A Busy and Productive 2013 for NADGE
The year 2013 saw a sharp increase in the volume of research and writing works or contracts as well as invitations to give talks or lectures and for symposia and conference participation by NADGE, and charitable contributions on the side.
Besides those, the Academy also continues with its own research on issues of the history, archaeology, development, geocultural syntheses and ethnolinguistic links of the entire Malay Archipelago or Nusantara.
NADGE also even attended various international fairs for promotion of its varied but especially ethnolinguistic or translation and writing services, such as at MIPTV in Cannes, France from 7th to 10th April 2013 – particularly to bridge between the Malay World and the rest of the international media scene, including our culture and heritage.
The Academy’s key findings especially on Heritage Conservation were delivered at the ‘Le Vie dei Mercanti; XI Forum Internazionale di Studi‘ held jointly at the campus of the Universita’ in Aversa, Naples and on the resort island of Capri in Italy on 13th to 15th June 2013. In line with the Conference’s theme of Heritage, Architecture, Landesign – Focus on Conservation, Regeneration, Innovation, the Paper presented from NADGE was titled “Southeast Asia’s Heritage at the Cross-roads – How to Reconcile Tradition and Modernity Within Competing Constraints“. Judging from the many participants who came after to ask questions and discuss the issues further, the Paper was an active success. NADGE also had the distinction of being the only Southeast Asian presence in the entire Conference.
It is easy to academically reconcile Traditions with Modernity, but practically it becomes almost impossibly difficult when competing constraints including Economic pressure, Socio-Communal differences or Political opportunism and especially the Human Factors (Sentiment, Perception) all come in – at least not without some strong political will, and forget about pleasing everyone.
The research case of the Kampung Bharu Malay village enclave within the city centre of Malaysia’s fast-growing capital Kuala Lumpur was a case in point.
Besides over twenty other localised lectures or at least invited talks on various Heritage, Culture or Tourism issues around Malaysia, NADGE was also invited to give a key presentation on Architectural Heritage at the ‘Sharing Art and Religiosity’ Seminar (Sarasehan ‘Srawung Seni dan Ketuhanan’) held at the State Institute of Islamic Studies or IAIN in Surakarta, also known as Solo city, Indonesia, from 7th to 9th September 2013.
The title there was “The Evolution of Mosque Art and Architecture in the Malay World“. NADGE’s Director and Presenter was incidentally the only representation from Malaysia in the whole sarasehan. The presentation, delivered in Bahasa Indonesia, shared with the mixed Indonesian and Indonesian-speaking foreigners in the audience an insight on the way that mosques in the Malay Archipelago have undergone a high level of influence and transformation; in many respects altering and even losing a certain amount of the traditional tropical-friendly Nusantara style of multi-tiered pyramidal roof structures that once dominated domestic mosque architecture.
This is a pity as instead of taking advantage of the locally wise designs and to also develop it further for even ‘export’, the region has been inundated with various Islamic style influences from the Middle East and the Indian sub-continent especially Mughal (or Moghul) Islamic India with its onion-shaped domes/cupolas and chatris. Worse, this is then called Moorish, confusing it with the different Islamic style of the ‘Moors’ of Andalucia (Muslim Spain) and Muslim western Africa (Morocco, hence ‘Moorish’).
NADGE has a long way ahead to help change perceptions that what is local is not good enough, and that we should rely on our own ingenuity to holistically advance, beginning with appreciating our own regional, tropical and local cultural legacies – such as these Bumbung Meru or Bumbung Tumpang pyramidal roofs.
In fact, 2013 also saw the Academy’s sigh of relief as our quiet but active efforts to educate especially Indonesians bore some positive outcome about the validly shared ethno-cultural heritage of the entire Malay World of the Nusantara; be it not just Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines but also southern Thailand, Cambodian Cham and across to the Polynesians – that it is something to be cherished, not falsely accused of ‘mencuri budaya‘ that benefits no-one except the perpetrators and detractors of the shared strength of our Nusantara and Malayo-Polynesian heritage.