Sunday, November 04, 2007

:: Melayu

Malay musician playing the violin at the Malay House.

The Malay Town House

The living room of the Malay Town House at Sarawak Cultural Village

Mold for making kuih kapit... a snack now popular among the Chinese as well

The Malay make up 20.6% of Sarawak's population. More than half of Sarawak Malays live in the Kuching division, though they can be found in all the major townships in Sarawak. In fact, many who regard themselves as Malay are people of other ethnic groups who got into contact with the Malay settlers and eventually adopted their culture and religion.

Islam is the unifying force for the Sarawak Malays, although older customs with traces of Hinduism - ie in the marriage customers - have not entirely faded away.

The Malay house is a handsome structure well suited for the tropical climate. The traditional village house is built entirely of wood and roofed with wood shingles.

The Malay house is emblazened with carvings and fretwork above the windows, on bannisters and railings. The basic construction is accomplished through community labour, called rotong royong, while skilled craftsmen are employed to do the embellishments.

During the Brooke era, the Malays adopted columns, stucco and indoor plumbing. They commissioned professional builders, often Chinese, to build for them stately homes, many of which are still visible along Datus Road in Kuching.

The Sarawak Malay womenfolk cultivate the craft of gold brocade called kain songket, similar to their cousins in Indonesia and other Malaysian states. The cloth, reserved for special occasions, is woven on a cottage loom with special pedals. The two main types of brocades woven in Kuching are kain berturus and kain Brunei.