MV Pot Luck – 2014

by Lena Koh Maltesen

After Ian Burnet’s presentation on the spice routes, what better way to savour the tang of turmeric, the kick of cloves and sniff the aroma of cinnamon than through the dishes that the museum volunteers brought to the Annual Potluck. More than 40 trainee and graduated guides attended the lunch held on the grounds of the National Museum on 25 January 2014.

049Representative of the different races of the museum community, we were treated to French quiches, Danish rolls, Portuguese egg tarts, idaly (Indian bread made from rice flour) served with traditional Indian lentil curry and coconut, pulut panggang (glutinous rice with coconut wrapped with bananas leaf and fragrantly grilled), fish cutlets, soya chicken wings, almond cookies, sushi rolls and much more. In keeping with the forthcoming Chinese New Year, we also had a big box of Mandarin oranges. Jabatan Muzium not only generously sponsored the roti jala (a Malay pancake made of flour that has been artistically interwoven to form a lacy pattern) eaten with chicken curry, the Malay seri kaya dessert and refreshments but added a platter of delicious fried noodles.  The trainees of Batch 20 and 21 were happily exchanging notes of their experience whilst learning more from each other on the origin of the dish each had brought.


Forging new friendships

All helped to set the table and lay the dishes in true spirit of camaraderie. Starting as strangers and after going through the trials and tribulations of 16  weeks of rehearsals and presentations, a kind of kindred spirit prevailed with some even volunteering to practise guiding with each other. Definitely, I felt that the Annual Potluck is the last of the icebreakers that undoubtedly forge new friendships.

This reminded me of the International Day that schools host to celebrate the diversity and the unity of the multi-racial community. If only we had the ronggeng dance and the national costumes. Perhaps next year, we shall come with our traditional costumes with background music to match …

033 011

Find more photos on Facebook of both Ian Burnet’s talk and the Pot-Luck.

Trip to Melaka – in Pictures (15 Jan 2014)

by Magan

The MV organises a trip to Melaka every year as part of the training curriculum for new volunteers. This year’s trip was spiced up with a visit to the Hang Tuah Centre and to the Malaysia Architecture Museum. Interesting titbits of information from our knowledgeable guides, Shaukani and Eddy, made the trip even more memorable.

Read all about it in Janet’s write-up which will be published in February’s newsletter. In the meantime, enjoy the photos below remembering that you can view the full size image of a picture by clicking on it. Anybody else who wants to share their memories of the trips (either Wed or Sat), feel free to send the article to me.

001The tour started with a cruise on the Melaka River. Lined with historic buildings and villages, this is a river steeped in history and which saw the battle for Melaka being fought.

The Melaka government spent Rm320 million cleaning up and beautifying the river and, I think, tourists will agree that it was money well spent.

Paintings on the buildings alongside the river certainly gives the street art of Penang a run for its money.



008Kampung Morten is a Malay village dating back to the 1920s. It was named after a British Land Commissioner who is credited with providing houses for at least 85 locals. This village, having houses built using traditional Malay design with long roof and tiled stairs, can be glimpsed from the river.

Eight bridges cross the Melaka River – some simple and some elaborate.



Monitor lizards, being a protected species, abound in the river and are easily spotted.


061As we know the Fortaleza de Malaca, or more commonly known as A Formosa, was destroyed leaving only the Porta de Santiago standing. However, a few years ago, the ruins of Bastion Victoria were discovered at Padang Nyiru. Bastion Victoria, which was originally named St. Domingo by the Portuguese, was the place where the Dutch entered and conquered the fort. Although the bastion was damaged in the attack, the Dutch later repaired and even enlarged it as it was important to the fort’s defence.

The Stadthuys is under restoration but the clock tower and the fountain are intact.



087After a couple of hours listening attentively to our tour leaders, Shaukani and Eddy, it was time for a durian cendol. At the stalls, we discovered an interesting potato skewer thingy that comes coated with flavours of our choice including cheese and black pepper. Delicious but I forgot what it is called. Anybody remembers?

The Architecture Museum (Muzium Seni Bina) showcases the architectural heritage of Malaysia and houses models of significant historical buildings as well as models of traditional houses. The picture below shows a wall taken from a traditional Kelantanese Malay house which was located near Istana Jahar in Kota Bahru.


