Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Our anthology consists of 5 poems and 5 short stories;

1.Family Reunion by Hilary Tham
2.Monsoon History by Shirley Lim
3.Midnight Satay Vendor by Ghulam Sarwar Yousof
4.Five Stars Poetry by Salleh ben Joned
5.Do Not Say by Muhammad Haji Salleh

Short Stories
1.Ratnamunni by K.S Maniam
2.Death Is A Ceremony by Lee Kok Liang
3.The Inheritance by Karim Raslan
4.Shame by Shirley Lim
5.Pak De Samad's Cinema by Che Husna Azahari


Back then in the history, Malaysian literature develops in its own root which Malay language used as a medium in writing. Malay writers particularly talked about issues on patriotisms and nation building. The emergence of Malaysian writers from other races begins and rose together with the development and modernization in Malaysia. Malaysia literature in English has developed over fifty years which is after our country independence. Poetry is the most popular genres among Malaysian English writers in the 1950s and 60s. Muhammad Haji Salleh, Salleh ben Joned, Ee Tiang Hong, Wong Phui Nam, Wang Gungwu and Omar Mohamed Nor were the early poets during that time. Their work such as Bunga Emas was published in literary journal and in a few local anthologies. Meanwhile, Shirley Lim, Hilary Tham, Siem Yue are the younger group of poet that emerged in the 1960s. Shirley Lim has won the international award which is the Commonwealth Poetry in 1980. The achievements of some English writers winning international awards have shown the development of poets writing in English as many anthologies of poem have been published during that time.

Short story is another popular genre among Malaysian writers. Lee Kok Liang, Llyod Fernando and Awang Kedua were the pioneer short stories writers in Malaysia. Their works were compiled in a The Compact: A Selection of University Malaya Short Stories (Hochstadt, 1959), Twenty-two Malaysian Short Stories (Fernando, 1968) and The Flowering Tree (Thumbo, 1970). In late 1970s, a new generation of short stories writer has emerged such as K.S Maniam, Shirley Lim, Syed Adam Aljafri, Kris Jitab, Karim Raslan and Tunku Halim and most of them have their own collection of short stories. Regarding to the Malaysian writers that comes from different races in our country, their literary works are also varies and touches the important multicultural issues ranging from broad questions of identity such as sense of home/homelessness, gender, language, multiculturalism and diasporic perspective. Therefore, emphasis will be given upon the new type of English according to Malaysian context which reflects Malaysian cultural aspect. This anthology entitled Nativisation: The Celebration of the Heterogeneous Malaysian Culture consists of five poems and five short stories from Malaysian English writers who have different kind of background. First of all, let us begin with the definition of nativisation. According to Hajar Abdul Rahim, there is a specific meaning of nativisation.

Nativisation is the linguistic readjustment that a language experiences at the phonological, grammatical and lexical levels due to the influence of local languages and various socio-cultural factors. It is a prominent feature in languages that are used in multiethnic and multilinguistic communities. In varieties of new-Englishes such as Malaysian English, nativisation is a pertinent stage of cultural and linguistic transformation. The use of local lexis in the English variety is especially prominent at this stage not just to fill in a linguistic gap or because there are no English equivalent to account for local cultural environments, but also because the nuances of a local form is much more forceful than the English form to convey experiences, ideas, meaning, and also environment that are closely tied with the local cultural and social situations. The use of the local lexis in this case could be seen as a lexical style. Language users, especially efficient bilingual, choose to use a local form instead of an English lexical form because of the different semantic and often the ideological impact of such a use. This assumption is the motivation behind the current investigation of the nature of linguistics readjustment in Malaysian English. In particular, it explores the trend in use of local lexis in the standard variety of English in Malaysia to reveal new knowledge of semantic and discoursal spaces that mayor may not defy the conventions or norms of linguistic borrowing and the ideological implications of such use on the development of Malaysian English.

There has been the emergence of new Englishes in our country. As we all know, English is used as a second language in our country. But Malaysian English writers have made this language as our by creating new English regarding to our context. According to Muhammad A Quayum, it is not easy for them to write in English as they face some challenges during that time. First, in spite of its long historical presence, English is still considered an ‘alien’ language in this part of the world, rooted neither in the soul nor in the soil. Second, because of its role in the colonial era when English was used as an instrument of oppression, nationalists often cast aspersions on the language and castigate those who write in it. They, albeit falsely and unfairly, accuse these writers of being cultural anomalies, looking to the West for tutelage as well as audience. This brings a political marginalization for writers who may already feel isolated in a heterogenous linguistic community, where in particular, the indigenous language(s) enjoy preferential treatment.

