By Noor Eszereen Juferi and Khairul Anuar
Photo by Mohd Hasrul Hamdan
SERDANG, Dis (UPM) – Anyone walking or driving down the main approach into University Putra Malaysia (UPM) will almost certainly see a beautiful traditional Malay house adjacent to a block of building to the left side of the road.
This is the “Minang” house of Seri Menanti that was taken down and re-assembled by UPM scholars and researchers to be preserved as the
the Malay Heritage Museum of the Faculty of Modern Languages and Communication (FBMK).
This ancient house of Negeri Sembilan, once a home to a Seri Menanti dignitary which had been relocated from its original place in Seri Menanti in February this year, is going to be joined by another 100-year-old traditional Malay house, the Kutai house of Perak.
This Kutai house is, at the moment, sitting by the banks of Sungai Perak in the village of Pendiat, Bota Kanan. It is now solely owned by the Malay Heritage Museum of FBMK, thanks to Encik Ahmad Ghazali, a descendent of Putih Halimah Udin Noh, the original heir to the house.
Encik Ahmad Ghazali has bequeathed this ancient home to the curators of UPM to preserve it for posterity and for students and researchers to study and appreciate the minds and art of the old Malay builders as they take down this old house, part by part before re-assembling it at the grounds of the Malay Heritage Museum.
Kutai by the way means ‘old’ or ‘ancient’ among the people of Perak and such types of houses are said to have existed along the banks of Sungai Perak in the olden days.
Dr. Pauzi Muhammad Abdul Latif, the Director of Malay Heritage Museum of UPM said, “ The uniqueness of Kutai houses which are found scattered along the banks of Sungai Perak, is their own unique Malay architectural aesthetics.
“My findings through the observation of 16 Kutai houses along the plateau from Kuala Kangsar to Pasir Salak, found that this is the most beautiful, majestically erected 100-year-old house that is unblemished in architectural aspects, monolithic, and most importantly still intact.
"The design and craftsmanship of Kutai house incorporates defence mechanisms with the additional construction of rifle pits at the main and kitchen entrances to fend off intruders by shooting them through the holes, besides the creation of the 90˚ steep steps, makes it even harder for enemies and marauders to climb," said Dr. Pauzi.
He also found that the walls of the Kutai house, in contrast to other traditional Malay houses, were made of planks of Cengal trees (Neobalanocarpus heimii). This Cengal hardwood is usually used to build columns or pillars in the other Malay houses.
Another feature unique to the Kutai house is a safety area for its occupants in the form of the attic, where there is no permanent staircase connecting it to the lower floor.
The attic with a retractable stairway, is meant to “hide” the women and children from the reach of the enemy.
“I was given to understand that this Kutai house had belonged to an affluent aristocratic family from the Ngah lineage.
“It is not surprising if this type of houses which are predominantly found along the riverbanks from Kuala Kangsar streaming down to Pasir Salak, are equipped with a distinctive defence system due to the times when there were many intruders who came through the waterways and often created chaos in the areas," affirmed Pauzi.
Encik Ahmad, in an interview at the site, said there were many architecture students who had come and conducted researches pertaining to the structure of his house.
"My hope is that when it is re-erected at UPM, the academic community will delve more into a deeper understanding of the exquisite traditional Malay architecture, their symbolism and artistic elements in building the house,” he said.
FBMK Dean, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Abdul Mua'ti @ Zamri Ahmad, said the restoration of the Kutai house is in line with the establishment of the Malay Heritage Museum which has a two-storey gallery and a Malay Heritage Village consisting of traditional Malay houses as well as other historical artifacts.
FBMK will, in the near future, also establish the Malay Heritage Research Center for the purpose of teaching, learning and research.
"The centre will introduce a new subject to undergraduate students, that is, Heritage Communications
"By next year, the Malay Heritage Village will be completed with the relocations of three traditional Malay houses comprising the Perak Kutai house representing the northern region, the traditional Terengganu Singgora-roofed house depicting the social norms of the east coast and the Negeri Sembilan’s Minang house reflecting the cultural traditions of the people in the southern region.”
Dr Mua'ti said the efforts taken by FBMK in the establishment of the Malay Heritage Museum, the Malay Heritage Village and the Heritage Communications subject, are in accordance with the UPM Vice Chancellor, Prof. Datuk Dr. Mohd Fauzi Ramlan’s vision, of having FBMK as a force in restoring Malay traditions, art and culture to their full splendor and in internationalizing them.
"The Vice-Chancellor hopes through the internationalization of the Malay heritage, their unique and aesthetic values along with significant historical artifacts, UPM is able to preserve the glorious legacy of our ancestors to foster the interest and appreciation among our local and foreign people for generations.
“Currently, UPM is the only public institution of higher education that has a Malay Heritage Museum in the country,” he said. – UPM-- nej/kam/kgo
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