Religion, in the small island of Singapore, is highly varied from one individual to another. The island itself is constantly referred and compared to the traditional delicacy, 'rojak' --- mixture of different kind of fruits drenched in peanut sauce. Just like 'rojak', Singapore contains a mixture of race and identity. In the last five years, the island immigrants has increased dramatically, to top off many previous residents that immigrated from countries such as China, Indonesia, and Malaysia.
The variety of residents lead to a pleasantly open view to the ways of life, as well as religion. In this occasion we shall talk more about the Islamic Art Exhibition that is currently still being held in Asian Civilisation Museum until October 26th of this month. The museum can be reached in a short walking distance from Raffles Place MRT station, situated just across the small river.
Having known the quality of the museums here, not surprisingly the collection of islamic treasures displayed in the museum was remarkable. The exhibition halls were divided by the place from which the treasure was taken. From there on there were further divisions. One good example was that a corner was devoted for treasures that took up Arabic words as decoration.
Arabic was spreading through Africa and Asia rapidly with the spread of Qur’an. The language was also modified into another kind of language called Jawi, which was used in places like Aceh in Indonesia, Pattani in Thailand, and Kelantan in Malaysia. It was said that the language was modified to suit the natives’ tounge more.
A great many section of the exhibition was devoted to treasures from Indonesia. I was born and raised in a small beautiful town in Indonesia, but I couldn’t help but wonder. Even as an Indonesian myself I have never known how rich my own culture had been. Long before, after the glory of Hindu-Buddhism kingdoms, the Islamic kingdoms were established on the islands of Indonesia. The trace of Hindu-Buddhism was also shown here in the exhibition.
This beautiful Processional Palanquin with naga guardian figures was one of the most striking piece with Hindu-Buddhism tradition. Palanquin was a vehicle from Bali Island, believed to transport deity figures to temples in various religious ceremonies. Some of the ceremonies were held in order to drive away evil spirits. This vehicle could be a miniaturised version of the original palanquin.
There was a dimly lighted section that displayed a series of jewelries and keris. The former included many kinds of rings, bracelets, necklaces, and most notably headgears.
All were big and lavishly adorned with gold. The latter is now famous as wavy-bladed weapon indigenous to Indonesia, but in the past some straight blades existed. The kerises that were showed belonged to some old time princes and blue-blooded natives. Most of it are in gold, with precious stones gracing the handles.
Some highly fascinating textiles were shown. Unlike modern day textiles, the ones that were showed here had much more artistical value. Meticulously made by hand, some of it were adorned by beads of the past, creating striking patterns with underlying meaning. Some other were made similarly to batik fabrics, with resist-dyeing techniques and lots of patience.
Asian Civilisation Museum, just like many other museums in Singapore, is well maintananced but poorly visited. Seldom have I seen the museum to be nearly as crowded as Orchard Road, the popular shopping heart of Singapore. It is quite a pity, but let us hope this fairly advertised exhibition shall bring more visitor to the museum.