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Brickfields: As Witness by Mano Maniam

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Mano Maniam Bfields

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ABOUT THE TALK

Brickfields is a diverse neighbourhood with dozens of religious institutions, schools, associations as well as social and welfare organizations within a square mile, all with a history of more than a century. It is in serious threat of rapid change and is at odds with its own past and its future. 

Brickfields: As Witness explores the changing image of this neighbourhood through Mano’s eyes. He fears that Brickfields will no longer reflect that colour and become just a giant communication “go-to/come-from place”. 

This narrative will also uncover the stories he has experienced as an inmate of this colorful suburb. 

ABOUT THE SPEAKER

ManoManiam01An actor, director, teacher and voice over artist, Mano Maniam is well known for his roles as Uncle Chan in the local TV series ‘Kopitiam’ and as Moonshee in Hollywood’s ‘Anna and the King’.

As a cultural anthropologist, he is curious on examining how cultures merge, collide and intertwine. Brickfields has become the center of his curiosity and observation.

Having lived in Brickfields for over 30 years, Mano has seen the land and peoplescape change, unsure of its destiny.

#DearMalaysiaAt60 twitter story

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In conjunction with Merdeka Day on 31 August 2017, we would like to invite all Malaysians to share your stories and memories of living and growing up in Malaysia!!

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NEED IDEAS? CHECK OUT THESE EXAMPLES!

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Get those creative writing ideas out and be sure to send in your entries by 28 August 2017!

Betel Boxes- Symbol of Wealth, Status & Social Standing

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A betel box with Mother-of-Pearl Inlay

The habit of betel chewing is believed to have started way back into the Neolithic Age, and for a long time, it was thought to be native to India because of several literary references including a Pali text dating from 504 BC describing this practice. Recent linguistic studies and archaeological finds, however, point to another origin, i.e., southeast Asia.

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A carry-on Peranakan Betel Box, used by men. It is hooked onto the belt.

This conclusion is based on the discovery of traces of the piper betel seeds found in various caves in Thailand and Indonesia dating back to 5,000- 7,000 BC and the discovery of a male skeleton with betel-stained teeth in the Duyong caves in the Philippines dating back to 2680 BC. This habit (betel chewing) spread to cover a large area which included mainland southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Micronesia and a custom which was enjoyed by both men and women.

Over the years several accounts of the habit have been written by countless travellers and writers including references to betel and areca in Chinese accounts which date back to the 7th century. They believed that the betel and areca had many medicinal qualities most popular being that of a mouth freshener and it was said that its popularity in China only declined with the introduction of opium in the 19th century. In the “The Travels of Ibn Buttute” in the 13th century he described how he was welcomed by a plate of betel leaves and areca nuts on arrival at the palace of the Sultan of  Mogadishu, clearly indicating its association with hospitality.

The foreigners were fascinated and at the same time repelled by the black teeth and the red saliva describing the habit as vile and disgusting, but the habitual users considered these very same things as beautiful.  Chewing betel which is a mild narcotic evokes a mild euphoria and a general feeling of well-being. The British anthropologist, Tom Harrison claimed that a few minutes of betel chewing after an hour of hard climbing in Sarawak sent waves of energy through his body.

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Carry-on betel boxes used by Malay Men

There are three main ingredients necessary for betel chewing, the betel leaf (from the piper betel vine), lime (from limestone or crushed incinerated sea shells) and the areca nut. One starts with the betel leaf to which the lime is smeared, and a few slivers of areca nut added.  The leaf is neatly folded into a small parcel which is called a quid or a “chew” and then popped into the mouth between the gum and the cheek. The Malays add gambir as a fourth ingredient which is said to enhance the flow of saliva, but its primary export value was for tanning leather.  Tobacco and spices can also be added depending on taste and custom.

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A basic betel box, carved out of wood.

A receptacle was therefore required to house and transport the different ingredients mentioned above, and the Betel Box was born. This can be in the form of boxes, trays, baskets, and bags, fashioned out of silver, gold, brass, bronze, lacquer, wood, ceramic, glass, textile, etc. The shapes and sizes vary to reflect preference gradually becoming a status symbol to indicate the wealth and social standing of its owners.

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An exquisite 200-year old Betel Box made out of silver & gold, brought over from Sulawesi by Pn. Zuraidah’s grandfather.

The grandest usually made of gold were reserved for royalty, and this then became part of the royal regalia in countries such as Burma, Thailand and the Malay sultanates. Over time the popularity of betel chewing waned, and when Malaya became independent from the British in 1957, the betel box was excluded from the royal regalia because it was considered old-fashioned. What has remained is its association with respect and hospitality in Malay custom and tradition and the Betel Box, therefore, plays an important role especially in Malay weddings

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Equipment used for betel chewing (from left) areca nut cracker, mortars & leaf container

From what was described as an “unlovely practice” by Sir George Scott we have fortunately been left with a very rich inheritance of beautiful Betel Boxes and the various wonderful paraphernalia which were necessary for betel chewing. These include the betel cutters, tobacco boxes, spittoons and mortars which the elderly and toothless needed to pound the ingredients.

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A brass betel box, from the personal collection of Puan Zuraidah Ghani

This post is written by Puan Zuraidah Ghani, long-time member of Badan Warisan Malaysia and avid collector of Betel Boxes, otherwise known as Tepak Sirih in Malay. 

