Event invitation from : Dr. Mohd Effendy Bin Abdul Hamid
Cultural experience right in our backyard
Have you ever thought about travelling overseas to learn about the cultures of various Southeast Asian nations? I often do. On 25 October 2014, right here in my backyard, I got to sample a unique Malay cultural experience. With the kind invitation of Mr. Khaizuran Ahmad, pendekar of the Seligi Tunggal Singapura silat school, I swung by Blk 224 Bukit Batok Street 21. The address might seem unassuming but I was impressed by how the basketball court was transformed into a grandly designed kingly court. With melodious Malay music by a live band anchored by stunning vocals and eclectic instruments involving electric guitar, accordion, tabla-like drums and kompang, this urban community space was transformed into a traditional “playground” for Silat practitioners to showcase their craft. With these entertaining auditory treats the event titled, Penyambung Hikayat, Pendekar Terulung, got off to a satisfying start. The event was designated to launch the official insignia of the school and the proclamation of the council of Seligi Tunggal.
Regardless of Ethnicity
In multi-racial Singapore, it never fails to impress me when parents of different ethnicity send their children to learn the arts of something ethnically different from theirs. On this day, I saw a Chinese couple actively interacting with their neighbours and snapping photos of their young child who performed onstage. I saw another Indian couple who was busy “sayang-ing” their child after he finish performing a set of Silat movements on stage. At the sidelines, I spotted curious onlookers, young and old, of various ethnicity. Regardless of ethnicity, this organic cultural exchange enables the residents in the community to be exposed to a multi-cultural milieu. It also encourages the residents to gather and build social capital while they share a visceral and visual sampling of these traditional martial arts, hence fostering a spirit of bonding and closeness in the community.
When I was 11 years old, I had opportunities to perform for community events with my Taekwondo Club. Together with other kids, we kicked, danced and had a great time. Looking at the kids embracing the stage demonstrating the carefully choreographed Silat movements with fervour, I had a wide smile spread across my face. Regardless of accuracy, they wielded their weapons (sticks, knives, keris or others) with reverence, pride and honor! I applaud Seligi Tunggal Singapura for creating this platform for the kids to showcase their mastery, develop efficacy and be inspired (in observing other senior practitioners). This agency-building exercise, benefits not just the young ones but also the pendekars as they witness the continuity of their beloved craft.
All in all, I found this event by Seligi Tunggal Singapura a roaring success. As the event celebrates the continuity of Seligi Tunggal, the assembly of masters and young practitioners are united in the spirit of keeping the flame of Pencak Silat alive and burning. I appreciated how it reminded me that I need not travel far to have a cultural experience in multi-racial Singapore. I appreciated how it showed me that such interest groups are assets among the community that deserve to be supported. I saw how the vision of “gotong royong” of Singapore can be organically nurtured via the participation of individuals in events that are not organized by their ethnic groups. Lastly, I appreciated how the kids demonstrated silat moves with infectious enthusiasm, pride and honour. The embodied practice of martial arts transcend language barriers and is a community asset which enables all ethnic groups to appreciate viscerally and intellectually. Check out the Silat warriors in your backyard the next time you walk around your neighbourhood!