Saturday, July 23, 2016

Historical Malacca

I've visited Malacca so many times over the years, but (I'm sorry to say) I've never been that good at visiting its museums.  Aside from the Baba and Nonya Museum and the Jewellery Museum of course :-).  This last visit was different and we spent a few hours at the Malacca Historical and Ethnography Museum.  Located in the Stadhuys - the centre of Government under the Dutch - the history museum covers the history of Malacca, up to the Independence of Malaysia, and the ethnography museum covers the rich culture of the different ethnic groups which live in the little melting pot in this corner of Malaysia.

I'm certainly glad that we made the effort to visit.  It is first and foremost such a relief to find a cool refuge from the heat of our tropical weather.  More importantly, the museum really explains well how the historical developments over the years have created the vibrant culture of its people today.  The two are indeed inseparably linked.  

As I learnt in my Secondary school history lessons, Malacca started off, when Prince Parameswara left Sumatra and found himself a refuge and opportunity to start a new town off the coast of Malaysia.

Admiral Cheng Ho 
 Over time, the town became an important centre of trade in the region, with the Chinese Admiral Cheng Ho helping to establish trade links with China.  Indeed, a gigantic statue of Cheng Ho stands proud just outside the museum where he can presumably oversee the activities around him. Relations with China were so good that a Chinese princess, Hang Li Po, eventually came to Malacca as the bride of the Sultan.   The museum traces, through paintings and dioramas, much of this early history of Malacca.  The heroes of this time - Hang Tuah and his "brothers" - are brought to life, as is the tragic tale of how the Sultanate eventually lost its fight against the Portuguese invaders.

The Portuguese of course gave way to the Dutch, and then the British came and took over Malacca.  Malacca became part of the Straits Settlements, together with Penang and Singapore.  Malacca subsequently played an important role in the dawning of political consciousness in Malaysia and Singapore, producing two men who would eventually play key roles in the newly independent countries of Malaysia and SIngapore. - Tan Siew Sin, who would eventually become the Finance Minister in Malaysia, and his second cousin, Goh Keng Swee, who would take up a similar role in Singapore. 

So much for the history - but how would this shape the people and community of Malacca?  Well, Hang Li Po was accompanied by her ladies in waiting.  Intermarriages between the ladies and the local community, and with new merchants from China, led to the beginning of the baba/Nonya community in Malaysia. The coming of the Portuguese, started off the Eurasian community.  

Chitty family at their baby's first month
hair-cutting ceremony
As the Portuguese came by way of Ceylon and Goa in South Asia, the Indian community began to grow together with quite a unique group of Chitty Peranakans - the product of intermarriages between the Indian migrants and the local Malay community.  Just like the Chinese Peranakans, the Chitties also adopted the language, dress and to some extent the practices and food of the local community.  More about this community can be found here.  Other than Malacca, I don't think that this particular Peranakan community had established deep roots in either Singapore or Penang, so it was a rare opportunity to learn more about them.  I especially enjoyed the video shown on the different communities, which featured the Chitties.  Used as I am to the Chinese Peranakan community, it was so interesting to see all the Indian Chitties wearing kebaya - reminded me of Racial Harmony Day in Singapore!  

The museum also contained that "must have" for any Peranakan museum - a wedding bed.  Of course, I prefer the one in Singapore's museum :-). 

In short I would recommend that new visitors to Malacca spend some time at the history and ethnographic museum.  It also gives admission to the Governor's House Museum and the Museum of Malay Literature, and brings visitors to the foot of St Paul's Church.  It's a good way to spend a hot and humid afternoon!

Aside from making my shoes and visiting the museum, I have to admit that it was otherwise the same-old, same-old, of eating and shopping. I've written so many posts and taken so many photos of my visits to Malacca over the years, that I really don't see the need to just contribute another food/shopping related post.  But in brief, we visited "Baba Charlie's" - where knowledgable locals and Singaporean visitors go for the best Nonya kueh-kueh (and sambal belacan), and revisited places like "Eleven" and various chendol outlets around the city.  We also tried out new places and even sampled a new food creation - Baba laksa kahwin nonya Assam laksa from Jonker 88 (that's the big photo in the photo collage of my Malacca eats below) - and gave this lighter curry with sour Assam undertones our blessings for a happy marriage.  Of course we visited our favourite goldsmith and didn't go away empty handed.  

Clockwise from top left: Baba laksa kahwin Nonya assam laksa, hotel breakfast, rojak, satay and Or Chien (oysters with egg - aka Or Luak in Singapore 

If interested, my older posts are here and Flickr photos here.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...