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.

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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.”

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.

The Malaysian Songket

The Star

By Mae Chan | Sep 25, 2009

The Malaysian Songket: The Precious Gift of Heritage

Company/Seller Details

Yayasan Tuanku Nur Zahirah (YTNZ) was founded in 2007 under the Royal patronage of Her Majesty the Queen of Malaysia, Seri Paduka Baginda Raja Permaisuri Agong Tuanku Nur Zahirah. It aims to improve the lives of artisans, weavers and craftsmen by raising the level of skills and creating fair employment opportunities for them, also introducing contemporary designs and innovation in local crafts to enhance their value and to expand the Malaysian crafts market. Employing 60 weavers from both Terengganu and Sarawak in their pay-and-train scheme, the Foundation believes in empowering these weavers to be independent and all-rounded. YTNZ also supports single-mother weavers by buying songket from them as well as providing financial aid to improve and upgrade their work infrastructure. Selling their products under the Royal Terengganu Songket brand, the Foundation aims to open a flagship store in Kuala Lumpur, to educate and expose the art of songket to the Malaysian people, with plans to take this Malaysian art to the world.

Royal Terengganu Songket
Yayasan Tuanku Nur Zahirah
No.83, Jalan Telawi,
Bangsar,
59100 Kuala Lumpur
+603 2284 8253
http://www.yayasantnz.org
Description

Songket is traditionally a luxurious hand-woven cloth, which is historically associated Malaysian royalty. Intricate patterns are painstakingly woven with gold and silver threads into silk or cotton yarns, yet the inspiration for songket often reflects the simpleness of the surrounding nature. Leaves or flowers such as the Orkid or Pucuk Rebung are common motifs. Fashioning a songket is a laborious and tedious process that requires a high level of skill, each thread repeatedly woven through a method called the supplementary weft technique to create patterns on the cloth itself.

The Terengganu songket weavers believe that the technique originated from Indian traders during the time of Srivijaya, who brought along their weaving looms and introduced it to the local people. From then, this precious art form has become an important part of the Malaysian identity.

As with most traditional art forms, songket weaving has been gradually overlooked and the number of weavers has dwindled over the years. The Yayasan Tuanku Nur Zahirah (YTNZ) is founded to address this problem, raising the standard of living for artisans and weavers as well as to create viable means to support and expand the usage of songket, making it a sustainable art.

A major achievement by the Foundation is the production of the light-weight contemporary songket that breaks away from the typically thick and stiff materials of traditional songket, its technique allowing for lighter and thinner materials to be woven without breaking. This “new generation” songket maintains the traditional elements of the art while also creating new uses such as the songket shawl and modern clothing fit for the local weather.

Apart from just producing raw materials, YTNZ also produces a wide range of products through their Royal Terengganu Songket brand, widening the usage of songket through collaboration with various designers both local and international, such as Tom Abang Saufi, Radzuan Radziwill, Melinda Looi, Jovian Mandagie, Rizalman Ibrahim, Tangoo, Pink Jambu, Annick Goutal and Bagatelle.

Through some of these collaborations, the Foundation is able to produce unique and creative home and lifestyle products, a varied range that currently includes cushion covers, place mats, table runners, songket wall panels, curtains, songket wall frame, songket chairs, gift boxes and upholstery.

Combining traditional and modern designs, these songket products are of not only great artistic value, but also a timely reminder of our proud heritage, a great gift of inspiration not only for us, but for our future generation. Passed on through Indian traders who introduced the traditional weaving looms, using fine Chinese silk brought in from the ports of Malacca, shaped by the Malay community and influenced by our surrounding nature, the art of songket weaving is a truly Malaysian legacy to be cherished.

Lacquer gift boxes (Oval Silver)

Price: RM1,800
Intricate songket gift boxes that are perfect as gifts or to add a touch of elegance to any festive occasion. Available in silver and gold, with round, oval, square and rectangular shapes.