Traditional Malay houses from the various states.

Traditional Malay houses from the various states.

Door in a longhouse in Sarawak.

Door in a longhouse in Sarawak.

This door, taken from a longhouse in the Bukun district of Sarawak, was used by the Orang Ulu Chief.

It is made from ironwood and is engraved with dragon and leaf motifs which are said to provide protection and bring good luck.

Walking towards the Melaka Sultanate Palace. This is a replica of what is believed the palace of the Sultanate of Melaka looked like. It houses the Cultural Museum.

Walking towards the Melaka Sultanate Palace. This is a replica of what is believed the palace of the Sultanate of Melaka looked like. It houses the Cultural Museum.

As the pictures below show, seating at the Balairung Seri (Audience Hall) was by no means arbitrary.


Walking up the hill to view the ruins of St Paul’s Church was a must. The metal cage in the picture below currently houses a wishing well of sorts. However this was originally the temporary tomb of St. Francis Xavier, a Jesuit missionary, and the tomb was here for nine months before his body was sent to Goa, India.162

164171174 170It was a very hot day but this did not bother the volunteers who listened attentively as Eddy recounted St. Xavier’s journey. As the day was clear, Pulau Upeh was clearly visible from up the hill. This was an important island as the fort was built using sandstone from this island and the island was also important for turtle nesting.

146The much photographed Porta de Santiago and the lesser photographed Proclaimation of Independence Memorial which is a colonial building that housed the Malacca Club.


181Our last stop was the Hang Tuah Centre. The centre includes five houses, one for each of the five famous Malay warriors – Hang Tuah, Hang Jebat, Hang Kasturi, Hang Lekir and Hang Lekiu.

Volunteers browsing through the exhibits at the centre
Volunteers browsing through the exhibits at the centre

Exhibits at the centre includes spices, keris from different locations and clothing worn by different segments of Malay society. Perhaps the area that attracted the most attention was the silat training hall where volunteers followed the steps performed in a video. We had a number of silat aspirants who took to the art very quickly.



Hanging out outside one of the houses (I forgot which one)

Hanging out outside one of the houses (I forgot which one)

A typical fully-tiled entrance to a traditional Malay house
A typical fully-tiled entrance to a traditional Malay house
Recognize "Hang Li Po"?
Recognize “Hang Li Po”?

President’s Year End Message (2013)

by Karen Loh

Achievements! Achievements! Achievements! Let’s look back on 2013 and the milestones we have achieved, the accomplishments and changes which took place in our MV group the past year. First of all, I am very excited about the museum volunteer Coffee Table book which we have been talking about compiling the past two years and finally kick-started again, by Magan. Thank you to all of who have contributed their articles to the book and to our great team of editors; Magan, Rose, Hani, Hayley, Pam and our very talented in-house designer, Mariana. We will keep you posted of the date, the book will be ready.

The school program team hosted 2 important school visits this year amongst other schools. We had for the first time, a visit by children from a Down Syndrome School and children from a Chin refugee centre. Many thanks to Cay, who has untiringly led the school program team for the last 3 years. She is however exhausted from it all and asks for another courageous mv to replace her. Please email me if you like children and have plenty of educational ideas and energy!

The wait was finally over in May for JMM’s brand new bus and we were lucky to be one of the first groups to take the bus to Ipoh, Batu Gajah and Kampar. Do sign up for our next trip to Melaka in January (15 & 18) 2014. Our Focus team also organized our first movie screening at the Discovery Room in July. Though the title “Queen of Lankasuka” did sound a little melodramatic, the movie turned out to be very interesting. We hope to screen more movies (with a historical reference) in 2014 and welcome any suggestions.

Last but not least, the “Bunka No Hi” themed Anniversary dinner was a success. 73 people attended the event for a night of delicious Kristang food. There were many interesting performances demonstrated by our volunteers and it was an enjoyable night. Kudos to Cze Yan for her ingenuity. What will she come up with next? Also, many thanks to Erina and the many Japanese volunteers who joined us for the first time this year and shared their culture. Our slogan was decided by vote that night and the winning slogan went to Stuart for his catchy line “take the Mystery out of History”.

For 2014, I hope that the problems we have had with the guiding schedule and guide absentees will be solved. Many thanks to Fiza, who is juggling both weekend and weekday rotas. Please do give her your full cooperation. Susan and Lena will also be promoting our guided tours though travel websites and by sending leaflets to major hotels in the Klang Valley.

