As I sat peering through the bus window, passing the lush forest and commanding hills in Negeri Sembilan, an overwhelming rush of pride and warmth came over me. Entering the land revered as “Tanah Beradat” or the “Land of Customs”, I precipitately realised how it strongly safeguards its identity in every turn, at every corner, in every smile you receive, magnifying the fact that despite the incomprehensible thrust of modernization its custom endures by its people; the gatekeepers of the land. However, in my recent visit to the “Muzium Adat” revealed an unsettling truth.
Recognizable by its giant “Tengkolok” effigy atop the buildings main entrance, welcomes its visitors to a 3-story exhibition of 4 galleries namely; Malaysian Custom Intriduction, Life Cycle, Intellectual Tradition/Government and Power, and Perpatih Customs. For now its admission remains free, the “Muzium Adat” or Custom Museum is commissioned, as a hub for research, gather, display and share knowledge related to the heritage and tradition of the Malaysian community. Thanks to Tourism Malaysia, I finally had the opportunity to speak with the Director of the Museum, Mohd Nasrulamiazam bin Mohd Nasir, on his thoughts between modernization and customs. What was unsettling was that too few have the resolve to understand how customs shape who we are and association we have with the world’s communities that make life so much more colourful. Only one question remains to be answered, does the next generation remember and revere those customs for future generations to honour? Only time can tell.
“Adat Perpatih” existed in Malaysia in the 14th century by the Minangkabau nomads, and founded by its leader Dato Perpatih Nan Sebatang. I’m particularly drawn to this custom system as it ensures balance between power and wealth where women are given equal rights so as to protect the honour and dignity of its women, some in the form of land property. From generation to generation it has been passed on, but what’s upsetting to realise is that most land properties are left nameless or in some cases refuse to obtain rights, as it takes a specific process to come to terms. The circumstances left frustration for development and further cultivation of its land in the state.
Efforts by the government can only stretch so far when it comes to these delicate matters and it depends on the responsibility of its citizens to partake in the graft. Hopefully, efforts to curb these delicate matters will bare fruit for future generations to come.