Branch of the Penang State Museum

Tuesday September 21, 2010

Restored building to house museum

 A HERITAGE building on Macalister Road near Komtar in George Town has been turned into a branch of the Penang state museum.

The 98-year-old building at 57 Macalister Road was in a derelict state for 15 years before the Penang Municipal Council (MPPP) started

 renovating it in 2001. The Penang International Print Exhibition 2010 is now being held at 57, Jalan Macalister.

Council president Patahiyah Ismail said due to the building’s heritage category 2 classification, the RM6.5 million renovation work took six

years before it was completed at the end of 2007. “Time was needed to carefully scrape the previous layers of paints and look for the original

tiles,” she said, adding that the building was now sporting its original colour. Penang Town and Country Planning, Housing and Arts Committee

chairman Wong Hon Wai, who is also the state museum board’s chairman, said it would take time to promote the building. “It will take us

three to five years to have a good collection of artefacts and collection. However, we will continue our efforts to make this museum an important

 education source for Penangites and tourists,” he said. Museum director Haryany Mohamad said no entry fee would be charged for the moment

but it would be imposed when there is a good collection of exhibits at the double-storey building. She expected the entry fee to be higher

than the RM1 per person charged at the museum on Farquhar Street. The Penang International Print Exhibition 2010 is currently being

held at the Macalister Road building. It will end on Oct 16. Haryany said the Penang state art gallery would also use the building to

showcase artwork and organise activities involving visual arts. The MPPP handed over the building to the state museum board in a

ceremony last Saturday, which was witnessed by Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng. The building was first used as the King Edward

VII Memorial Hospital from 1915 to 1955 when the hospital moved to its present premises on Jalan Residensi. Lim hoped that the

heritage building could become a tool to promote Penang as a vibrant and cultural heritage city. “I hope that this building will be

a museum that can personify our unique culture and heritage with its artefacts and exhibitions. “We want unorthodox and dynamic

displays that can attract the younger generation,” he said in his speech during the handing over ceremony on Saturday.

 

 

Farquhar’s Melaka collection of drawings is published

I was just in Singapore and the National Museum of Singapore has published a fabulous book  entitled “Natural History Drawings, the complete William Farquhar Collection.” For the first time ever, the 477 drawings of the flora and fauna of the Malay Peninsula commissioned by William Farquhar when he was the British Resident and Commandant of Melaka from 1803 to 1818, have been published in one volume.

In 1826, these drawings were donated by Farquhar to the Royal Asiatic Society in London, which then auctioned them for sale in 1993. A Singaporean, Mr Goh Geok Khim, purchased them and then presented the full set of drawings to Singapore’s National Heritage Board in 1996.

Putrajaya’s Secret Garden

In the Putrajaya Botanical Gardens, there is the most remarkable Moroccan Pavillion. I found it by chance when I visited with my parents. It is stuck down in the corner, between the carpark and the lake and it is a total gem of Moroccan Islamic architecture, with several beautiful rooms around a courtyard. The RM3 entrance fee is most definitely worth it, and its almost worth driving all the way to Putrajaya just to see it. I could find out very little about its history, so please email me at lorienholland@me.com if you have any information.

Day trip to Ipoh

Day trip to Ipoh by Marie Tseng

Right before Hayley Holle’s departure for England in August, a small group of MV members set off on a day trip to Ipoh -  Seeting, Diane, Hayley and myself.

Our trip started in Kelly’s Castle where we were warmly welcomed by the curator/guard of the castle.  The unfinished castle has been recently restored to enable visitors to visit safely almost every accessible part of the building.From the roof, you have a great view of the surrounding plantations. We continued on with a visit to the last tin dredge in Malyasia.   Having seen the real dredge will definitely enhance our guided tours at the Muzium Negara. Next stop was Batu Gajah, a colonial town that has kept most of its original buildings and a has a very interesting cemetery.  After a quick lunch of  fresh river prawns, we ended the day by a 3 hour walk in Ipoh.

I would highly recommend this easy trip to all guides.  Vera recommended us a great heritage Guide in Ipoh, Mr  Law Siak Hong  (siakhongstudio@yahoo.com) who met us in Kelly’s castle and took us on a very informative tour of Batu Gajah and Ipoh.

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.”