I look forward to a great year of the Wood Horse. Happy New Year & Happy Guiding!

Best wishes,

Bunka no Hi – MV style

by Magan

We learned to eat sireh like a lady, we learned about French cheese and wine, we learned to tie the yukata, we learned how to walk elegantly in Dutch clogs and we learned the correct way to drink Japanese tea – all in a convivial atmosphere with good food, music and company.

After last year’s resounding success with Bollywood night, this year’s annual dinner organisers were challenged to match this and last Saturday (16 Nov), Cze Yan, together with Karen and Erina, gave us a night to remember at Simply Mel’s.

460Simply Mel’s is a family owned restaurant at Bangsar South serving Kristang food and we were treated to an array from the Portuguese-Melakan heritage; with the Cincalok and the Portuguese Devil Curry being my personal favourites. After the meal, the owner, Melba Nunis Victor known simply as Mel, gave us an insight to Kristang food including some of the traditions handed down from mother to daughter. For example, pineapple tarts used to be cut using a round thingummy and the flowery sides were hand-crafted into shape – a laborious task made easier today with the use of plastic (I think) moulds.

398The meal was accompanied with lovely music. We were fortunate to be entertained by a group of very accomplished koto players. The koto is a string instrument and it is the national instrument of Japan.

An experience of Japanese culture would not be complete without sampling tea and Erina hosted a session where the volunteers were taught the correct way to drink tea.

An expert taught the volunteers on the correct procedure to drink tea

An expert taught the volunteers the correct procedure to drink tea

While some volunteers learned to drink tea, others learnt to tie the yukata.

While some volunteers learned to drink tea, others learnt to tie the yukata.

Erina was proud of the four volunteers who tied the yukata

Erina was proud of the four volunteers who tied the yukata

We like our wine and we like our cheese. But do we know where the different wines and cheeses come from? Dany challenged us to find out and we learned a lot about French wines and cheeses in the process – pity there were none for sampling. Anyway, it was a contest whereby Dany had prepared a list of regions in France and volunteers had to figure out which wines or cheeses were associated with these regions and with a prize for the volunteer who got them all. It turned out that six volunteers got all the answers correct! But Dany was only giving out one prize and so she made them sing for the prize – they had to sing a song by Edith Piaf. Ingrid and Susan took up the challenge and sang together leaving Dany with no choice but to present prizes to both.

Dany, handing out the prizes to Ingrid and Susan

Dany, handing out the prizes to Ingrid and Susan

This was not the only contest – we also had a slogan writing contest. The MV committee wanted a slogan to go with our logo and volunteers were asked to submit entries. Volunteers rose to the task and 26 entries were submitted. After dinner, we voted on the best three. The slogan ‘take the mystery out of history‘ was the front runner; easily beating the next highest entry, which was ‘take today to know the past‘ by a comfortable margin. There was a tie for third place – ‘making history interesting‘ and ‘2kang cerita‘. These four slogans will be submitted to Dato’ Ibrahim for his final choice which will then become our official slogan.

On hand to showcase Dutch culture was Mique who was prettily attired in Dutch costume together with tulips and clogs. Ashok, then, paraded for us in the clogs that Kokkie had kindly lent for the demonstration.



The sireh tradition is the quintessential Malay custom and using the tepak sireh received during her wedding, Zahara explained the cultural significance behind each ingredient in the quid as well as how to correctly roll a quid. A quid for anyone? Chewing betel is supposed to prevent tooth decay and mindful of my upcoming dental appointment, I put my hands up for the first quid rolled out. The quid was kept in place with a clove and this was a bit too sharp for me but, apart from this, it had an interesting flavour. The powers that be say that although betel chewing is not addictive, it gives a sense of well-being. Although it was a short chew, I can attest to this and I am ready for my next quid.

Zahara explaining how to roll a quid with the help of Karen

Zahara explaining how to roll a quid with the help of Karen

Yukari sampling a quid

Yukari sampling a quid

Enjoy the photos below (you can click on them to get the full view) and if you do have some good photos, please do post these onto Facebook.


