Time Out Singapore: ‘Ilham Alam’ Preview

A new show opens at the Malay Heritage Centre this month to educate visitors about the history and properties of Traditional Malay Medicine. Gwen Pew hears what Suhaili Osman, the curator of the exhibition has to say.

An old Malay medicine man. Image Courtesy of the Singapore National Museum, National Heritage Board.

An old Malay medicine man. Image Courtesy of the Singapore National Museum, National Heritage Board.

13 Sep 2013: Ilham Alam is inspiration – ilham – derived from nature – alam. Therefore, this exhibition examines ways in which various historical Malay communities harnessed nature’s bounty of flora and fauna to create both preventive and curative medicines.

‘The Malay Heritage Centre believes that ethno-medical practices are an important aspect of cultural identity and heritage through an individual or a community’s unique relationship with nature. Traditional Malay Medicine continues to be practised today by many Malays and non-Malays as it is easily accessible, affordable and its anecdotal efficacy is increasingly being scientifically tested with positive results.

‘This is evident in the case of Jamu, the Javanese herbal remedies, a multi-million dollar industry that has churned out numerous accolades and citations in modern Western medical and scientific research. Visitors will be able to see a beautifully preserved Javanese Botekan – a pyramidal set of drawers used to store the spices – at the show.

‘The exhibition consists of two components. There are two indoor galleries that explore the early Malays’ conceptualisations of the human body and its relationship with the natural environment, as well as a focus study on traditional Malay health practitioners and the future of traditional Malay medicine in today’s world. An interactive multimedia installation on the comparison of traditional Malay medicine, traditional Chinese medicine and Indian Ayurveda by final-year design students from Nanyang Polytechnic is also featured here. Outside, younger visitors can enjoy a maze of living plants – as part of our collaboration with the Singapore Botanical Gardens – and learn about the various healing properties of plants found in the Malay World around the South-East Asia region. It also focuses on the accessibility of these “plant-medicines” to cure common ailments and promote general health.’

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