An hour @ the museum: Malay Heritage Centre

IN THIS WEEKLY COLUMN, WE VISIT MUSEUMS AND ART SPACES AND HIGHLIGHT WHAT YOU SHOULD SEE IF YOU HAVE ONLY AN HOUR TO SPARE

Many notable personalities, such as Singapore's first President Yusof Ishak, are of Minangkabau origin. Hailing from West Sumatra, the community is a matrilineal one, where family lineage and inheritance are handed down via mothers. Their unique culture takes centre stage in Marantau: Migration And Integration Of The Minangkabau Society In Singapore, which features more than 60 artefacts contributed by the community and shines the spotlight on celebrated members of the community.

Where: Malay Heritage Centre, 85 Sultan Gate MRT: Bugis/Nicoll Highway When: Till Sept 13, 10am - 6pm (Tue - Sun) Admission: Free Tel: 6391-0450 Info: malayheritage.org.sg/en

Samantha Goh


1. PELAMINAN (WEDDING DAIS)


PHOTO: MALAY HERITAGE CENTRE

The Minangkabau people's land of origin, Sumatra, had abundant gold, which is reflected in their elaborate cloth designs. The wedding dais boasts rich and colourful gold-woven textiles as well as embellishments such as small Indian mirrors and Chinese embroidery, symbols of the different influences on the culture.

2 MODEL OF ISTANA BASA PAGARUYUNG


PHOTO: MALAY HERITAGE CENTRE

An intricate palace replica from the Pagaruyung dynasty, which once ruled the Minangkabau people. Its architecture style is that of the Rumah Gadang (Big House), topped with Bagonjong (buffalo horn-shaped roofs). Despite the end of the Minangkabau monarchy in the 19th-century Perang Padri (Padri War) - fought between the Padris or Muslim clerics and the Minangkabau nobility for the right of syariah law - the Istana remains a symbol of high esteem for the Minangkabau community.

3. MUSICAL INSTRUMENT DISPLAY 


PHOTO: MALAY HERITAGE CENTRE

Musical instruments used by the Minangkabau are classified into four categories: gongs, drums, strings and woodwind. While the instruments have similarities to those from other cultures, they remain key instruments in the Minangkabau arts - both as musical forms and as complements to dance and theatre.

4. TABIA DRAPERY


PHOTO: MALAY HERITAGE CENTRE

Similar to the material of the wedding dais, the tabia (drapes) demonstrates a strong emphasis on cloth and gold embroidery. The tabia is usually used to decorate walls on important occasions or serve as stage backdrops during family, clan or community festivals.

5. CARANO (FOOTED TRAY) AND DULAMAK (EMBROIDERED COVER)


PHOTO: MALAY HERITAGE CENTRE

Used to carry sirih (betel quids) for customary purposes, the tray is usually covered with the dulamak, a velvet cover. Guests are then offered the sirih on the tray, which signals the start of traditional proceedings such as wedding ceremonies and village meetings. Different preparations for the sirih also indicate different coded messages to the recipient.

6. TRADITIONAL WEDDING COSTUMES


PHOTO: MALAY HERITAGE CENTRE

The wedding outfits are closely associated with Padang, the capital city of the Minangkabau territory in Sumatra. The Padang costume features a headgear called the saluak for men and an extremely heavy headdress called suntiang for women that can weigh up to 5kg. The latter is likely adapted from traditional Chinese fashion.

7. SALENDANG DISPLAY


PHOTO: MALAY HERITAGE CENTRE

The Salendang, or women's shouldercloth, come in three designs: Songket, which is woven with gold metal; batik, which boasts a unique muddy clay colour in its base cloth; and embroidery, which takes influence from the Chinese traders. These weighted cloths are regarded as heirlooms and handed down from mother to daughter.

8. HOUSEHOLD APPLIANCES DISPLAY


PHOTO: MALAY HERITAGE CENTRE

The appliances used by the Minangkabau community closely defined their culture and how it developed. This can be seen from the coconut graters (above right) that are associated with Minangkabau food and its rich coconut flavour to the Genta Sapi cow bell (above left) that signifies the importance of buffalo and rice cultivation to the community.