Monday, May 22, 2017

Mereka Utusan - Imprinting Malay Modernity (Part 1)

I stumbled onto this exhibition on Facebook and for a few weeks, I wanted to come down and see it for myself. My schedule was quite packed but I happen to found some time on a Saturday.
Mereka Utusan - Imprinting Malay Modernity
"Mereka Utusan" - Imprinting Malay Modernity; according to the guidebook, the "Mereka" in the title does not mean "They" but rather "The act of creation". "Utusan" means "Messengers". Directly translated to English, "Mereka Utusan" literally means "Creating Messengers".

Exhibition description in Gallery 1
As stated in the title, the exhibition shows the development of Malay modernity and identity and the progression and evolvement of the Malay Language thru publication of the 1920s till the 1960s. This exhibition also preserves the legacy of what the Malay identity and language was back in the day.
Gallery 1 of the exhibition.
The temporary exhibition Since October 16th 2016 till June 25th 2017 is housed within the temporary galleries 1 and 2 of the Malay Heritage Center.

Humble Beginnings - Permulaan

Beginnings of an Industry
The beginnings of Malay related publication started from the Straits Settlements during the late 19th century. Kampong Glam became an important publishing center sometime later in the 20th century and initially catered to the publication of religious texts. It soon expanded to newspapers, magazines and novels.

First Malay Publications - Penerbitan Melayu Pertama

The front page of "Jawi Peranakan".
Description of the item above
Jawi Peranakan is the first ever Malay newspaper, forming the basis of the Malayan identity. Also, in the early years, publications are usually reserved for religious and conservative publications due to the influence of Islam and its conservative nature onto Malay Culture .

Hot off the Press - Berita-Berita Terkini

Hot Off the Press
With the introduction of sophisticated printing presses from the Dutch and British, a Malay newspaper with regular circulation was made possible thru "Utusan Malayu" (Jawi: اوتوسن ملايو; Post-1972 Spelling: Utusan Melayu) or Malay Mail in English. Eunos Abdullah was the paper's first editor. This publication further sets the standards for the writing of the Malay Language.
A page of Utusan Malayu.
Description of the Above
Hikayat Munshi Abdullah
Munshi Abdullah learning how to print in "Hikayat Abdullah"
As above, in Malay

Printing Technologies - Teknologi Percetakan

The Technologies of printing made it possible for publications to reach the common man and played a major role in standardizing the Malay Language. This include Lithography, Letterpressing and Color Printing. 
A letterpress plate stating "برساتو"
The above, as printed on paper.
"Bersatu" Music Scoresheet by Zubir Said.
With the rise of Malay nationalism, there were several efforts to united the Malay population for independence against colonialism. Here as seen above is a letterpress plate in Jawi; "كماجوان دان كقواتن داڤت دچاڤاي دڠن برساتو" (Rumi: "Kemajuan dan kekuatan dapat dicapai dengan bersatu"; English; "Progress and strength can only be achieved thru unity") The theme of unity can seen today in many Malayan contexts such as Malaysia's state motto, ""Bersekutu Bertambah Mutu" ("Unity Is Strength")
Hiboran Magazines in the 40s and 50s.
Color printing, a milestone back in the day.
Color printing was a huge accomplishment in early publications. But it was a tedious process as it had to be printed several times to achieve more colors. As seen above, misalignments may occur resulting in misprints.

Across the Straits - Di Seberang Selat

An invoice to The Royal Press.
Adana Machine
Description of the above item.
Adana Machine, is a printing machine typically used to print typically used to print small items, particularly leaflets, involves, brochures and in come cases, books. It was manufactured in the UK from 1922 to 1999. It also may have been used to print the invoice in the above picture.

