Malay language, food and culture celebrated at Gerbang Bahasa in Gambas

Performance by PAP Community Foundation (PCF) Sparkletots Preschool children during Malay Language Month celebrations at Northbrooks Secondary School on Sept 24, 2017.
Performance by PAP Community Foundation (PCF) Sparkletots Preschool children during Malay Language Month celebrations at Northbrooks Secondary School on Sept 24, 2017.ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

SINGAPORE - There are few better ways to spend a quiet night than enjoying good food and watching a show with neighbours.

And that's what more than 400 residents of Gambas constituency did on Sunday (Sept 24) at Northbrooks Secondary School in Yishun, where they gathered to celebrate Malay language and culture.

They watched a performance of wayang kulit, or shadow puppets, and sampled food such as traditional Malay kueh at the event, held as part of Bulan Bahasa, or, Malay Language Month, now on until Oct 15.

The five-part performance, featuring personalities such as singers Sarah Aqilah and Iqa Taufik, was performed in a mix of Malay and English, so that both Malay and non-Malay speaking residents could enjoy it.

Gerbang Bahasa was organised by the Gambas Malay Activity Executive Committee (MAEC), and was the first time the organisation had taken part in Malay Language Month, a festival held every year since 1998.

The performances presented aspects of Malay life such as food, culture, weddings and celebrations such as Hari Raya Aidilfitri.

The event was funded through a grant from the Lee Kuan Yew Fund for Bilingualism.

The guest of honour, Minister of Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung, said in Malay: "The theme for tonight, Gerbang Bahasa - Cinta Bahasa, Kenali Budaya, (Love the Language, Love the Cultures) is unique because it marries both language and culture seamlessly using a creative format that allows for audience interaction.

"In the spirit of Bulan Bahasa, I encourage everyone to use the Malay language because it is beautiful and rich in heritage."

Gambas MAEC chairman Mohamad Saddiq said: "The event is important for both Malay and non-Malay residents. It promotes the use of Malay language in everyday life, and encourages Malays to be engaged in their own culture.

"Similarly, for non-Malays, they can be exposed to our culture and understand the meaning of Malay events and cultural practices."

Residents of different races and age groups also performed in some of the events.

Ms Syakirah Noble, 17, a music student at the School of the Arts, said: "The event allows us to reach heartlanders, and makes learning about Malay culture accessible to all. It is a fun and engaging way to teach the younger generation about their own culture and include other races in our culture."

Attending the event with her family, Ms Diyan Batrisyia Suhaemi, 19, a student, said: "This makes helping us know and be reminded of our culture more fun and engaging. In schools, teachers talk to us about it, but seeing it in such an event allows me to actually connect with the language and culture. It's especially important now that the younger generation speak more English than their mother tongue."

Mr Saddiq estimated that 15 to 20 per cent of the attendees were non-Malay speaking.

One non-Malay resident, Ms Lina Fu, 33, a leasing officer whose son performed at the event, said: "I brought my kids here to let them understand other cultures, so they will be able to understand others more and be unbiased towards other races.

"It was nice to see my son come back singing the Malay songs they learnt."