Language, its role, significance and importance can never be compromised and neglected. Over many centuries, the human race evolved and transformed, using language to communicate and connect with people among themselves and others around the world. In Singapore, a multi-racial society that was slowly built up over time, Singaporeans and visitors from around the world have the opportunity to be exposed to a number of different languages. Through our communal living and interaction, we are able to pick up some bits and pieces of other languages in Singapore beside having learnt our own mother tongue and the English language.

Bahasa Melayu (the Malay language) is a language that plays a part in our daily life of every Singaporean, there is something special about Bahasa Melayu without us knowing it. They have always been near to us and close to our hearts of every Singaporean, regardless of race. We used Bahasa Melayu everyday in our daily conversations with Singaporeans from all walks of life. This year, Bahasa (a.k.a Language) takes centre stage as the theme for Malay CultureFest 2016 and its 5th Annual Special Exhibition at the Malay Heritage Centre.

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On Saturday 15th October 2016, I attended the official opening event of the Malay CultureFest 2016 and Mereka Utusan: Imprinting Malay Modernity at the Malay Heritage Centre. Visitors watched performances on stage, Malam Dondang Sayang and Alunan Gambus before proceeding to visit the Mereka Utusan exhibition.

Let me share more about Mereka Utusan: Imprinting Malay Modernity 1920s – 1960s and Malay CultureFest 2016 – celebrating Bahasa Melayu in arts and culture.

Mereka Utusan: Imprinting Malay Modernity 1920s – 1960s

This exhibition is held inside 2 small galleries at the Malay Heritage Centre, yet they are very rich in content and history. Mereka Utusan opens my eyes, my mind and knowledge, there is always something to know, learn, explore and understand more about our multi-racial, multi-cultural Singapore society, our fellow Singaporeans from different ethnic groups. Singapore is a young country packed with a pretty significant volume of history, heritage and culture, that we might not have fully learned and known by Singaporeans today.

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Mereka Utusan showcases the insights into the development of Malay modernity and identity through the language of advertisements and editorial cartoons produced during the 1920s to 1960s. In the 1920s period, there was a growth of Malay publishing houses throughout the Straits Settlements and inside the 2 galleries at the Malay Heritage Centre, you can have a close up look of the various newspapers and magazines displayed inside the Mereka Utusan exhibition.

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When I toured the Mereka Utusan exhibition, there were a lot of interesting items, newspaper, magazines, cartoons and exhibits. Through this exhibition, I learned more about Malay culture and language, its influence and impacts on the publishing and printing industry in early Singapore.

Malay CultureFest 2016 – celebrating Bahasa Melayu in arts and culture

The Malay CultureFest 2016 runs from 15th October to 5th November 2016, celebrating Bahasa Melayu in arts and culture. This is a very enriching, exciting and entertaining experience through the performing arts. With a line up of 21 different programmes, visitors to Malay CultureFest 2016 are able to enjoy dance and music performances, education talks, tours and interesting workshops. There is something for everybody, from the adults to young children.

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Keep a lookout for the Malam Dondang Sayang, a really fun and witty exchanges of pantun, directed by respected writer and composer Datuk Suhaimi Mohd Zain (Pak Ngah), you would love the energy, singing and “chit chat” when they are performing. There is also a musical collaboration Alunan Gambus between Singapore group Sri Mahligai and Malaysia’s Kuympulan Gambus Nurulhilal as part of the inaugural Singapore Gambus Conference.

There are other interesting programmes e.g. specially curated Publishers and Printers Heritage Trail around Kampong Gelam, hands-on workshops for printing art etc. For more information on the Malay CultureFest 2016, do visit Malay Heritage Centre website www.malayheritage.org.sg

I would like to thank National Heritage Board for the invitation to the official opening event of the Malay CultureFest 2016 and Mereka Utusan exhibition.