A day in Melaka

by Magan

Last Wed (16 Oct), Ashok, Karen and I headed to Melaka. Ashok was going there to get more information on the Chitty community for his article for the MV Coffee Table Book and Karen and I begged a ride and tagged along.

The Chitty Museum

At the Chitty Museum

The Chitty are Tamil Peranakan who have been in Melaka since the time of the Melaka Sultanate. Similar to the Chinese Peranakan, the men married into Malay families and adopted Malay culture while retaining the Hindu religion and practices associated with the religion.

Read more about the Chitty community in the MV Coffee Table Book which will, hopefully, be published in the middle of next year.

047After visiting the Chitty Museum and being given a good briefing on the Chitty community, we headed for the Sri Poyyatha Vinayaga Moorthy temple which was built in 1781 by the Chitty leader of the time and it has the distinction of being the oldest functioning Hindu temple in Malaysia. It is situated at a street informally known as “Harmony Street”.

We quickly found out why the street was known as “Harmony Street”. A few doors away from the temple is the Kampung Kling Mosque and a few doors away from that is the Cheng Hoon Teng temple.

058The Kampung Kling Mosque was built in 1748 by Indian Muslim traders. It was originally a wooden structure which was re-built in brick in 1872 with the original design intact. It is a beautiful mosque with a very unique design – the adjective ‘eclectic’ would probably best describe it. The minaret looks like a pagoda and inside, Corinthian columns and a Victorian chandelier compete for attention with Chinese styled windows as well as Sumatran, Indian and Chinese carvings.

067The Cheng Hoon Teng temple was built in 1645 making it the oldest functioning Chinese temple in Malaysia. It is a blend of Buddhism and Taoism with Kuan Yin being the main deity. The picture on the left shows part of the roof. My untutored eyes noticed nothing but Karen pointed out that broken pieces of ceramics have been included in the design.

Coincidentally, a few days before our trip, Effa had emailed Karen on an interesting place in Melaka – The Royal Press – and we went to check that out. The Royal Press is a printing press company that was set up in 1938 and 75 years later, the company is still in operation; printing mostly invoices and labels for long-standing customers.


This complicated looking machine is a Linotype. It was invented by a German, Ottmar Mergenthaler, and its introduction revolutionised the printing industry especially the publication of newspapers. The Royal Press purchased this machine in 1961 and it can still be used. Unfortunately though, none remain who have the knowledge to operate it and it is used as a showpiece in the semi-museum that The Royal Press has setup 076within its printing house. With this setup, not only are the paraphernalia of a bygone printing age on display, but visitors also get to see workers going about their daily job using some of the antiquated machinery still in use for production.

In the past, The Royal Press not only printed in Mandarin, but also in English, Tamil and Arabic. If you squint hard enough and look closely at the picture on the left, you would notice Jawi characters above the Roman alphabet on this ancient gizmo.

The Royal Press occupies an old colonial shop-house off Jonkers Street and the old world shutters and window carvings in the building charmingly reflect the character of the museum.079

We were in Melaka. Cendol was must and we had this next to the Melaka River while imagining how The Battle must have been fought.

Melaka seems to have many gems little explored by the typical tourist. Do share if you know of any quaint places in Melaka with an interesting history.

Gallery D – Reopened

by Magan

The newly refurbished Galley D looks brighter, roomier and less cluttered begging the assumption that many artefacts/exhibits have been removed from the gallery. But on closer inspection, quite a few exhibits have actually been added with the only obvious exclusion being the Mah Meri carving of “Spirit of Tiger in Chains”. This has been achieved through clever use of multi-media. For example, the display board showing information on the Prime Ministers of Malaysia has been removed and this information is now available on an interactive touch screen display.

Education in MalaysiaLast week, on Tue, 17 Sep and on Sat, 21 Sep, Ms. Kiew from Muzium Negara took the Museum Volunteers on a tour of the gallery.  The first exhibit that greets the visitor is on early education in Malaysia and Kiew highlighted the salient points:

  • each community had its own education curriculum and conducted lessons in its own vernacular language.
  • The first English language school was the Penang Free School set up in 1819.
  • The first Malay school was a branch of the Penang Free School built in 1855.
  • The first Chinese school was built by the Christian missionary in Melaka in 1815.
  • Tamil vernacular schools were opened in the estates in the 1870s.

