The Malay Heritage Foundation (MHF) announced its second batch of Teman Warisan (Cultural Heritage Ambassador) recipients during Hari Warisan (Cultural Heritage Appreciation Day) 2022 in December. Guest-of-Honour Madam Som Said, a Cultural Medallion Recipient (1987) and The Stewards of Intangible Cultural Heritage Award (2020), presented 24-year-old Ahmad Hasif Mohammad Amran with an award in recognition of his dedication and contribution to preserving Malay history and heritage. Similar to the inaugural Hari Warisan (HRW) 2021, three more individuals were appointed this year to be the foundation’s Teman Warisan.
Ahmad Hasif Mohammad Amran, otherwise known as Hasif, is currently in his last year of undergraduate studies at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), majoring in History. Hasif takes particular interest in Malay history and shone his diligence in promoting the significance of Malay heritage and culture through his involvement in both school-level interest groups like being president of NTU’s History Sub-club and public institutions like the National Heritage Board.
Hasif has shown his passion for cultural enrichment through his efforts as part of the National Heritage Board Youth Panel. As part of the Youth Panel, he actively promotes the education of Malay heritage and culture among youths in Singapore. Hasif embarks on challenging events planning and initiates new engagements for youths of all races at prominent institutions like the National Museum. Through these actions, he hopes that other youths of today may become advocates for Malay culture and appreciate the in-depth beauty of its symbolism and materiality.
Q: Why did you pursue History as an undergraduate at NTU?
I would say that History is a field I’ve been interested in for the longest time. It started when I took History as an O Level subject, and my teacher taught it to me quite interestingly. After that, I became more invested in pursuing History on a deeper level at A Levels and then, at the undergraduate level. I also advocate for the importance of being able to appreciate the past. Contrary to popular belief, I feel that the past is still very relevant as it allows us to understand and appreciate the context of today’s world.
Q: You mentioned you were particularly interested in medicine and films while researching Malay history. Why so?
I think I would say that I’m interested in the general social aspect of Malay history. However, medicine and films are the ones that I have researched more during my undergraduate life. For medicine, it’s because I grew up with methods of healing that some might consider more “traditional”. On top of visits to the doctor’s clinic, sometimes I would also be given more traditional types of healing by my parents to get the best of both worlds. Hence, studying the history of Malay medicine is something that I can truly appreciate and is a field in that I can situate my personal experiences.
I feel that films, to some extent, reflect certain issues prevalent in society at the time. This applies to not only Malay films but films in general. As I mentioned earlier, I am interested in the social history of Malay communities, so watching films as an excuse for doing research makes the process more enjoyable.
Q: You’re currently in your last year and pursuing your Final Year Project (FYP). Can you share with us more about your undergraduate research?
For my FYP, I’m looking at perceptions of traditional Malay medicine in Singapore from the 1950s to the 1960s. The reason why I chose this period, in particular, is because this period was a period where Singapore (and Malaya) was undergoing huge changes. There were often a lot of tensions between the “traditional” and “modern” during this period. Exploring traditional Malay medicine in this period would also shed light on these tensions from a more, social, cultural, and medical perspective. Hence, this would be an interesting topic to explore in greater depth.
Q: How did you end up on the National Heritage Board Youth Panel?
It happened because I was at the right place at the right time. At the time I was the president of my faculty’s History Sub-Club. At this time, the NHB Outreach was also looking for people to submit photo essays for their publications and contacted us to help gather interested NTU History students. You can say that there was a sort of a relationship formed there, because nearing the end of my term the team reached out to me personally, inviting me to be part of this panel, and I was more than happy to accept the invitation.
Q: What has National Heritage Board Youth Panel taught you about Malay heritage?
Being on the Youth Panel really helped me to get a closer look into the local heritage scene and how the different Heritage Institutions in Singapore have tried to engage youths and attract them to their events. I recall when the staff from Malay Heritage Centre (together with the other Heritage Institutions) met with us to present their proposed event to gather feedback on how they can attract more youths. One thing I realised was that Malay heritage is generally underappreciated by people my age, and I hope to change it with my role as Teman Warisan.
Q: How do you feel about being appointed as a Teman Warisan?
To be honest, when I first got the message about being a Teman Warisan, I was quite surprised that I was chosen because I feel that there are many people who are more active in the Malay Heritage scene than I am. I also feel pressured, taking into account the responsibilities that come with this role. However, I’ve always wanted to contribute to the Malay Heritage scene in Singapore, and this role feels like the perfect opportunity to do that. As such, I’m very excited about what’s to come.
Q: As a Teman Warisan recipient, what do you hope to accomplish to continue championing Malay heritage?
I hope to better appreciate Malay culture and heritage by being in touch with the scene on a deeper level. I also hope to use whatever I have learned in school and my volunteering experiences to contribute to our Malay heritage.
Q: What are your hopes and aspirations for the Malay Heritage scene?
I hope that more people will come to appreciate and better understand Malay culture and heritage. I also hope there will be more opportunities and platforms for us to discuss issues surrounding our heritage in a safe space.
Q: In five years, where do you see yourself?
In 5 years, I will be a full working adult, but even then, I hope to continue to do my part within the Malay heritage scene.
Q: Describe yourself in three words.
Passionate – Enthusiastic – Creative.
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