Carving is an integral part of Malay Culture.
The art is featured in ordinary dwellings and
Palaces. 'The earliest reference to woodcarving
is in the Malay Annal (Sejarah Melayu)
which describes features of' the palace of Sultan
Mansur Shah of Melaka (1459-1477). Known as
"The Palace of Lust and Desire" (Istana Hawa
Nafsu), it is described as a palace lavishly
decorated and enriched with woodcarvings. During
the J5th century, woodcarving as C an art-form
gained prominence. The Perak historical document
called the, Misa Melayu written by of the royal
family, Raja Chulan, mentions the use of woodcarving
to decorate the Palace of Sultan Zulkarnain
(1756 - 1780).
There are surviving
examples of past woodcarvings, though they are all less
than 200 years old. These are the Istana Balai Besar (Palace
with a Big Hall) of Kelantan, which is approximately 150
years old; Istana Tengku Nik or. Rumah Tele of Terengganu,
built during the reign of Sultan Zainal Abidin (1881-1918);
Istana Satu, also of Terengganu, which have been relocated
to the grounds of the National Museum in Kuala Lumpur; and
Istana Raja Besut, which is in the district of Besut, Terengganu.
The last timber-built palace is at Sri Menanti in Negeri
Sembilan, where construction began in 1920 and was completed
in 1928, It. was the official residence of the Yang Dipertuan
Besar Tuanku Muhammad.
a decorative art is also found in mosques, prayer houses
(surau), and wakaf (religious gifts), and on products such
as wooden trays and household items such as the kukuran
(coconut grater), furniture (table, chair, bed), boat, folding
screen divider, beetle-nut box, and bird-cage. In the past,
woodcarvings, like other forms of art, were the privilege
of the Malay ruling class and some rich commoners. Indeed,
it was said that the houses of the elite would not be complete
if not decorated with intricate woodcarving. Most of the
famous master craftsmen are, however, of peasant background.
development of all traditional arts was made
possible by the Patronage of sultans or chieftains.
However, craftsmen often did not receive any
payment for their services but were given daily
food and clothing. They also gained status by
working as master craftsmen for a highly respected
or powerful individual. For his part, the ruler
took pride in his palace or house being beautifully
decorated. Such patron- age and privileges disappeared
with the coming of the British.
royal patronage, woodcarvers and other artists
were forced to quit palace work and artistic
activities in search of a livelihood.
There has in recent years been a renewed demand
for woodcarving, and this is due to the growth
of an elite group in Malay society. This group
has become more wealthy and sophisticated in
their lifestyle. There is increasing awareness
among the Malay elite of the need to treasure
their rich art heritage.
There are also
other patrons like government agencies, universities, and
corporations. The art o woodcarving has survived in
Terengganu and Kelantan. One of the most well-known woodcarvers
is Haji Wan Su bin Othman, popularly known as Wan Su.
for instance, is very, fond of carving bunga mas (golden
flower) as he has chosen this particular flower to give
an identity to his work. Other common flowers
are bunga keledang, bunga senduduk, bunga lada hitam, bunga
raya, and bunga ketumbar. Bunga raya (hibiscus) is the Malaysian
national flower, while bunga ketumbar is selected because
Malays consider this plant to have medicinal value.
As for calligraphy, the resurgence of- Islam has given impetus
to its development when selected verses from the Holy Qur'an
provide inspiration to the woodcarver.
There is the hereafter
that one must be prepared for. One must also seek knowledge
to unravel all the mysteries in this world.