SINGAPORE – A prince is greeted by a creature with a red body, black head and white breast on the shores of Temasek; A little boy defends his village from a ghastly attack of swordfish with his quick wit. These iconic folktales, passed down through generations of Singaporeans, are just some of the many in the Sejarah Melayu (Malay Annals), the earliest known literary work which mentions Singapore, then known as Singapura.

Rare pages from a handwritten copy of the text will be on display at the Malay Heritage Centre (MHC) as part of their exhibition, Seekor Singa, Seorang Putera & Sebingkai Cermin: Reflecting & Refracting Singapura, from Saturday (Oct 12) till June 21 next year.

The exhibition will reveal lesser known histories about Singapore’s indigenous Malay communities from more than 700 years ago through the narratives of artefacts, folktales, and other art forms.

There will also be installations such as a multimedia retelling of the legend of Bukit Merah,ー complete with the Sultan of Singapura having a WhatsApp conversation with his advisers,ー designed by students from Nanyang Polytechnic’s School of Interactive & Digital Media in collaboration with local artist Speak Cryptic.

Younger children can learn more about historical characters such as Wah Hakim, the 15-year-old Orang Laut who witnessed Sir Stamford Raffles’ arrival, or play in a cosy corner designed to look like a traditional Malay house at the MHC’s first ever installation of a multisensory children’s space, aptly named Adventures in Nusantara, the Malay archipelago.

The exhibition will be launched in conjunction with the Malay CultureFest 2019, a three-week long programme celebrating traditional Malay art forms exploring their cross-cultural influences. The festival will run from Friday (Oct 11) to Nov 2.

One of their highlights is the dance festival Lintas Nusantara, which will enthral visitors with traditional dances such as Tari Turak Dewa (turak meaning “bamboo stick” and dewa, “of the gods”), a welcome dance typically performed using bamboo sticks packed with yellow rice. In colonial times, dancers would fill their sticks with chili and pepper instead and used them to ambush the Spaniards.

Another performance, 7etanggaー A musical voyage, will feature seven distinct ensembles, including homegrown Malay percussion band Nadi Singapura, oud players from SG Oudist and wayang kulit group Sri Setia Pulau Singa, alongside international musicians, in a unique depiction of the interactions between music from different cultures.

Mr Jamal Mohamad, 38, MHC’s senior manager for programmes, told The Straits Times, “Singapore has always been rojak. Here, we want to appreciate the hybridised nature of traditional Malay music while still honouring the roots of the different sounds.”

Youth interested in hands-on activities can also try making their own wayang kulit puppets or discover Malay fashion at the Youth Invasion programme hosted by the students of River Valley High School as part of the festival.


BOOK IT / Seekor Singa, Seorang Putera & Sebingkai Cermin: Reflecting & Refracting Singapura

WHEN: Oct 12 2019 to June 21 2020, 10am to 6pm

WHERE: Malay Heritage Centre

85 Sultan Gate, Singapore 198501

ADMISSION: Free

INFO: https://www.malayheritage.org.sg/en/whats-on


BOOK IT / Lintas Nusantara

WHEN: Oct 12 and 13, 8.30pm

WHERE: Fountain at Malay Heritage Centre

85 Sultan Gate

ADMISSION: Free

INFO: https://www.malayheritage.org.sg/en/whats-on


BOOK IT / 7etangga

WHEN: Nov 1, 8.00pm

WHERE: Fountain at Malay Heritage Centre

85 Sultan Gate

ADMISSION: Free

INFO: https://www.malayheritage.org.sg/en/whats-on


BOOK IT / Youth Invasion

WHEN: Oct 26, 10.00am to 1.00pm

WHERE: Malay Heritage Centre

85 Sultan Gate, Singapore 198501

ADMISSION: Free

INFO: https://www.malayheritage.org.sg/en/whats-on