Written with Erasure - Ditulis Dengan Coretan

A panorama of Za'ba's mock-up office
In the 1950s, the Malay Language went for a pivotal change with the implementation of "Tulisan Rumi" (Roman script), the script that defined the typography of the Malay Language today. The reason behind this was to reach out to non-Jawi literate audience; such as immigrants and the British as Malay at that era was the lingua franca of the archipelago. It was an effort spearheaded by renowned Malay scholar Zainal Abidin bin Ahmad (Better known as "Za'aba") who supported this change 
A quote by Za'aba not to disregard the Jawi script.
Despite spearheading the change from Jawi to Roman letters, in the above quote in 1957, Za'aba advised the Malay community to retain the use of Jawi as it is still our heritage. This is also a quote that I highly regard myself.

Setting the Standard - Menetapkan Standard

Size and Design.
With the advent of World War 1, publications became an increasing demand. Magazines and newspapers sought to use this opportunity to gain readership for their respective publications and increased the pages, featured covers with models and celebrities. Because of this, there is an increase in literacy of the Malay population in the Straits Settlements.

Mastika Magazine

"Mastika" Magazines in the 40s and 50s
Description of the item above.
Some info on Masika Magazine and the changes it went thru.
Majalah Mastika (Jawi: مستيك) a magazine that is still in publication till today, mainly concerned with local and regional socio-political affairs. It went thru many drastic changes to attract its readership.

Hiboran Magazine

Hiboran Magazine issued during the 50s
Info on the items above
Some info on Hiboran.
Hiboran (Jawi: هيبورن) translates to "Entertainment" from Malay. From its name, the magazine covers entertainment related news. It also features political, social and cultural issues. Unlike Mastika, Hiboran's existence spans slightly over a decade.

Content - Kandungan

Introduction to Content
A page off Hiboran, "Will Malay Culture be Lost?"
The contents of publications evolved overtime, beginning with shipping movement and exchange and commodity rates; lacking the discussion. From the 1920s onwards, serious subject matters such as religious, socio-political and social issues were brought into the publications. With the evident of decolonialism and the push of Malayan independence, issues of independence, nationhood and even the discussion of the loss of Malay culture as seen in the above photo made their way into publications.

Due to the length of this subject matter, will be continued in Part 2.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Makam Puteri Radin Mas Ayu

Makam Puteri Radin Mas Ayu
10 Mount Faber Road (Opposite Mount Faber Lodge Condominium)
Open 9am - 6pm daily. Free admission.


Hidden behind some trees and vegetation along the bend of Mount Faber Road lies a centuries old shrine of a Javanese princess whose backstory and history could only be described as a legend or fairytale upon hearing it; only to have a reflection that it may be factual due to the fact that the shrine exists.
The Makam of Puteri Radin Mas Ayu could barely be seen behind the trees.
Mount Faber, or what was formerly known as Telok Belanga Hill, is a place that I've rarely visited in my lifetime and could only recall once when I was very young when I had a family trip to the top for a cable car ride. Since then, I had largely forgotten about it.
The steps leading up to the Makam.
It was when my passion for history and heritage got me wondering about the Shrine of Radin Mas Ayu. That day, since I was nearby Mount Faber, I decided to drop by for a visit.
A sign on the open gate stating the opening hours.
It was about 11am plus when I reached there and was relieved to see the gate was open. Apparently, the gate is opened daily (I presume) from 9am to 6pm. While I was there, there was no one around and I kept on exploring anyway.
Unknown tomb near the entrance.
Near the gate and left of the stairs was an unknown grave. While I was there, there was no names or other markings on the tomb. Upon research, it was said to be the tomb of Radin Mas' guard.
Near the top of the stairs, a sign reads in Malay; "Shrine of Princess Radin Mas Ayu"
I climbed the stairs and reached the Makam. The shrine is decorated in the colors yellow and green. As Radin Mas Ayu was a Javanese princess of the Javanese Royal Court, yellow is to signify and is usually associated with Malayan royalty while green signifies Islam.

