Opinions

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. 

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.

Architecture & Nation Building: Multiculturalism & Democracy

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Prof Tajuddin

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The talk focuses on how architecture can contribute towards the creation of an ‘imagined community’ called ‘Malaysian’ through a discourse of multiculturalism and democracy as the main reference points of design. Historically, the call for a national architectural identity was received with great interest by Malay architects who produced many traditional revivalist buildings and also by non-Malay architects with emphasis on climate and local materials. Neither of the two extremes had taken multi-culturalism and democracy into their design approaches and discourses. What we find are either simplistically interpreted post-modern attempts and at the other extreme we find literalist modernism products with a number of architects engaging in regionalism using climate and material in a more daring manner.

Although the regionalist in Malaysia has a better edge in terms of a more creative and meaningful design, their approach would be most inspiring if the aspects of multi-culturalism and democracy were integrated. Many architects either seemed too frightened of political backlash or they are uncertain how these two aspects can be used in architecture. I will concentrate on these two aspects of multi-culturalism and democracy in my criticism of housing, mosques and administrative buildings in Malaysia by reinterpreting the rituals and values within a more inclusive view of politics and society and the early modernist framework of design.


About the Speaker

ProfessoProfile Dr. Tajr Dr Mohamad Tajuddin Mohamad Rasdi is a prolific writer in architecture, politics, social issues, religious matters and education. Prof Dr. Mohamad Tajuddin was educated in the USA at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee where he obtained his Masters and Bachelor of Science in Architecture.

He was Professor of Architecture at UTM for 10 years and now at UCSI University. Professor Tajuddin has authored and published 40 books to date on architecture concerning Islam, the mosque, housing, community building and planning of administrative centres. He was a columnist for several years with the Utusan Malaysia and with The Star. Prof Tajuddin is also responsible for writing hundreds of articles in architecture for the encyclopedia of architecture published by the national publication.

He has written many articles in the media concerning various issues of architecture, democracy, multi-culturalism and education. He is also frequently interviewed by online media news like malaysiakini and Freemalaysiatoday on national political and social issues.

Statement by Badan Warisan Malaysia on the Revocation of Heritage Site status of MaTIC by Jabatan Warisan Malaysia

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The notification in the NST on 28 December 2016 from Jabatan Warisan Negara (JWN) to revoke the designation of the “Old Building of Malaysia Tourism Centre (MaTIC)” as a heritage site raises many concerns and issues.

Law does not Provide for Revocation of Heritage Site Status

First, the section 31 (2) of the National Heritage Act 2005 (Act 645) which was cited in the Notice describes the process for designation of a heritage site. It does not deal with revocation of a gazetted site. And we understand that this site which comprises Lots 45 and 139 (Section 58) and part of Lot 158 (Section 57) was gazetted (Gazette Number P.U. (B) 290) as “Warisan” on the National Heritage Register on 16 June 2016. The criteria for listing specified in documents from JWN refers to its historical importance as well as its architectural and aesthetic character.

The National Heritage Act (NHA) does not have any provision for revocation of gazettal of a heritage site. Therefore, it would appear that unless the NHA is amended to allow for this, it is questionable if the Commissioner has the power to revoke a site which has already been gazetted; i.e. is this revocation ultra vires the Act?

Significance of the Heritage Site

So what can we find on Lots 45, 139 and the part of 158 which is identified in the Notice as MaTIC?

Lot 45 is used as a car park which services the tourism centre.

There is a modern five storey building housing the KL Tourism Office on the part of Lot 158 which has been gazetted.

Lot 139 is by far the largest lot. There are several other buildings on this lot, including the house of wealthy business tycoon Eu Tong Sen and the Dewan Tunku Abdul Rahman. In keeping with the social standing of the owner Eu, many social activities were held in this house from the time it was built (1935) until the start of World War II. During WWII, it was used by the British, and then the Japanese army as a war office. In 1956, it was acquired and renovated by the government of Malaya, and in 1957, the installation of the first Agong was held there. In 1958 a conference hall, the first air conditioned hall in Kuala Lumpur, was added at the rear of the building.

In 1959, the first meeting of Parliament of the independent Malaya was held there. Following the building of the new Parliament House, by the early 1970s the original house and hall were converted to house the National Art Gallery for the next decade or so. In the 1980s and 1990s several new blocks were added; these include Saloma Bistro and retail stores serving visitors and tourists. In the mid 1980s, the conference hall was converted into a theatre. This ensemble of buildings that has served as the Tourist Information Centre for over 20 years is now known as MaTIC.

