Boats, Boatbuilding and Fishing in Malaysia

Boats, Boatbuilding and Fishing in Malaysia

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Shortly before his death in 1994, the late Tan Sri Mubin Sheppard had been working on a compendium of articles on Malayan native vessels and fishing. For reasons undisclosed by the editor but which may well be inferred, there had been a not inconsiderable delay in producing this volume since the death of its original editor.

The long-anticipated collection finally appeared as a handsome hardbound volume of about 400 pages in 2009, an initiative borne out of the diligent efforts of the MBRAS' Hon. Treasurer Dato' Henry Sackville Barlow. Never before has so much been gathered and written about Malayan boats, boat building and the old, forgotten methods of fishing, many of which are no longer extant today. Had it not been for the foresight of scholars such as the inimitable Dr. C.A. Gibson-Hill (1911-1963) who has written extensively on this obscure but nonetheless significant aspect of Malayan culture, much of these priceless information would have vanished altogether. Dr. Gibson-Hill's articles alone are probably worth the price of the entire volume itself, every one of them a sparkling gem written in his characteristically relaxed style that is both charming and picturesque.

The native boats described here in exhaustive detail such as the 'kolek', 'bedar', 'wangkang', 'perahu Bugis' evoke a sense of nostalgia, carrying the reader back to the times when they used to traverse the length and breadth of the Malayan Archipelago, transporting cargoes and people before modern vessels running on fuel and steam gradually squeezed them out of existence. The sheer variety and types of boats used in the Malayan Archipelago, much of which are discussed in detail in several articles, are consistent with the various nations in the Malayan Archipelago belonging to a maritime civilisation. However, in the present day it is easy to forget that the Malays were a maritime people, with strong links to the sea etched indelibly in their psyche. A thorough reading of the articles collected here would substantiate these observations.

This unique volume comes with numerous photographs and diagrams showing the various types of boats and fishing implements used throughout the ages. Of particular interest are the assorted photographs taken by Gibson-Hill - himself an enthusiastic photographer - of which some 18 of them are reproduced here, showing the fisherfolk along with various seascape and riverine scenes of pre-Independence Malaya. This collection also includes a short article on Malay superstitious practices as regards the sea written by Ishak Ahmad (1886-1968), former Senior Fisheries Officer and father to controversial politician Abdul Aziz Ishak (1913-1999), former Singapore President Yusof Ishak (1910-1970) and former Singapore minister Abdul Rahim Ishak(1925-2001).

Edited by Dato' H.S. Barlow
411pp. Size: 184x260mm. Hardcover

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