The Legend of Puteri Radin Mas Ayu

Keramat Radin Mas Ayu.
Legend states that Pangeran Adipati Agung was the brother of a sultan in the kingdom of Java. He fell in love with the lead dancer of a dance troupe. As he could not marry a commoner, he wedded her in secret and bore a girl whom they named Radin Mas Ayu, meaning “Princess of Golden Beauty”. The king found out and was extremely furious and plotted to punish the dancer. While Pangeran was away, the king had his men burn their house down. Pangeran’s wife perished but their daughter was rescued by a loyal servant. When Pangeran returned from a victorious battle and found out what had happened, he severed ties with his brother and the palace. He left the kingdom together with Radin Mas and the loyal servant.
The tomb up close.
They set sail and landed in Singapore, settling down in a village at Telok Blangah. Pangeran was silent about his royal lineage and lived as other villagers did. The island was frequently harassed by sea pirates, and one day, Pangeran led a group of villagers to defeat them. News of Pangeran’s valour reached the Sultan of Singapore, and invited him to the palace. It happened that an envoy from Java was also present at the palace and was surprised to see Pangeran. He informed the Sultan of Pangeran’s identity. The Sultan was delighted to know that Pangeran was a prince and arranged for his princess to be wedded to him. Pangeran agreed to the marriage and a son was born to them. He was named Tengku Chik. Meanwhile Radin Mas had grown into a beautiful woman, and her stepmother was jealous both of her beauty and closeness with her father. To get even with Radin Mas, her stepmother together with her stepmother’s nephew, Tengku Bagus, plotted against Pangeran and Radin Mas. Her stepmother knew that Tengku Bagus was in love with Radin Mas and wished to marry her. With Radin Mas married, she would no longer have to compete with her for Pangeran’s attention.
Another angle.
Tengku Bagus got Pangeran intoxicated on drugged wine, and held him prisoner in an unused deep well. The next day, Tengku Bagus proposed to Radin Mas, threatening to kill Pangeran if she refused to marry him. During the solemnisation however, Radin Mas was asked if she had her father’s permission to marry. Fearful for her father’s life, she lied, saying that he had died while visiting Java. 
The legend of Radin Mas Ayu at the shrine.
At this instant, Tengku Chik blurted out that he had seen their father alive in the unused well. The plot was revealed and Pangeran was rescued. Afraid of Pangeran’s revenge, Tengku Bagus drew his kris and lunged at him. Radin Mas sprang forward to shield her father and the kris plunged into her heart, killing her. Her stepmother stole away during the commotion, but just as she was slipping away, lightning struck and killed her.

The Legacy of Radin Mas Ayu

Some pictures and news clippings depicting the history.
Zainol Atan, also known as Pak Daeng, spruce up the tomb to give Radin Mas the recognition she deserved. With permission from Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura, Pak Daeng cleaned up the place and repaired the hut with his own funds. Garnering help from friends, he levelled the ground around the tomb, carrying sand and cement up the hill.
An eviction sign.
From the above, seems that his initial efforts to spruce up the tomb didn't go well with the authorities. But they seem to have changed their minds later on as in August 2002, with the help of contributions from the community totalling $15,000 Pak Daeng collected he hired a contractor. 

The hut was torn down and a new one was built. A low fence was erected along the perimeters of the tomb. The surrounding compound was laid with ceramic tiles and a water tank was installed to store rainwater. A flight of steps was constructed to increase access to the shrine.
A mini koi pond at the tomb.
There was a Malay Kampong, Kampong Radin Mas, which has since been cleared for Mount Faber Lodge Condominium. There was also a namesake Masjid Radin Mas, at the foot of Mount Faber, but it closed in 2001 and demolished.

The main building of the namesake Radin Mas School was converted from Pengiran's Istana in 1926 before moving to its current location in 1984 and renamed to Radin Mas Primary School. Unfortunately in the process, the old Istana building has been demolished. But a painting by Ong Kim Seng, a former student of Radin Mas School, illustrates the former Istana building.

Though the area used to have a road and hill named "Radin Mas" and "Bukit Radin Mas" respectively. But these names too have been expunged from maps and roads named "Telok Blangah Way" and "Bukit Purmei Avenue" are used to denoted the toponymy of the area. But collectively, the area itself is still referred to as "Radin Mas" by many of its residents.

Even though she died in 1511, the legacy of Radin Mas Ayu has lived on for centuries and probably in the coming decades.