Readers in Singapore may be interested in this talk at the Malay Heritage Centre by Dr. Mohamed Effendy on 7 March 2020.
“Sometimes the battle would rage for days and the blood would drip down the sides of the cliffs and into the sea staining the entire area a deep bright red. Sometimes one side was wiped out and sometimes the other and on rare occasions, the battle would literally die out with every combatant dead or dying of their wounds”
This excerpt, taken from a Straits Times article written by Andrew Fang in a 1960 article entitled “Isle with peaceful name has history of blood and battle” describes how Pulau Terkukor, a barren island just off Sentosa, was once the dueling ground for Bugis from Riau and the Malays of Johore and Singapore in the early history of Singapore. The battles often led to many casualties and death among the Malay and Bugis fighters.
Today such scenes would be unimaginable but it does prompt questions about the historical role and cultural place of Pencak Silat for many ethnic groups in Singapore from the Indonesia-Malay archipelago. For example, how central was the study and acquisition of Pencak Silat skills important to the Malay ethnic groups in Singapore? Who taught these skills and what is the significance of Pencak Silat to the social, cultural and historical development of Singapore Malay identity?
Therefore, the project “Preserving Intangible cultures: Documenting and recording the history, culture and memory of Malay martial arts groups in Singapore” was conceptualised. Funded by the National Heritage Board and supported by the Department of Southeast Asian Studies of the National University of Singapore, the project led by Dr. Mohamed Effendy and assisted by Mr Faisal Nordin, aims to record the origin stories of the various silat groups and record the Pencak Silat moves of various perguruan in Singapore. Many of these groups have preserved unique knowledge, identities and cultures through Pencak Silat practice and such knowledge are crucial in creating a more nuanced understanding of historical and cultural origins of the Singapore Malay community.