017Another new addition to the gallery is the diorama on ‘pondok’ education. This was traditional education within the Malay community where small huts were set up in peoples’ homes or in the home of the religious teacher called Tok Guru. The pondok education focused on Islamic religious teachings.  Education and especially the pondok education resulted in a spread of ideas on nationalism and this leads very well into the exhibit on the opposite wall titled “Social Consciousness and the Beginning of Nationalism”, which is not a new exhibit.  The exhibit on “Writing and Malay Consciousness” is also not new but has been revamped and now has its own little corner within a glass partition.

Exhibit on "Writing and Malay Consciousness" with an expanded section on sample newspaper writings.

Exhibit on “Writing and Malay Consciousness” with an expanded section on sample newspaper writings.


The exhibit on Malayan Emergency, too, has a new look. Ms Kiew pointed out that the British used the term ‘emergency’ rather than ‘war’ because their insurers, Lloyd’s, only covered damages during riots or civil wars and not international wars. The exhibit includes a diorama of a home guard next to barbed wires. One of the British response to the communists was forced relocation of Malayans into ‘New Villages’ which were under continuous guard and surrounded by barbed wire and the Home Guards played an important role in ensuring the security of these new settlements. Similarly, we currently face issues with our blog security.

029This display shows the paraphernalia used during the first election that took place in 1955.

In 1956, the Chief Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, led a three week delegation to London to negotiate with the British on independence. The front page of 5 local newspapers reporting on the success of this mission is a new addition to the gallery.  The five newspapers are The Malay Mail (English daily featured on the left), The Straits Times (another English daily), Warta Negara (a Malay daily written in Jawi script), a Tamil daily (Tamil Nesan) and  a Chinese daily.

061This diorama has been added to the gallery and it shows the raising of the Malayan flag at midnight of 30 Aug 1957 at the field in front of the Selangor Club; the honour of which was given to En. Tahir Abdul Majid and witnessed by over 10,000 people. Ms. Kiew pointed out that Tunku Abdul Rahman shouted the word ‘Merdeka’ seven times. Although it is unclear why he shouted it seven times, speculations abound and Choo Sim recounted an anecdote which says that Tunku was delayed in reaching the field for seven minutes.

Ms Kiew also mentioned that the original Merdeka Table is most likely housed at the ‘Memorial Pengisytiharan Kemerdekaan’ building in Melaka.

Display boards have been added that discuss the formation of Malaysia including the Indonesian confrontation, the Philippine claim on Sabah and Singapore’s separation from Malaysia. On the recent (Feb 2013) Sulu insurgency in Sabah, Sherry added that the late Sulu King, Sultan Jamalul Kiram II, did not have any male heirs and the current claimants are descendants of his relatives. The insurgents only represent about 4% of the claimants of the late Sultan and their claim is only for the coastal areas of Sabah from Kimanis to Semporna. Sherry also quipped that the insurgents’ intention was not to rule Sabah but to get monetary compensation from the Malaysian government.  She noted that they previously had been given compensation for the coastal areas and for the islands around Sabah.


072The section on constitutional monarchy has been expanded and now includes a running video. The section also includes an exhibit of a Speaker’s Chair which is a gift from the Commons House of Parliament of the UK as a token of friendship when Malaysia joined the Commonwealth Association. Choo Sim noted that the first Yang di-Pertuan Agong is Tuanku Abdul Rahman and the first Prime Minister is Tunku Abdul Rahman, which was confusing as they were both in their respective positions during the same period. It is for this reason that ‘Putra’ was added to Tunku’s name and he was known as Abdul Rahman Putra. Valli noted that Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman is named after the first Agong and not the prime minister as many people mistakenly think.


The information boards on Jalur Gemilang, Bunga Raya, National Anthem, National Crest and Rukun Negara have been replaced by lamp like displays; one for each item.

The Tengkolok diRaja is now flanked by two documents – the Letter of Appointment of His Majesty, the 14th Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the Oath of Office of His Majesty, the 14th Yang di-Pertuan Agong. These documents are new additions to the gallery and Ms Kiew noted that they are originals.

074The national and state flags are displayed on cube boxes and visitors can rotate these to read the information behind a flag. Choo Sim noted that when the flags are lined up during an official ceremony, there is a procedure in place and the flags are not randomly placed. The flag of the state with the ruling Yang di-Pertuan Agong is first in line followed by state flags according to the seniority of their Sultan; seniority defined by the length of time served by the Sultan in the position. Flags of states with no sultans are placed after states with sultans.

