Collection of Malay artefacts to expand

Collection of Malay artefacts to expand
Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim unveiling the national monument plaque for Istana Kampong Gelam yesterday. The 172-year-old building is the country’s 70th national monument.
PHOTO: Beritan Harian

The Istana Kampong Gelam, which was recently gazetted as a national monument, is set to expand its collection of artefacts on display at the Malay Heritage Centre's galleries.

These additional exhibits will include research currently being undertaken by the centre, and finds from archaeological digs carried out between 2000 and 2003 on the centre's grounds, said Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim yesterday.

"They will help to reaffirm the Nusantara's trading history, as well as Singapore's important role as an important nexus along the world's trading routes," he said.

Nusantara refers to the Malay world. Dr Yaacob was speaking at the centre's annual Hari Raya open house, where he also unveiled the national monument plaque for Istana Kampong Gelam.

Once the seat of the Johor sultanate, the 172-year-old building is a reminder of Singapore's historic links to the Malay world. When it was the residence of the royals, it used to host important community events.

It was officially gazetted as the country's 70th national monument on Thursday. The former palace in Sultan Gate also houses the Malay Heritage Centre, which opened in 2005. Dr Yaacob said it is especially meaningful that the gazetting of the monument coincides with the nation's 50th birthday this week.

"What is more significant is that it is the eighth national monument associated with the Malay/Muslim community in Singapore, thus reaffirming the contributions of our pioneers and our community to the multicultural Singapore landscape," said Dr Yaacob, who is also the Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs.

Yesterday's open house, which also commemorated Racial Harmony Day, featured not only Malay games and dances but also activities such as henna painting and Chinese opera mask painting.

Said Dr Yaacob: "Having (all these activities) under one roof speaks of our nation's dynamic and rich cultural tapestry. This is also consistent with the Malay community's values and traditions, of being inclusive by opening its doors to everyone and anyone, and regardless of race and faith, during Hari Raya."

Malay community leader Suryakenchana Omar, 43, said the istana's fresh national monument status is important for its preservation.

"If you look at the buildings here today, other than mosques, not many are traditionally Malay." Retiree Jaafar Shafaat, 72, who volunteers at the Malay Heritage Centre, urged more young Malays to visit the istana.

He said: "It's important for younger Malays to be aware of their roots. A person without roots is like a tree that won't flourish."

This article was first published on August 8, 2015.
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