan Abu Bakar was credited as the designer of the Teluk Belanga style, there are also views that the loosely fitting Baju Kurung had been in existence and had been worn by Malay ladies since the times of the Malacca Empire in the 15th Century.

Perhaps it may be noted that in the old days, for protocol reasons, the wearing of attire during official ceremonies involving the Sultan and palace officials are guided by a dress code.

For instance, Malay women are prohibited from wearing the “takwa” dress. This is a long dress like the modern Baju Kebaya, and it has a row of loops for buttons at the front and also at the end of the long sleeves.

Jewel Muscat in Port Klang

Wednesday June 30, 2010

Traditionally-built ship pays a call on Port Klang

By EDWARD R. HENRY
edward@thestar.com.my

SALEH Al Jabri, the captain of the Jewel of Muscat, was filled with delight as the replica of a 9th century dhow, or merchant sailing vessel, arrived in Port Klang as part of a five-month journey from Sultan Qaboos port in Oman to Singapore.

“Our crew of 17 men were courageous and we all pulled together to brave the treacherous waters, torrential rain and blistering heat.

“Our biggest test was when we crossed the Bay of Bengal on the way to Penang,” said the skipper who has 25-years of experience with the Omani navy.

Long journey: Saleh takes a break with the Jewel of Muscat in the background.

The Jewel of Muscat is an exact replica of the a 9th century Arab ship found shipwrecked off the coast of Indonesia in 1998 and it was hand-built with timber-and-coconut rope with not a single nail used.

Saleh, 41, said the wind was the main cause for concern throughout the journey but his 17-member crew steered the boat in a careful, calculated manner.

The ship is a joint project between the Omani and Singaporean governments and set sail from Oman on Feb 16.

It was conceived as a historical and cultural exchange after Singapore bought over 60,000 pieces of Chinese pottery that were found on the shipwrecked Arab boat off Belitung, Indonesia, over a decade ago.

Saleh said the aim of the journey was to replicate the ancient traders as closely as possible and it meant not using any modern navigational, cooking or household appliances and devices.

For the father of four, the most difficult task was keeping a look out for cargo ships and the thousands of small fishing boats they encountered on the way.

The Jewel of Muscat wiil be docked at Port Klang until June 27 before sailing off to its final destination in Singapore.

Upon arrival in the Lion City, the ship will be presented to the Singaporean people as a gift from the Sultanate of Oman.

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