Even though there are many challenges that faced by Malaysian writers during that time, their works have shown the success as they finally make Malaysian own identity in creative writing in English. Malaysian writers have given the Malayanism elements in their writing such as using the local setting in text in order to domesticate English. Besides, by nativizing context, it has created new situations which are unfamiliar to native speakers of English. As a result, the creative writing becomes a medium to the writers so as to initiate the variety of Malaysian cultures.

As we know, Malaysia is a multiethnic country which comprises of three main races; Malay, Chinese and India. Racial unison and interaction has fashioned a diverse and vibrant society that is outstandingly unique. We can only find three major races, smaller aboriginal tribes and a vast mixture of foreigners and expatriates in Malaysia sharing a good relationship, for not only do these races tolerate each other, they actually actively share in one other’s cultural richness. Therefore, we as a team of editors have compiled the wonderful works of Malaysian English writers who have add the elements of Malaysian culture which ultimately brings the emergence of new English writing in Malaysia. There are five short stories and five poems in this collection to represent some of the great Malaysian writing in English. Most of the works chosen here reflect the concerns of nativisation texts that portray the issues of multiculturalism among the heterogeneous society.

Ratnamuni will be the first short story that will beautify this anthology with the elements of Indian cultures. The appearance of the short story ‘Ratnamuni’ by K.S. Maniam is the exchange of a literary incident into a commonly felt truth about the individual and society. In this short story as well, he has brings the awareness of spiritual experience in the individual of the larger personality or behavior. K.S. Maniam was born in Bedong, Kedah in 1942. He is a Hindu who is a former migrant from India to Malaya. The setting of the story is in Bedong, due to his experience being brought up in Bedong, he has sets the story successfully.

This story ‘Ratnamuni’ is a short story about a poor labourer, who emigrates from India to Malaya. This story has been telling by Muniandy himself. He performs the expectation, the depression, the shame and the predictable violence of his life. A sad tragedy has been happened in his life, where he killed a man and this tragedy has pulled him out of an expression which makes his life being in darkness. At first when Muniandy came to Malaya he only brings a beggar bundle with him and at the end of the story when he surrendered himself to the police, he really become a beggar when he did not own anything with him. He was being under depression we he did not understand and not be able to identify why his love wife has killed herself. He tries to think back when his wife regret before her death. As their son grows up, Muniandy can’t be able to avoid the truth that Ratnam is his wife’s son with his neighbour, Muthiah and the depression that he is facing makes him to start drinking. Although, Muniandy is a person who has many bad habits, but he still owns the spiritualist power which he owns through his ‘uduku’, a special drum used by Hindus for their spiritual use. The terrible part of this story accept an extraordinary similar to classical misfortune, a considerable success on the writer’s measurement because of his characters are poor and not strong.

In this short story, K.S. Maniam has put elements of nativisation of culture in it. First of all, K.S. Maniam has highlighted the Indian’s culture of spiritual power which owns by a person when he hears the sound of ‘uduku’. In this story as well we can see how ‘uduku’ has been used for spiritual by Hindus as follows:
I wake up and ask all the listening ears and round eyes. What did I say when I was inside there? ‘Ghost! Ghost!’ the children shout, pointing to Sulaiman’s mango tree. The ‘uduku’ did not float the spirit over my house. She did not enter my home. The way must be cleared. I nail the restless evil into the tree. Go and ask Zuraya, our ‘Malai’ helper at births, ‘ayah’. The djin raising her hair every time she goes by mango tree. I am the one with power to chase it into the bark.
Other than that, another nativisation of culture that has been used by K.S. Maniam in this short story is in the usage of Tamil words which shows that this story has been nativised. The usage of Tamil words that can be found from this short story, ‘Ratnamuni’ are ‘uduku’, ‘pottu’, ‘thoornooru’, ‘Cheenan’, ‘Malai’, ‘avayar’, ‘Muruga’, ‘santhanam’, ‘ayah’ and many more. Besides, there are some practices that follows by Hindus has been included in this short story as well which is Indian women will bow on their husbands toes in the morning as giving respect to them and for blessing from them. This we can see from:
Always crossing legs on the floor, near the door. Knocking her head on my toes every morning, ‘thoornooru’ on her forehead.
In this short story as well, K.S. Maniam has also highlighted the historical event of Hindus to show that this short story has been nativised in the form of Indian context. The example of historical events of Hindus that has been used in this short story, ‘Ratnamuni’ are as follows:
I said, “The Lord Siva danced and made the world”….I am Hanuman, the rowing monkey for them

