Friday, April 18, 2014

Melaka, Part 5 - The Flight of the Hat

18 April 2014

We had a great time with Dad's hat.  We found the perfect statue who happily posed for us, continuing our Travels With The Hat.


While we were photographing the hat in situ, a group of young women came by - well, girls really, since it came out in conversation that they were seventeen year olds, seniors in high school, and from an outlying town.  They were walking around Melaka taking photos as part of the photography class curriculum.  We chatted, they had me pose with them, I had the girls pose for me, we had an interesting time.  They had that enthusiasm that is only found amongst teenagers, so they were a joy.  Well, and Richard thought they were kind of cute.

We walked around the area for a while, had lunch in a big air-conditioned mall (important when the weather is hot and humid), and then went to the People's Museum.  This isn't a political museum but more of a museum about the various ethnic groups and cultures that make up Malaysia.  So it was very interesting.

My favourite exhibit was on the second floor, and it was all about (you guessed it!) kites!

Malaysian kites are exquisite works of art and engineering!  Absolutely, incredibly beautiful.  Intricate designs, a unique shape, and all made out of paper attached to a frame of straw, plastic, or very lightweight dowels.

The traditional kites were my favourite, but some of the newer, more avant garde kites look like birds, or boats, or maybe even dragons.

The tradition half-moon and crescent moon kite is called the Malay kite, and is considered to be one of the symbols of Malaysia.  (The others are the hibiscus, as on the money and streetlights, and the kriss.)

One of the greatest men born in Melaka is Munshi Abdullah.  (Our hotel was on Jalan Munshi Abdullah, named for this well-educated and intellectual man.)  Munshi Abdullah is best known for his writing - most Malay writing before him concentrated on myth and folk tales.  Munshi Abdullah wrote about fact: an autobiography, several accounts of his travels, including making a hadj to Mecca, and various other, more political, writings.

Thus his writing is considered a pivotal point in Malaysian literature, and he is considered the father of modern Malaysian literature.

What does this all have to do with kites?  According to the People's Museum, Munshi Abdullah is also a key figure in the development of kites in Malaysia.

Here's what they say:

"Many people are not aware that Munshi Abdullah was one of the designers and artists in kite-making.  Munshi Abdullah became an entrepreneur since he was a child.  In "Hikayat Abdullah" [his autobiography], it is stated that Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir Munshi [his real name] had made kites and sold them to children when he was ten.  He made, designed, and sold the kites to other children.  "This is how I earned money." he wrote.

"A quote from his book imparted the notion that he was the pioneer in kite-flying in Melaka:

"Originally, it is from the kites that I knew how to draw the flowers and the pictures, since at that time I had practised my hand as I watched items being designed by the Chinese when making the pictures and the flowers, so, I write on kites.  Simultaneously, there were others who made and sold kites but the children did not like to purchase kites from them due to the floral coloured papers - red, green and black, that were being pasted on kites.  Meanwhile, I made everything white and I was prepared with coloured inks.  Then, came a child who wanted to buy a kite from me and I had asked him, "Do you want flowers?"  He responded, "I want an elephant, I want a fish."  So I realized his wishes on the kites.  So for this reason the children amicably purchased kites from me."

Okay, that's about it for Melaka.  You can see we had a really busy four days - explored a new place, learned more about Malaysian culture and history, and had fun.  I think we could have stayed longer, but we have a costume fitting scheduled for Monday, up in Georgetown, on the island of Penang.  And we'll find out how much we're needed (or not) as extras.

We'll keep you posted!

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