NHA and New Development Initiatives on a Heritage Site

Then there is the issue of new development on a heritage site. It is important to note that there is nothing in the NHA which precludes new development. As in the case of all applications for planning permission, owners will have to comply with guidelines and conditions imposed by the local authority – in this instance it will be Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur (DBKL). When it comes to gazetted heritage sites however, there will be additional guidelines and conditions imposed by JWN in line with provisions found in paragraphs 40, 41 and 42 of the NHA, all of which could potentially affect the scale and nature of the proposed development. This would include the provision of a 200 meter “buffer” from the site boundaries for any new development to mitigate against any (negative) impact on the heritage values of the gazetted building and/or site.

One could speculate that this revocation is to redress the fact there are no heritage buildings on Lots 45 and 158, and therefore the gazettal should not have covered these two lots, only Lot 139 which has heritage properties.  If this were the case, it would also beg the question why the Gazette in June 1026 included all three lots.

One would definitely expect a high level of rigour as well as resources in all endeavours to undertake the gazettal of any heritage site. The NHA provides for the process to include notification to the owner/s, an objection period, hearing and eventually, the decision to, or not to, designate a heritage site; and all along the way, there are clear steps to ensure the public are notified of these decisions in the printed press.  This process takes time, and it has been our past experience that JWN does not take this responsibility lightly.

Badan Warisan Malaysia believes it is critical to understand the implications and legal ramifications of this Notice to revoke the designation as heritage of MaTIC.

Due process of the law has to be followed for the future protection of heritage sites in Malaysia.

Elizabeth Cardosa

President

Badan Warisan Malaysia

30 December 2016

WORLD HERITAGE DAY #HERITAGE OF SPORTS

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It’s World Heritage Day! And this year’s theme is THE HERITAGE OF SPORT.

“Sport is part of every man and woman’s heritage and its absence can never be compensated for” – Pierre de Coubertin

Not only has sports united the country and the world towards a common goal, it has also brought in various forms of development such as the different installations and facilities respective to their practice, the development of art, architecture and techniques.

To celebrate World Heritage Day, Badan Warisan’s Council Member- Mr. Ishak Ariffin has written a piece on the Eton Fives Court- the only existing court of its kind here in Malaysia. 

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Original Eton Fives Court at Eton Chapel

Eton Fives is a handball game played as doubles in a three-walled court. It is little known outside the circle of public schools in the England and elite universities, such as Oxford and Cambridge, as it has been primarily the preserve of their students and alumni. The origin of the word ‘fives’ is uncertain. It probably refers to the fingers, as in ‘a bunch of fives’.

 

The name has been used since the 17th century. There have been variations of handball games. Some form of fives was played by the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. The Irish, Americans and Basques have their own versions of fives. The English fives also has its variations, such as Warminster (or Wessex) Fives, Rugby Fives, Winchester Fives, Clifton Fives, St John’s Fives and Gissop’s Fives. A form of fives had also been played at Harrow in 1760s. It is a game that “anyone can play”. All you need is a ball and a pair of gloves to protect your hands.

Eton Fives originated from Eton College where it was first played against the chapel wall at the college. The first purposely-built Eton Fives court are the block of four Eton Fives courts along the Eton Wick Road, constructed in 1840 by the headmaster of Eton, Dr Hawtrey. The design of the courts was based on, but was not an exact replica of, the chapel court.

A.C. Ainger and some of his friends develop and published the ‘Rules of the Game of Fives as played at Eton’ in 1877. The object of the game is to force the other team to fail to hit the ball ‘up’ off the front wall before it bounce twice. The ball can bounce unpredictably as the three-walled Eton Fives court has ledges along it, a buttress on the left side and a step down towards the back. The first match between schools was on February 12, 1885, when Eton challenged Harrow. The first Oxford-Cambridge Varsity match took place in 1928. There are presently 55 sets of courts in England and Wales, totalling more than 1,700 courts.  Eton Fives has spread to Europe, built at Lyceum Alpinum Zuoz in Switzerland the 1920s and also Geneva, Zurich, Austria, Germany and France. Further afield, courts were built at Geelong Grammar School in Australia, at St Paul’s School, Darjeeling in India, and at the Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK), Perak. There is a court in Buenos Aires, Argentina and the game is also flourishing in northern Nigeria and New Zealand.

Eton Fives in MCKK was introduced by its fourth Headmaster, C. Bazell. Bazell was an Oxford graduate (and possibly also an Eton alumnus?). Bazell joined MCKK in 1922 from Raffles Institution, Singapore and was appointed the Headmaster in 1923. The Eton Fives courts were built in 1928. Bazell also built the first swimming pool in MCKK in 1926 and the squash courts in 1938 (the second oldest in Malaysia).