Ratnamuni has shown many of cultural aspects of Indian people who live in this country. Meanwhile Death is a Ceremony is a text that represents the Chinese cultures which is also part of Malaysian culture. Overall, Death is a Ceremony is a story of a boy named Baba, who had grown up to a man. In this story, he is recollecting the memories of his late grandmother’s death, at the moment of his mother’s funeral ceremony. In this story, culture is a strategy of survival, which depicts how culture signifies, or what is signified by culture, a rather complex issue. As the eldest son, he is responsible to be the head of the funeral procession, whereas makes he noticed the absence of something – the sense of lost respect towards his own culture. As a consequence, the conflicting styles are in a reflection of the cultural and historical discourses, battling to be heard within the story that lies beneath Malaysian’s Chinese community. Through his memory recalls, he is in search of his own identity and yet realizes what he already dismissed - the value of a family that he left out many years ago for the modern lifestyle in the city. There were lots of cultural issues discussed in the story which support that the writer celebrates the Malaysian culture in more specific term, a Chinese culture.

In this story, he used the flashback literary technique profusely to depict the past and the present concurrently, wherefore make it more interesting to see how certain things being presented in this story and thus, makes the story stands out. Here, within the framework, the story is written from the third person, omniscient point of view which mean that the narrator sees all, reports all, knows and explains the inner workings of the minds of any or all characters. For instance, sometimes the narrator tells the readers about the main character – Baba, through the eyes of other minor characters in the story. The used of some diction from two different races in the text – i.e sarong (Malay) and chi kee (Chinese), were the portrayal of Malaysian multicultural lifestyle amongst the people take place. Hence, the writer wants to deliver a message for the new generation; to put more appreciation towards the culture in order to maintain the ancestral tradition. That’s the right way to keep on celebrates the Malaysian culture throughout ongoing civilization in the future, although after the 50 years of nationhood.

Shame by Shirley Lim is another depiction of Chinese culture in Malaysia. Shame by Shirley Lim is about how woman in Baba Nyonya society must behave according to their society’s expectation. The main character in this story is Mei Sim, 6 years old little girl who was stuck in her society culture. In the short story “Shame” by Shirley Lim, the story took place in the most historic country, Malacca. This story is about a little girl, Mei Sim who always be nagging by her mother because of a small mistake that other girls also done. Mei Sim’s mother always told her to behave herself because she afraid that her relatives will talk behind and assume her that se has raise her daughter with no shame. For Baba and Nyonya societies, this issue was serious because they want to take care of their heritage’s culture. In this story, Mei Sim has discovered many things about the adult life through her mother and grand aunty conversation.

This story starts when they went to her grand auntie’s house to celebrate the New Year party. In that house, she has explored many new things that were not supposed to be known by a little girl like her. Both women was gossiping and talking about one things and then jump to other things. They talk about how to tame Mei Sim’s father and so on. Accidently, in their conversation Mei Sim has heard some rude words that had been used by them. In the same house, her grand auntie’s daughter was been treated like a slave in front of them by her own mother. According to their conversation, her grand auntie told her mother that her daughter was bringing a bad luck and for that reason in believing the future teller, she willing to treat her own daughter likes a slave.

Commonly, Baba and Nyonya societies were still believe in the future teller and about the good luck or the bad luck. Then, Mei Sim stuck with accident were her mother caught her with a little boy who was try to touch her dress and that was the first time she felt shame. In this story, we can see how much concern Baba and Nyonya society toward their manner. In Malaysia, Baba and Nyonya culture was well known in their way to nurture their society. This story tells us about Mei Sim’s experience celebrating New Year’s party in her grand aunty house and because this is one of Malaysian culture, every celebrating must followed with an interesting tradition costume and for Baba and Nyonya’s culture it was kebaya Nyonya that become their heritage costume until now. On the way to her grand aunty house, Mei Sim and her mother took trishaw and trishaw is one of the popular attractions in Malacca. In this story, Shirley has highlight many importance scene that show how interesting Baba and Nyonya’s culture in the eye of other societies.

