KUALA LUMPUR: The Hof, arguably the most popular virtual gathering spot outside the Buchmesse fairgrounds of the largest bookfair in the world, the Frankfurt Book Fair 2021, hosted Director of the Majlis Buku Kebangsaan Malaysia (MBKM) Mohd Khair Ngadiron, and poet author Ninot Aziz on 15th October 2021 in a one hour online programme.
Host Felix Zeltner from New York, assisted by the Remote Daily and BFM crew in Frankfurt spoke to Mohd Khair Ngadiron and Ninot Aziz in Kuala Lumpur mainly on the topic, “Stories of The Malay Archipelago.”
It was an event that certainly regaled the Hikayat, led by mastermind, Mohd Khair Ngadiron who conceptualised the topic of the day to showcase the publishing industry of Malaysia to the world.
He said, “Though we are struggling due to the pandemic, we must go on as our aim is for our works and our writers to be showcased to the world. We have many more talented writers like Ninot Aziz and illustrators, like Emila Yusuf.”
The event kicked off with an introduction by Ninot to the region. She shared how the Malay Archipelago is very distinct from the rest of the world.
The region is known as the Nusantara encompasses the islands and the seas in between. Malaysia is at the heart of this Archipelago – where for thousands of years, since the time Ptolemy made his wonderful maps two thousand years ago – people, and their stories crossed over from the mainland EuroAsia to the islands of the Southern seas through the Malay Peninsular.
She added, “To understand the people of the Malay Archipelago…it is best to get to know our stories…Herein lies the Hikayat, the Malay legends where our central thoughts, psyche and intrinsic values are embedded. Over time, our society became very cosmopolitan. Among many, the Chinese, the Indians, the Arabs too eventually found a home here that added to that milieu of stories.”
Ninot shared how in the past French writer, Henri Fauconnier came to Malaya to become rich as fast as possible so that he could write for the rest of his life. He wrote Malaisie, a story of Malaya, which won him the highest literary award in France, the Prix Goncourt in 1930. Joe Conrad, Kipling as well as Somerset Maugham were international writers fascinated by what Malaya represented.
In reflection, Ninot said, “Unfortunately, in the last several decades, we became too busy with globalisation, modernisation and in some ways, we could not shake off this colonialism so much so that we forgot our stories.
“Luckily for us, our manuscripts in over 150 libraries and museums in more than 60 countries round the world kept our stories intact because our language has a rhythm – and it reflects the rhythm of our lives in the Malay Archipelago.
Ninot recited a classic pantun in three languages to illustrate this point to the delight of the audience.
Pulau Pandan jauh ke Tengah
L’île de Pandan au milieu de la mer
Gunung Daik bercabang Tiga
Le mont Daik a trois sommets
Hancur badan dikandung tanah
Tu es parti depuis longtem
Budi yang baik dikenang juga
Mais on se souvient de la gentilesse.
The Pandan Island far out at sea
Mountain Daik of three peaks
Long after this body may perish
We will still remember the good deeds
“There is a movement in the country to appreciate the legends again. The youth is beginning to where we seek these old stories of our Naga, Garuda, wondrous ships that dive to the depth of the sea…. They are all making a comeback,” she continued.
“I, for one would like to invite the world to get to know Malaysian stories, mine and that of our fellow writers from Malaysia – our stories needed to be showcased on Netflix, on Disney, on all platforms local and international. There is a whole gamut of stories that are not out there. I love what Korea and China have done with their legends. They dominate Netflix… I also hope our books will be translated into Korean. Russian. French. Mandarin. I truly believe when we do that, it gives value to us as a Nation. When our culture and stories are appreciated out there by the world.”
The Hikayat may not be history as we know it, but it is a different kind of history. They shed light on topics ranging from how we regarded governance, protocol, how we were masters at diplomacy, our skills in architecture, shipbuilding, weaponry and textiles to medicinal practices, literature, entertainment, music, dance, wisdom and creative thinking. All this, including Science fiction could be found in the Hikayat Melayu.
It was for the love of Hikayat that Ninot wrote 11 books to date – 4 anthologies and 7 novels and graphic novels inspired by the Hikayat. This is amazing considering she works full time in one of the leading PR agencies in the country, bzBee Consult. This was possible because the company too believes strongly in the importance of Malaysian Heritage, History, the Malay Hikayat to Nation-building.
Live Entertainment for the day on The Hof featured vocalist, Eleanor and Dario on the guitar performing Getaran Jiwa by the late Tan Sri P Ramlee, and was warmly welcomed by the Malaysian crowd ‘in the house’.
During the show, when the virtual audience was asked “What comes to mind when you think of Malaysian literature?”
Comments from the online audience: Rich and Colourful Storytelling. Hang Tuah. Ibuku Sayang. Beautiful Illustrations. Majestic. There are so many legends, legend connected to superstitions…floating around for generations that is connected to culture and traditions.
Felix: You can already see that the country and literature is connected to beauty. The beauty that surrounds you in nature and resources.
Other upcoming guests to be featured at the HOF will be Bodour Al Qasimi, President of the International Publishers Assoc as well as international award winning author, Cornelia Funke as well as writer/actor Royd Tolkien.
The Malay Hikayat, legends and folklores are the truly memories of our ancient civilisation.
Link to full recording here.