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Paw-tastic Installations at Malay Heritage Centre

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I nearly let out a shriek seeing how cute they were! Even in the hot morning sun during the media preview for the event, I was patiently finding a good angle to take pictures of the standees on the splendid lawns of the Malay Heritage Centre (MHC).

The MHC) has set up 30 of these as part of ‘Paw-verbs on the Lawn’. The adorable illustrations by Juno, a Japanese artist, is interspersed with 10 common peribahasa—Malay proverbs. The installation will be open from 10 March 2021 to 30 May 2021, and entry to the MHC compound is free for all visitors.

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It’s the first time Juno’s art is showcased in Southeast Asia, ‘Singapore is a lively country and I am very delighted to be given the opportunity to let many people in Singapore know more about my illustrations. I feel very honoured to be working with the Malay Heritage Centre. And I hope that many people will visit the lawn installation, and enjoy Japan’s cat illustrations,’ she said.

The lovable cat drawings have already racked over 306,000 followers on Instagram for Juno. So, the standees will no doubt become fixtures on visitors’ social media feed.

But Alvin Tan, Deputy Chief Executive for Policy & Community at the National Heritage Board (NHB), hopes that the installation will inspire visitors to delve deeper into Malay culture and language. ‘We really hope to give travel-starved Singaporeans a fun, free, family-friendly local destination to go too.’ he said of the installation. ‘Then from there, we hope visitors can use the centre as a springboard to explore the wider Kampong Glam precinct as well.’

Asmah Alias, the General Manager of the Malay Heritage Centre also hopes that visitors can find new lessons in the Malay proverbs on the lawn. ‘Even for us, we learn something new with this process; we discovered a few more peribahasa along the way,’ she said. ‘As families come with their children, we hope that it’s something that can easily teach their children, whether in terms of the language itself, or the values.’

The installation showcases how the Malay language has found inspiration in familiar felines, from shy cats to fierce ones. Besides illuminating peribahasa, domestic cats had inspired veneration in Islam too because of their cleanliness. One of Prophet Muhammad’s companions was a cat-lover. As they protected food stores from pests and books from mice that destroyed them, cats were valued by the paper-based Arab-Islamic cultures in the past too.

For the MHC, they found their inspiration closer to home. It was the five resident cats at the compound that prompted the idea for the installations. One of which, Oreo, even joined us for the preview. They initially found almost twenty cat-inspired peribahasa. But some were longer and more complex in their meanings. ‘One of the challenges was the translation, as some meanings from the more complex proverbs can get lost in translation,’ Asmah told me.

As the school holidays nears, the MHC has also planned for the performative storytelling sessions ‘The Lure of the Feline.’ Devised by actor, director, playwright Gene Sha Rudyn, it explores the relationship between Nusantara Malays and felines through time.’

And there are goodies too! With ‘Find the Paw-Verb’, visitors to MHC can roam the compound and their galleries to hunt for the same cat illustration posted on their Instagram page. If you find it, you get a chance to win exclusive mofu_sand cat illustration buttons! The event starts 16 March.

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Terence is Tropika Club Magazine's deputy editor who loves learning about animals and their behavior. He is also an anthropologist, so he is very interested in how different cultures interact with animals. He has worked in the publishing industry for over 10 years, and have been lucky enough to work with some amazing authors and editors.

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