Tuesday 28 August 2012

Revamped Malay Heritage Centre opens on 1st September 2012

Kampong Glam icon will showcase rich Malay legacy in trade, culture
By Maryam Mokhtar, The Straits Times, 27 Aug 2012

VISITORS will be offered a fresh glimpse into Singapore's history at the revamped Malay Heritage Centre.

Exhibits include the piano on which the late composer Zubir Said tinkled the first notes of Singapore's national anthem, and an authentic Mark III rifle used by Malay Regiment soldiers during World War II.

There will also be recovered coins from the Straits Settlements and the Dutch East Indies, reflecting the dynamic trade that thrived in Kampong Glam from the 18th to 20th centuries.

The centre, at Istana Kampong Glam, has been closed since April last year for renovations and refurbishments.

It is now due to be officially re-opened by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Saturday.

Mr Lee, who mentioned the centre in his Malay National Day Rally speech last night, said it would "showcase our rich Malay traditions to our future generations, other races and foreign visitors".

The heritage centre was first opened by Mr Lee in 2005.

As well as highlighting the Malay community's traditions and customs, it hosted important dignitaries from the region.

Following the revamp, it now consists of six permanent galleries spread over two levels of the Istana. Each of them follows one of two main themes that explore dagang, which means trade, and budaya, or culture.

The 172-year-old building, which was constructed in 1840 for Sultan Ali Iskandar Shah of Johor, has not just been given a physical facelift. Its themes have also been updated.

There is a fresh focus on the historical significance of Kampong Glam as a thriving port town before the arrival of Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819. Of the 337 artefacts at the centre, 289 of them will be on display for the first time.

These include items from Singapore's national collection and loans from individuals.

For example, the piano belonging to Mr Zubir is on loan from the National Museum of Singapore. The many loans by Mr Zubir's family include a programme booklet for a concert that featured compositions by him and other musicians. These songs, written during the struggle for post-war independence, reflected the nationalist fervour then.

To celebrate the official re-opening on Saturday, the centre will be organising its first Malay CultureFest, a month-long showcase of traditional and contemporary programmes including traditional performances and folk story listening sessions. Entry for the month is free.

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