This exhibition is the most comprehensive survey of a weapon that is ubiquitous within the Malay archipelago and beyond. It’s a reminder of a time when the frontiers between kingdoms were in a constant state of flux — nothing like the peace and harmony of life within Asean that we tend to take for granted.
The variety of designs is as wide as the archipelago itself. The origins, as with so much in the region, lie in Java. Evidence of the early influence of India on Javanese culture remains, although the keris developed its own Southeast Asian appearance during the centuries of waning control from the South Asian subcontinent.
Before Islam came to dominate the region, the making of keris had been seen as a gift from Hindu deities. In many locations, they were restricted to the royal courts while in others, they were an essential part of the male presence.