Besides, there are two short stories to embody Malay cultures in this anthology which are The Inheritance by Karim Raslan and Pak De Samad’s Cinema by Che Husna Azhari. The Inheritance is a story about the rich man named Usman Khalid who has died, leaving a wife and four daughters behind. All the four son in-laws were figuring that they would be willed a fortune especially Tajuddeen who has been trusted to lead his father in-law companies. Among the four, Mahmud was the best liked for his humorous identity. However, he had a hidden agenda from the beginning of the story till the end. It was something which the deceased had done that would surely shock the entire family. They did not have a clue that the late Usman Khalid had a second young wife and three little boys with the same distinctive lower jaw and shallow fish-like eyes of their late father until an out-station taxi from Tanjung Malim arrived. The three little boys from Usman Khalid second wife will be inheritance Usman Khalid property. And there goes Tajuddeen's hope, and maybe to the other two son in-laws too.

The text has shown some elements of nativisation in Malay culture. The element of nativisation in this story can be seen when the writer associate with the food, language, traditional garment and greetings. One of the nativisation elements in this text is the food. Through this story, we can see the variety of food which is mention in this short story. It is referred to this quotation:
“Tajuddeen merely indulged in the odd RM1 packet of nasi lemak. The tarik, he save for special occasions.”
“He tipped the cigarette ash carelessly into the ashtray and strode into the kitchen where he stood and surveyed the preparations-the fried chicken, the freshwater prawns and the bowls of acar”.

Nowadays nasi lemak and the tarik are not referred to certain races only. But these kinds of food and drink are shared by all Malaysian as the mixture of variety of food and drink from different races has made it as Malaysian meals. Meanwhile, nativisation of culture from appearance aspect, the words sarong and selendang reflect the traditional garment that synonym with Malay people. From language context, we can see the word that was mixed in Malay language or Manglish through these quotations:
“Sitting next to Mahmud in an immaculately starched and uncreased baju was his fellow brother-in-law, Tajuddeen”.
“no-lah!”Ahmad gasped. Tajuddeen remained silent. He disapproved of such disrespect”.
Words like “baju” and “no-lah” are from Malay word and manglish word that mixed with English language. In brief, this short story by Karim Raslan has shown how the people in the story celebrate their culture.

In the short srory Pak De Samad’s Cinema has focused on certain people culture in one of the states in Malaysia which is Kelantan. There is a culture in Kelantan where every village has gedeber. According to the story, gedeber refer to macho men of the village. Gedeber is actually means more than just a macho man, it means fearless, strong and usually very tempestuous too. Gedeber is to hit man if they are being asked to and get the money after their work done. Therefore, gedeber must have some martial arts skills for instance, silat, spelek (a form of Thai boxing), Thai boxing, or main tongkat and many more. The writer has wisely used these terms which can only be identified by Malay people as to make the text is truly Malaysian. The martial arts that have been illustrated in this story reflect the Malay culture which is full of arts; morever there is a term of kerises which symbolize Malay symbol in the culture. Pak De Samad used to work as a gedeber in his village. But, as time goes by, he quit his job as a gedeber opened his own cinema. Pak De Samad’s cinema becomes famous as the crowds come from all ages besides the fee is also cheap; twenty five cents per head.

There are a lot of nativisation elements that we could find in this story, for example:
Pak De panggung was very versatile. Very soon it was used for everything. Bangsawan troupes would come and perform in Molo using the Panggung. Plays- bangsawan plays, that is, such as ‘Puteri Cendawan Merah’, ‘Puteri Cendana Biru’-would draw the crowds, mostly kids and young people.

Here, bangsawan is also part of Malay culture. Bangsawan is a form of Malay opera and it becomes one of the entertainment sources during that time. Bangsawan is also form of theatre which uses a series painter backdrops representing a variety of scenes such as a palace, a forest, a garden, a seascape and so on (www.angelfire.com). Today, there are no active bangsawan troupes in Malaysia. Therefore, in this story, we can know that bangsawan is part of our culture as previous generation has developed it successfully.

The collection of poems that we have compiled in this anthology also reflects the issues of nativisation in Malaysian culture. We have chose five poems which are do not say by Muhammad Haji Salleh, the midnight satay vendor by Ghulam-Sarwar Yousof, Five Star Poetry by Salleh ben Joned, Monsoon History by Shirley Lim and Family Reunion by Hilary Tham. The first poem in this collection is do not say by Muhammad Haji Salleh. The poem ‘do not say’ by Muhammad Haji Salleh resists the negatives thought form the colonizer towards the locals. The persona fights back the judgment of the colonizer by justifies each statement through the questions of experience the richness of Malaysian culture. Therefore the nativization of Malaysian culture are firmly stated in the poem to show the variety of Malaysian culture through local music such as dondang sayang, local dance; ronggeng, assorted form of literature such as pantun, sajak, bangsawan and shairs, a symbols of strength through the keris, and the beauty of our craft and attire from the pattern of songket. Base on the uniqueness of Malaysian culture, the persona make a stand that our people are as good as the other because we have the courage to develop our country and the culture that makes us unique in our own ways.