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MCKK Team at Eton’s Chapel Court

 

The two Eton Fives courts at MCKK may not be the first fives courts to be built in Malaya (now Malaysia) but they are the only Eton Fives courts found in this region. The Straits Times reported on 30 April 1920 that when the Nighthawk scout plane was being assembled at the Padang Polo in Penang, not far from the Penang Hospital, “the fives courts are being converted into a hangar”. The former fives courts are now said to have been converted into a storeroom.

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Eton Fives revival game in 2014 at the Malay College Kuala Kangsar
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Eton Fives Court at MCKK before revival

Eton Fives was a very popular game in MCKK, along with rugby, cricket and football, until 1938 when squash was introduced. But the game was still regularly played until late 1960s. A few students continued playing the game sporadically through to the 1970s.Two representatives from Eton Fives Association (EFA), United Kingdom, visited in MCKK in 1994. The EFA Annual Report of 1994-95 recorded their visit. The visit came about after some old boys of MCKK initiated talks on reviving the game which culminated in an Eton Fives Revival ceremony on August 24th, 2014. Two EFA representatives were present to conduct a two-week coaching session for the boys and teachers of MCKK. The District Education Department also sent out invitation to other schools in Kuala Kangsar district to generate further interest in the game.

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Eton Fives Court after revival in 2014

In March 2015, MCKK entered two pairs of Eton Fives teams in the UK National Eton Fives Schools Championship in Eton College. Ironically, the MCKK senior pair was drawn against a pair of Eton College boys in their first game and won. Out of 51 pairs in the Under-15, the MCKK pair reached the Quarter Finals of the Cup, and among the 48 pairs in the Under-17, the senior MCKK pair went as far as the Plate Quarter Finals.

Eton Fives is experiencing a revival in the UK. The MCKK Eton Fives team’s performance in their maiden championship, after only six months being introduced to the game, sets the scene for a revival of the game in MCKK and Kuala Kangsar, if not in Malaysia. The 88 years old Eton Fives courts, the only one in Malaysia (and East Asia), is set to see a new life for many years to come after lying dormant for much of the last half century.

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Eton Fives Plaque at the Malay College Kuala Kangsar

This guest post is written by Ishak Ariffin. Ishak was trained in Town Planning at Cardiff University in Wales, UK. He is a registered Town Planner, Corporate member of the Malaysian Institute of Planners and the Royal Town Planning Institute, UK, as well as a registered EIA Subject Specialist. Ishak Ariffin is a long time member of Badan Warisan Malaysia and currently serves as the Honorary Treasurer for the trust. Ak mugshot-web

BWM PRESIDENT’S STATEMENT ON THE DISCOVERY OF THE GRAVESTONE PIQUES AT MASJID JAMEK

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The discovery of these old batu nisan in the vicinity of Masjid Jamek is incredibly exciting as it is clear, tangible and unarguable evidence of the historical timeline of the development of this city and its early Muslim settlement at the trading post which is now this modern metropolis. The fact that several other type of artefacts such as ceramic bowls, glass and other items have also been found makes it even more imperative that a proper and systematic methodology for detailed mapping of the ground below in the whole area surrounding the mosque be undertaken immediately, before the area is disturbed further. Publicly sharing all such recording and documentation by historians and archaeologists will provide a rich picture of the social and cultural lifestyle of these early settlers and ultimately help create a better understanding and appreciation of the many different people and communities which were the backbone on which this city was founded.

Whether the batu nisan were found is within or outside of the boundary of the gazetted National Heritage Site of Masjid Jamek, should not be an impediment because the National Heritage Act 2005 gives the Heritage Commissioner the authority to stop work if it is deemed that items of national heritage significance will lost or negatively affected by this work. The area where the batu nisan have been found is definitely within the larger historic enclave where the majority buildings have been gazetted on the National Heritage Register.

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Image taken from The Star

While completing a new water fountain feature within the River of Life project is clearly important to the aspirations of the city’s authorities, a comprehensive multi-disciplinary study of this site is even more important to the city and its citizens. In many parts of the world, showcasing historical and archaeological investigations at such urban sites provide a “crowd-pulling” platform for locals and visitors alike. Cordoning off this area will more than anything likely enhance the attraction of the site and its surrounds.

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Image of Gravestones Piques (Taken from The Star)

Badan Warisan Malaysia hopes that the National Heritage Department will step up to the mark and lead in this research to ensure that the heritage value of this site is given its due recognition.

KUL STORIES: THE HERITAGE BATTLE

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THIS KUL CITY is back and this time, its a BATTLE! 

Come watch Victorian Chacko Vadaketh and Johanian Zahim Albakri make their case for their alma mater!

If you are a Johanian or a Victorian, come show your support!

#SJIvsVI #heritagebattle #thiskulcity 

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