There is also a display board providing information on 10 public buildings which were built in the early period of independence and these are the Subang Airport, Angkasapuri, Muzium Negara, National Mosque, Parliament, Merdeka Stadium, Bank Negara, Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, the Federal House and the General Hospital.

24 national icons have been identified and information on these are also placed on rotatable cube boxes. The picture below shows volunteers browsing through these.


Information boards highlight Malaysia’s international relations as well as UNESCO Heritage Sites in Malaysia and touch-screen kiosks provide further information on these.


The diorama on some of the festivals in Malaysia has been beautifully done and will attract a lot of interest from visitors.  The featured festivals are Hari Raya, Chinese New Year, Deepavali and the Harvest Festivals of the Iban and Bidayuh in Sarawak as well as the Kadazan-Dusun in Sabah.

Equally arresting is the glass cabinet next to this diorama that depict the minority groups in Malaysia.  The depicted groups are the Citty, Orang Asli, Thai, Serani, Sikhs and Peranakan.



For volunteers who missed Ms. Kiew’s walkthrough of the gallery, she will be giving a lecture on Gallery D to the new trainees sometime in October (both Tues and Sat sessions). Volunteers are welcome to join these session.  Do look out for the dates in your calendar invites.

Field Trip to Ipoh (part 2)

by Zahara Shahriman

On a recent field Trip to Ipoh, Perak, 23 museum volunteers (including myself), 9 Malaysian Culture Group members and 5 Jabatan Muzium Malaysia (JMM) staff had the opportunity to visit 3 historical sights that gave us a comprehensive snap shot of life during the heyday of the tin industry.

Falim House

Falim House 3The temporary museum within Falim House was my favourite of the day. Not everyone in our group agreed with me as a property developer had recently acquired the gorgeous 1920’s mansion and its surrounding land with the view of developing it into a commercial hub. So our first sight of Falim House was of a white colonial mansion surrounded by

Falim House 1

hectares of muddy, bare land which have had all its trees chopped off ready for development. The developers plan to eventually transform Falim House, which had once been the home of mining tycoon Foo Nyit Tse, into a hotel.  In the meantime, the newly renovated structure served as sales office cum pop-up museum and this closed last month.

Falim House 2

For me, once we passed the sales office, the museum themed “A Tin Mining Family” was a real joy. I thought it showcased the lives of Ipoh’s fabulously wealthy tin mining towkays in a really fun and authentic way.  With old photographs, some dating from before 1900, and a very wide range of artifacts (around 500 pieces in all) we got close to old mining equipment, kitchen equipment, furniture, toys, vehicles, sewing kits, clothes and much more. The exhibition also showed the four evils that faced the mining coolies – Opium, Gambling, Prostitution and the Triads. I especially enjoyed the depiction of hawkers who called at Falim House many years ago. At the end section of the exhibition a vintage film featuring tin mining in the Kinta Valley, both pre and post-war, ran continuously.

Kinta Tin Mining Museum

Tin Ming Museum 2Our next stop was the Kinta Tin Mining Museum in Kampar.  Kampar (about 36km from Ipoh) was once a thriving tin mining town but when the price of tin slumped in the 1980s, its glory days ended abruptly. As this museum is dedicated to the history of tin mining, we had a wonderful opportunity to not only learn the way tin was mined many years ago but, more interestingly for me, it gave a glimpse of how people who used to work in tin mines lived. I really got a feel of how grueling, mind-numbing and dangerous the work in tin mines was.  Personally, I thought this private museum is interesting and informative and definitely worth a visit.

Tanjung Tualang Tin Dredge

Tin DredgeOur last stop was the Tanjung Tualang Dredge No 5, a behemoth industrial relic from our tin mining glory days. Even from a distance the decommissioned tin dredge looked impressively large – it weighs 4,500 tons and is supported by a pontoon of 75 meters in length, 35 meters in width and 3 meters in depth – but when you step on it you get a real feel of how powerful it must have been when it was hard at work years ago.  Essentially, it worked by scooping up bucket loads of tin-bearing soil at the front end, which then passed through an oscillating drum and a system of jigs and screens to extract the tin, before spewing out the waste material at the rear end through a number of chutes. By walking around Tanjung Tualang tin dredge, which was built in England in 1938, you get to see how this floating factory used to work up close. This is one of the last tin dredges in Malaysia and is really a sight to behold.


by Jane Chan

Just like the United Kingdom’s Stonehenge, we too have megalithic structures in Malaysia.   The most common type of megalith found here is the menhir which is basically a standing stone.  Known locally as ‘batu hidup’, they come is varying heights ranging from 2 to 8 feet.

