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Highlights from the "Cerita" exhibition include (clockwise from left) a Garuda dance costume, 19th century Javanese painting, the original score of "Majulah Singapura" and live musical performances as part of Malay CultureFest. Images: Malay Heritage Centre

Past, Present And Future Collide In Malay Heritage Centre's New Exhibition

"Artefacts are gateways into the past which inform our future." *inserts name of philosopher*

And that's something you'll experience at Malay Heritage Centre’s (MHC) latest exhibition, "Cerita" (meaning “stories” in Malay), which throws the spotlight on the stories and narratives of life in the Nusantara (Malay Archipelago).

"Cerita", which runs till 31 July as a complement to the MHC's annual Malay CultureFest, consists of two curated galleries: one entitled "Kita" (which means "us") which explores the region's influence on the local Malay community, and another "Me-reka" (which means "crafting") that focuses on the unique craft traditions that have shaped our culture.

As a Malay, I had an excellent opportunity to gain fresh insights and perspectives on my own heritage. Plus, it's a chance not to be missed as this is MHC's final big event before it closes its doors temporarily for a revamp later this year.

Tortoise-shaped ingot made from tin from the Kita galleryPHOTO: Malay Heritage Centre

Past - a reflection
"Cerita" draws stories together in a retrospective showcase, letting you and fellow visitors reflect on the past, and reimagine a new future together. 

Featuring over 80 exhibits, including artefacts from the National Collection as well as loans from international institutions and various community contributors, the showcase truly is a comprehensive journey into Malay history and heritage.

Circumcision Cloth from the Kita galleryPHOTO: Malay Heritage Centre
Sailboat ingot from the Kita galleryPHOTO: Malay Heritage Centre

Some of the exhibits from the Kita gallery (shown above) depict the everyday life, customs and traditions of the Malays throughout history, while artefacts from the Me-reka gallery (shown below) spotlight the ingenuity of early craftsmen, highlighting some of their inventions which are still in use today.

Lintas Nusantara display from the Me-reka galleryPHOTO: Malay Heritage Centre
"Horse Attacked by Lion" by 19th century Javanese painter Raden Saleh featured in the Me-reka galleryPHOTO: Malay Heritage Centre
Majulah Singapura original scoresheet on loan from the family of Zubir Said on display at the Me-reka galleryPHOTO: Malay Heritage Centre

My personal favourite artefact was, hands down, getting to see the original score of our national anthem "Majulah Singapura". Talk about getting up close and personal with history:

Malay CultureFest 2022 launched with live performances of music and dancePHOTO: Malay Heritage Centre

Present - a celebration
Along with the exhibition, Malay CultureFest 2022 will also take place with on-site and online activities that celebrate Malay culture and performing arts in Singapore and its intricate links to the Nusantara.

Malay CultureFest puts the focus on honouring the past while providing a means for present-day expression. You can also look forward to a number of performances, workshops and forums including:

  • Sentosa di Kubah Hayat featuring Ramli Sarip (5 Feb)
    Enjoy some of the greatest hits and recent music from local rock icon Ramli Sarip. Book your tickets here.
  • Bangsawan Workshop (13 Feb) 
    Bangsawan is a type of traditional Malay opera or theatre accompanied by music and dance. Participants can practice their flair for acting and learn various character archetypes found in the traditional Malay Bangsawan at this immersive workshop experience.

  • Lintas Nusantara x Silat: Balada Nusantara (30 Jan, 4 Feb)
    The 10th installation of Lintas Nusantara is a dance performance that is also love letter to silat – an ancient martial art form practiced across the Nusantara. Catch the showcase online on MHC's Facebook page


Future - a reimagination
While it is important to pay homage to our past, we should also not be afraid to embrace the future. It is in this spirit that MHC has worked closely with 50 students and lecturers from the Nanyang Polytechnic School of Design & Media to produce 10 digital animation videos reimagining the classical Malay folk tale, "The Attack of the Garfish", a popular story from the Sejarah Melayu (Malay Annals).

These digital works will be displayed as part of the "Cerita" exhibition alongside the historical artefacts, and highlight the fresh and engaging perspectives of the younger generation in retelling Malay history.

Malay CultureFest 2022 and Cerita special exhibition will run from 29 January to 31 July. For more information, click here.

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