Next, the midnight satay vendor by Ghulam-Sarwar Yousof, highlights about the differences between the upper an lower class society. The persona in this poem explains about the hardness of a satay vendor’s life who works to support his family, selling satay around the high-class residential and at the pasar malam. Besides highlighting the issues in the society, Ghulam-Sarwar nativizes certain Malaysian cultural aspect in this poem through the use of the most popular food among Malaysian; satay. He also uses well known local setting which is pasar malam as a nativization of cultural setting because most of Malaysian varieties of foods and goods such as local vegetables and fruits are sold there. Pasar malam is a place where lots of people gather once a week; for a vendor to gain livelihood and a customer to get their goods. The nativization of local food and setting gives clear images of local culture and issue that highlights in this poem.

Then, in the poem ‘Five Star Poetry’, Salleh Ben Joned centralizes the values of poetry for nation. He incorporates the importance of poetry in our everyday life with some elements of culture in this poem by placing side by side, the most wonderful arts from Western equivalently with the beauty of Malaysian’s arts. Therefore, the essential of our culture in creating the great value for our nation is something that we have to proud of because we have good values of our own as we compare with the other.

Meanwhile in the poem Monsoon History, it is about family and how life is secure and warm in the company of the beloved ones, while the outside world is at the mercy of the weather. The persona recalls her past experiences in Malacca, some forty years ago and takes the readers forty years back in time to show how the family lives surrounded by two the different world; The outside world and the inside world of the home.

In this poem, Shirley uses the phrases to create a sense of belonging, unity and a traditionally strong and secure family environment. Shirley uses words “drinking milo”, “nyonya and baba”, “sarong-wrapped, “silver paper”, and portraits to show the inner world of comfort and identity. Another interesting feature in this poem is the strong presence of cultural sentiment. This is show through customs and traditions such as “drinking milo”, “nyonya and baba”, “sarong-wrapped, “silver paper” and so on. The use of word “nyonya and baba” symbolizes traditions of the “nyonya-baba” people living largely in Malacca, one of the Straits Settlement in Peninsula Malaysia and in other parts of country they remark unique culture and with strong traditions and customs.

Cultural richness which is tradition and customs are part of the culture practiced by the people portrayed in the poem. There is a rich cultural heritage that needs to be safe from one generation to next generation. Understanding our rich traditions and cultural practices would make us understand ourselves better and make us realize who we are. Our cultural diversity is our strength. We need to kept close to our heart our culture and traditions.

The poem ‘Family Reunion’ is about a Chinese family gathering for dinner after being apart for a long time. While they waiting for the dinner to be ready, they sit together and having a conversation among them. The warmth and closeness of the family members can be feels through the conversation that they have from telling about the small thing like the death of the cat until a story about their own life. The poem revealing the elements of Malaysian culture because the gathering of a family is a common events that happen especially when there are festival celebration such as Hari Raya, Chinese New Year, Deepavali or Hari Gawai to be celebrated. In addition, the element of Malaysian culture can be identify through the food ‘curry’ that the mother cook specially for the family as the main dish for the dinner. Therefore, Hilary Tham expressing her experience gets together with her family in this poem, as a part of cultures that being practice commonly among Malaysian as they feels the tenderness of being together with family.

Finally, this anthology has given us lots of useful experiences. We have been reading many short stories and poems in order to share with readers the uniqueness of our Malaysian writers’ works. Beside the issue of nativisation of English is really interesting to us as team of editors as through it we can identify many thing especially about the richness of Malaysian culture that shared by the heterogeneous society. Hopefully, after reading this anthology, readers would have great appreciation towards the Malaysian
Literature in English as well as the diversity of Malaysian culture reveals in our own literary works.



  • At November 13, 2008 at 1:19 AM, Blogger mikemathew said…

    "The Buckinghamshire E-Anthology project is finally over (more or less) - I dashed from a school in the south of the County last week to the Civic Centre in Aylesbury where the Year 10 poets had a final celebration meeting with friends, family and teachers at the publication of the E-Anthology. All students were invited to an introductory face-to-face session held at a school in Aylesbury. They were accompanied by staff from their English Departments. This session introduced the project, started the "socialisation" aspect of the work and gave the students the opportunity to log in to the E-Anthology site.


    forum post"


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