Megaliths 2In general, there are two configurations of menhirs.  The first type comes in clusters with one large menhir known as the ‘ibu’ or mother surrounded by smaller menhirs.  The second type comes in pairs – aligned side-by-side either in a North-South or East-West orientation, with one usually larger than the other.  In Northern Melaka and Negeri Sembilan, the menhirs have been erected on earth mounds.  Over time, the earth mound gets eroded thus exposing more of the menhir and giving the illusion that the menhir has grown longer.  This is the reason the locals refer to the menhirs as ‘batu hidup’ or living stones.

These sites are believed to be sacred or ‘keramat’ by locals as they believe that the megaliths are erected on grave sites.  However, excavations have not yielded any skeletal remains.

Replicas of the 'Sword' and the 'Rudder' at Muzium Negara

Replicas of the ‘Sword’ and the ‘Rudder’ at Muzium Negara

Megaliths in Malaysia are mostly plain and hence the three sculptured menhirs found at Pengkalan Kempas in Negeri Sembilan have drawn a lot of attention.  These have been nicknamed Sword, Rudder and Spoon after their distinctive shapes.  Carvings on the Sword and the Rudder include mythical creatures prompting the belief that these menhirs date to the Hindu period.  The Sword also has the word ‘Allah’ on it inscribed in Jawi characters and this is believed to have been added much later.  The Spoon does not have any carvings but has been sculptured into an arched top.  Replicas of the Sword and the Rudder can be found at Muzium Negara.

Petronas came across a group of menhirs in Negeri Sembilan during excavations to lay a gas pipeline.  These were excavated and re-erected in a stretch of land between Dayabumi and the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station and the area was named the Petronas Megalith Garden.  The megaliths have now been relocated to a permanent home at the Laman Megalit in Taman Putra Perdana in Putrajaya.  Here, the visitor is presented with over 80 megaliths including replicas of the Sword, Rudder and Spoon.  This is a place worthy of visit.

Mesoameric Civilization


by Magan

Last June on the 25th, Dr. Ernesto Gonzalez Licon gave a talk at Muzium Negara on the architectural and cultural development in ancient Mexico. Although it was at the height of the haze with the air quality index deemed ‘very unhealthy’, there was a good turnout and the participants listened eagerly as Dr Licon discussed the various Mesoamerican civilizations starting from the Olmec to the Teotihuacan, Zapotec, Mayan and Aztec untill the conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards in 1521.

We were presented with many interesting facts. Being an impossible to reform chocoholic, I was especially fascinated by the ancient Mexican love for chocolate.  The Olmecs were the first people to process cacao beans with the earliest evidence coming from residue left in a bowl that dates to 1800 BCE.  The Mayans and Aztecs considered chocolate as the food of the gods, a heavenly concept that I can identify with.  Mixtec chocolateThe Mixtec tribe which inhabited Mitla in Oaxaca, Mexico from circa 900 CE, wrote their history as phonetic pictures on deerskin.  The picture on the left (blurry, I know.  I am still working on my photographic skills), shows a royal wedding ceremony taking place on the day 13 Snake of the year 13 Reed which works out in our uninspired calendar as 1051 CE. Lots more information can be gleaned from the drawing including that the cup of chocolate held by the happy lady represents dowry.  Not surprising as cacao, which was made into a drink, was an item of luxury.

PacalAs an impressionable teenager hooked on the writings of Erich von Daniken, I read in the ‘Chariots of the Gods’ that the picture on the right, drawn by ancient Mayans, represents an astronaut sitting in his rocket with the markings at the bottom depicting flames and gases from the propulsion unit.  Dr Licon had the more logical explanation.  The drawing is actually the sarcophagus lid of Pakal, one of the kings of Palenque which is a city in Southern Mexico and it depicts Pakal descending into the Mayan underworld.  Dr Licon pointed out the main imagery on the drawing to us.  This includes a snake located under Pakal having its mouth open and it represents the entrance to the underworld.  The ceiba tree represents the connection between the great sky, the upper-world and the underworld.

