Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Kampong House Museum in Melaka

It's the school holidays in Malaysia but I have been busy having to travel quite a lot. So I have been taking some of my children with me on my business trips and taking time off to sight-see some of the local attractions. A couple of weeks ago we were in Melaka, a city founded in 14th century. We visited an outdoor museum which featured examples of kampong, or village, houses from each of the 13 States of Malaysia.

From Paul Oliver, “Dwellings”, 2003

The Malay kampong house is a timber-framed structure raised on stilts that rest on small stone blocks. Traditionally, the floors were made from hardwood planks and the walls from planks or woven split bamboo. Atap, thatching made from Nipah palm leaves, was used as a roof covering.

The distinguishing feature of the Melaka house is the decorative stairway leading up to the "Serambi"

The houses were constructed using mortise-and-tenon and lap joints. No nails and bolts were used.Thus kampong houses can be easily dismantled – in fact the houses on display were old houses that were taken down, transported and rebuilt.

The kampong house is comprised of the main rumah ibu section(literally mother house) which is the sleeping area. The ibu dapur at the rear is set at a lower to accommodate cooking at eating. Attached to the front is the semi-open serambi where male or formal guests are received.

The "serambi"

Women visitors go straight to the kitchen; sometimes there is a separate lounge for the womenfolk.

This traditional house type obviously evolved to best meet the needs of the people who built and lived in them. In particular, it suits the hot humid climate of the equatorial rainforest, and protected the inhabitants from wild animals and occasional floods.

Cross-section from Mazlan Mohd Tahir, featured in www.nst.com.my

A house to represent each State is a bit convenient: in fact borders between States in the Malay peninsula are very porous. Some Malays in Negri Sembilan have a matrilineal tradition, and the Kelantanese vernacular can be quite foreign to other Malays, but culturally the Malays can be said to be quite homogenous. Perhaps a few States should have had more than one house but others could have done with none.

Despite the ugly buntings hung on the house facades, I enjoyed the visit.

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1 comment:

Kyle and Svet Keeton said...

I think those houses are beautiful! Nice pictures, thanks for sharing the tour of a home.