Rumah : An Ode To Malay House

Rumah : An Ode To Malay House

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Rumah is a collection  of old Riau–Malay rhymed  sayings  originally  gathered  and published  by Tenas Effendy. Referred to in Malay literature as ‘Ungkapan’, these eloquent stanzas depict the Malay house as a metaphor for the passage of life, the responsibilities of parenthood, the social observances  of  communal  living,  and  the  obligations  of  existing  harmoniously  with  nature. Together, they form a complex work that vividly illustrates the values of customary law, etiquette, cultural protocols and religious tenets as cherished within a Malay home. The sayings themselves beautifully  capture  and radiate  the warmth  of  a  graceful  Malay  kampung house  cast within the idyllic setting of a lush tropical oasis. Rumah has been elegantly translated by Raimy Ché-­Ross and richly illustrated by Ahmad Harun.

‘‘Peruse RUMAH and appreciate the thousand and one meanings within its pages . . .’’  – Lat

Tenas Effendy once said that a house should not only be a place to live in, but it should also exemplify the perfection of life. The traditional Riau–Malay house, as eloquently expressed by him in this poem, represents these tender aspirations: the imparting of traditional mores and customs from wise elders to the young, the demarcation and respect for living spaces, the obligations owed by parents towards the education of their children within the safe, nurturing confines of a home, and the bonds of communal living within an agrarian society. Above all, the physical structure of a Riau–Malay house is a tangible manifestation and constant symbol of our place in both the temporal and spiritual realms. Through his poetic presentation of these ancient pearls of wisdom, Tenas Effendy reminds us that only by truly understanding the deeper meanings behind the symbols and nuances so lovingly crafted into its surface can we appreciate the Riau–Malay house as a timeless, living home.

About the Author

Tenas Effendy (b.1936) is the nom-de-plume of Tengku Nasyaruddin Said Effendy: teacher, writer, poet, culturalist, linguist, and highly revered advocate and connoisseur of Malay–Indonesian arts, language and culture in their highest forms. His works include Tunjuk Ajar Dalam Pantun Melayu (Yogyakarta: Balai Kajian dan Pengembangan Budaya Melayu, 2004), Ungkapan Tradisional Melayu-Riau (DBP, 1989), Bujang Tan Domang (Yogyakarta: École française d’Extrême-Orient, The Toyota Foundation & Yayasan Bentang Budaya, 1997) and The Orang Petalangan Of Riau And Their Forest Environment (IIAS, 2002). A former Head of the Riau–Malay Adat Council and Research Fellow at the Academy of Malay Studies, Universiti Malaya, Pak Tenas is presently the Head of the Pelalawan Adat Cultivation Council, Advisory Council to the Petalangan Adat Assembly and Advisor to the Riau Community Relations Organisation. Pak Tenas has received the Sagang Highest Cultural Figure Award (1997), Pekanbaru Mayoral Cultural Award (2005), Jakarta Academy Award (2006) and an Honorary Doctor of Letters (Hon. D. Litt) from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) (2005).

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