Manek Mischiefs by Lee Su Kim

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ABOUT THE TALK

Lee Su Kim will share her experiences writing a trilogy of stories of the Peranakans, focusing on her latest work. After Kebaya Tales and Sarong Secrets, comes Manek Mischiefs, a rich, gutsy collection of short stories immersing the reader into the flamboyant, vibrant and colourful world of the Babas and Nyonyas. The babas take centre stage this time, masculine perspectives are put under the spotlight as themes of family intrigues and rivalries, loss of great fortunes, bedroom scandals, long lost love, identity issues and family relationships are explored.

Lee Su Kim, a sixth generation nyonya, will talk about the babas and their stories from an insider’s perspective and her cultural heritage facing the challenges of modern times. She will discuss the joys and pitfalls writing about a multi-layered, hybrid culture with Chinese, Southeast Asian and European influences. She will share pictures of exquisite beadwork and embroidery items ( manek) and personal belongings of the babas, many of which are featured in the book. The session ends with a reading by the author of one of her favourite stories.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
images LSKDr.Lee Su Kim has published eleven books of fiction and non-fiction. Her debut collection of the life-stories of the Peranakans, Kebaya Tales: Of Matriarchs, Maidens, Mistresses and Matchmakers won First prize in the Popular-Star Readers’ Choice Awards 2011(Fiction). She published another collection, Sarong Secrets: Of Love, Loss and Longing in 2013.

Her earlier work, Malaysian Flavours: Insights into Things Malaysian and Manglish: Malaysian English at its Wackiest are bestsellers. She also wrote on the hilarious crosscultural encounters between east and west in A Nyonya In Texas: Insights of a Straits Chinese Woman in the Lone Star State.

Su Kim was Associate Professor of English language studies at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia where she lectured and published widely on language, culture and identity. She is the chief editor of ‘Border Crossings : Moving between Languages and Cultural Frameworks’.

An invited speaker at both the Ubud and Singapore Writers Festival, she has given talks and presentations in the US, UK, Australia and Asia. Su Kim is also a cultural activist and is the Founding President of the Peranakan Baba Nyonya Association of Kuala Lumpur & Selangor. She enjoys and shares cultural complexity beyond cuisine and sarong kebaya and is a frequent presenter of the rich diversity of being nyonya. She is now a fulltime writer, educationist and language consultant.

Colours of Asia by William Harald-Wong

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Colours of Asia
William Harald-Wong

‘Colours of Asia’ was the first in a series of studies to examine the idea of ‘Asian-ness’ in the broad field of design—a particular way of thinking and doing, its cultural and spiritual affinities, profound philosophical and aesthetic concepts—that can give multiple meanings and depth to contemporary design.

The research on colours covered 13 Asian countries/regions, exploring significant dimensions of culture such as beliefs and rites of passage that define society, design and the built environment, crafts, food, language and literature, traversing from a rich cultural past to an equally relevant and exciting present day.

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‘Colours of Asia’ was a project undertaken by The Design Alliance Asia in collaboration with Hong Kong Design Institute and Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education (Lee Wei Lee), with generous funding from CreateHK, Hong Kong SAR Government.

‘Colours of Asia’ comprised an exhibition, student workshops, forum, seminar, research papers and a publication. It was presented during Hong Kong Year of Design 2012 and in 2014 won the prestigious Special Award for Culture at the Design for Asia Awards in Hong Kong.

Curators: Prof. Ahn Sang-soo (South Korea) and William Harald-Wong (Malaysia)

Research team for Malaysia: Ezrena Marwan, Suzy Sulaiman and William Harald-Wong

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About the Speaker

speaker_williamWilliam Harald-Wong is an urban identity designer, working at the intersection of brand, culture, city and community. William is also the Founder and Chairman of The Design Alliance Asia (tDA Asia), a collaborative network of prominent designers in 13 Asian countries / regions.

He won in the prestigious Design for Asia Awards in Hong Kong twice in a row—2015 Grand Award Finalist and Gold for Museum Sultan Abu Bakar (Malaysia) and 2014 Special Award for Culture for ‘Colours of Asia’.

He was awarded the International Design Achievement Award, China (2010), the Lifetime Achievement Award by DDEC Malaysia (2011), Designomics Leadership Award, India (2012), and Distinguished Chinese Award by Chinese Who’s Who Society, China (2013).

William served as Vice-President of Icograda from 2001 to 2013 and co-founded wREGA, the Graphic Design Association of Malaysia.

Turtle Tales Talk & Exhibition

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Sea Turtle Exhibition

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Turtle Tales: Talk & Exhibition at Badan Warisan Malaysia is in conjunction with World Turtle Day! The exhibition will be on going for 1 month from 13 May to 13 June 2017 whereas the talk will be on 21 May 2017.


About the Exhibition

20160528_185911This month long exhibition features paintings and drawings from the book ‘ I love Sea Turtles’, a collaboration between sisters Yi Xuan, 15, the writer of the book and Yu Jing, 11, the illustrator of the book.

The paintings and book were created after the sister’s witnessed the sea turtles laying eggs, which then ignited the sister’s passion and dedication in helping to save these sea creatures.  The sisters will be at Badan Warisan Malaysia on 21 May to share their experiences and talk about their adventure and future projects. 


About the Talk

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The talk will take place on 21 May 2017, given by the Turtle Conservation Society of Malaysia. The talk will feature a presentation of the different species of sea turtles found in Malaysia, their conservation status, feeding habits and threats that they face.

Audiences will also get to know TCS, their objectives, the research, conservation, education and awareness programmes that have been conduct.

The talk will also focus on the two critically endangered species of fresh water turtles in Malaysia that TCS is focused on.