Exhibition showcases coffins from Southeast Asia

Malaysia’s Star reviews the latest exhibition at the National Museum in Kuala Lumpur, Coffin Exhibition — Tradition and Mystery.

Grave concerns
The Star, 17 April 2010

Currently, the museum is hosting 30 coffins sourced from the different cultures and tribes within the country and around the region — big ones, tiny ones, plain ones, elaborate eye-popping ones, conventional ones and even those that look like works of art.

“It was an idea that came up during a brainstorming session,” said National Museum director-general Datuk Ibrahim Ismail, 55.

“We thought it would be interesting to expose the public to the customs and traditions of other cultures. For instance, some people don’t understand why it is necessary for music to be played at certain funeral processions. They close their eyes when a coffin goes by. We hope to change these perceptions,” he explained.

Throw in some eerie mood music and life-sized props, and you’ve got the recipe for a great (and hopefully educational) Malaysian day out. For the past week or so, visitors young and old, have gasped and shuddered at the sight of these funereal artefacts. However, the museum’s pièce de résistance had yet to arrive.


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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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