Pakal was buried wearing a jade mask and beads.  The jade was mined from Guatemala which is one of the few worldwide sources of jadeite.  Jadeite was a luxury item and played an important role in the lives of the Olmecs, Mayans and Aztecs.

Chichen-Itza (taken from Wikipedia)

Chichen-Itza (taken from Wikipedia)

A description of ancient Mexico is not complete without a mention of its pyramids. Unlike the Egyptian pyramids which were burial tombs, the Mayan pyramids were mostly built in honour of their gods and had temples at the top of the pyramids.  Pyramids, such as the famous Chichen-Itza pyramid located at Yucatan, Mexico, also served as astronomical observatories. Complicated through it may be, the Mayan calendar is extremely accurate with precise calculation of astronomical events including eclipses.

039The floor had lots of questions.  A number of these questions centered around some of the similarities between the ancient Mexican civilisations and the Southeast Asian civilisations.  Dr Licon explained that the perceived similarities was because all agricultural societies had to know the planting seasons and hence had to develop some level of astronomical knowledge.  All cultures faced the same elements including the moon, sun and wind resulting in similar traditions. Karen wanted to know more on blood sacrifice among the ancient Mexicans.  Human sacrifice and blood letting was mostly practiced by the Aztecs.  According to their cosmology, the first four cycles of human creation were destroyed by the gods.  In the fifth cycle, i.e the Aztecs, the gods sacrificed one of themselves to create the humans.  So blood giving was a way of saying thank-you.

046Dr Licon being presented with books on Malaysian history and archaeology at the end of the talk.

MV Road Show at Taiping

by Magan

Last Saturday (6 July 2013) the Museum Volunteers were invited by Jabatan Muzium Malaysia to participate in their ‘Museums and Community’ roadshow at the Perak museum.  So five of us packed our bags and made our way to Taiping for a day of culture, history and the opportunity to blow the MV horn.

206As the MV logo is the tepak sirih, we had decided to showcase this at our booth and give the museum goers of Taiping a chance to try out the ancient fare of the Nusantara.  With it being the dry season, sireh leaves were scarce and Sudha frantically scoured the markets of Ipoh and Taiping for the elusive leaves.  Thanks to her and Harith, we managed to procure all the ingredients needed to wrap up a sireh quid - sireh leaves, areca nuts, lime paste, gambier, tobacco and cloves which we proudly displayed on a mat placed at the side of our table.

Dato' Nazri rolling up a sireh quid with Dato' Ibrahim looking on

Dato’ Nazri rolling up a sireh quid with Dato’ Ibrahim looking on

A pantun (poem) on sireh composed by Riduwan made our display complete and all we needed now was for someone to try our offering.

Our first ‘victim’ was none other than Dato’ Seri Nazri, Minister of Tourism and Culture who gamely sat down on the mat and followed Harith’s instructions on rolling up a sireh quid which he then proceeded to chew.

Sireh tasting was only the start of the fun.  The enthusiastic crowd took up our challenge on answering a 15 question quiz and we very quickly reached the conclusion that Taiping folks know their museum and history well.  The kids were especially engaged and wanted to try out all the games we had in store.  This is where the sling bags we use at Muzium Negara came in handy and the jigsaw puzzles on Hang Tuah and Han Li Po were a crowd puller.  The enthusiasm of the crowd and especially the kids made it a memorable day for us.


On the left: Our first quiz participant belting out the answers.

Below: the jigsaw puzzles were a crowd puller.



We gave away Mariana’s postcards as prizes.  She has done an artistic rendition of four local buildings and has created postcards of her paintings.  The kids were enthused to collect all four postcards and eagerly participated in the various activities in an attempt to get all four cards.

We played the Gallery C picture puzzle ala Happy Family style with 4 participants in each group.

We played the Gallery C picture puzzle ala Happy Family style with 4 participants in each group.

The five of us at the MV booth

The five of us at the MV booth

Kids learn to tie the tengkolok

Kids learn to tie the tengkolok

Identifying landmarks in Malaysia was easy peasy

Identifying landmarks in Malaysia was easy peasy