In December 2022, Delia Shamaney began an internship with the Malay Heritage Foundation (MHF) while studying Anthropology and History at the National University of Singapore (NUS). We interviewed Delia to learn more about life as an MHF intern after she completed her internship in February 2023.
Q: How did you learn about this internship programme with Malay Heritage Foundation (MHF)?
Actually, I found out about this internship through internet research and my professor. I was looking for internships to explore Singapore’s heritage and cultural sector, and I learned this after reading MHF articles online. Coincidentally, when I heeded advice from my professor, he also suggested looking into MHF. I took it as a sign that I should try it out!
Q: How well did you know about MHF at that time?
Barely. Being of non-Malay descent, I was not very involved in the Malay Heritage Sector as I knew little about the community and its rich history. However, I did come to learn more about the role of MHF while visiting Kampong Gelam throughout the years. Reading those plaques and posters at cornerstones of Kampong Gelam was probably my first engagement with MHF, who knew I would become involved with them in the future?
Q: Could you share with us your experience and role as an intern at MHF? Some memorable moments?
During my time of internship, I was tasked with maintaining and heightening the social presence of the MHF, this was done through documenting our MHF seminars and events in order to memorialise them forever on the digital plain. While my experience may not be long, I worked with my managers on how we could improve our outreach, be it for donations or so on. As we transitioned back into normality from the pandemic, we had to readjust and reinvent ourselves as an organisation in order to continue striving for a better and more purposeful engagement with the public.
One of the most memorable or funny moments for me was during the “Hari Warisan 2022” event in December. This was perhaps my first or second week in MHF, so I was still a bit timid as I ushered guests around toward the end of the event. I happen to be towards the end of the Buffet table, and at this time, I hear chitter-chatters and pay no mind to it. These murmurs became louder and louder, and I realised someone was talking to me! I turned and faced him, and he kept repeating his short sentence “ Mana ada garfu dan sudu??“. I looked at him bewildered. Thankfully, someone nearby butt in and translated for me, I answered back “there! Saya minta maaf!“. I was so embarrassed! I seriously need to brush up on Malay. looking back, I probably butchered my pronunciations too.
Q: What have you learned during your 3-month stint in MHF?
During my three months, I learned more about the corporate backends of running a heritage foundation. In most internships, supervisors are hesitant to invite interns to see and learn about the backbones, highs and lows of directing an organisation. I am grateful that my managers were able to share and discuss with me my respective curiosities about the MHF. I learned that being involved in the culture and heritage sector involves dedication like no other.
As mentioned above, I have zero-malay ancestry in me, zero, na-da, but I have learned so much more about the Malay culture and deepened my appreciation of how diverse and vibrant this culture is. The internship has reinforced my belief that your ethnicity should not provide margins and boundaries for what you can and cannot learn about the various cultures around you. Being of mixed ethnicities, I found fascinating similarities between Malay culture and mine aimed at cultivating values of respect and reverence.
Q: What challenges do you face at work and how do you overcome them?
I think an obvious hurdle in my work was that I could not speak Malay. It was a bit ironic that I was working at MHF without proficiency in Malay. The articles, speeches, and conversations held in Malay left me clueless. I would ask my supervisor and even school friends for help translating them. Nonetheless, I have also been attempting to learn Malay so I can easily help myself. Check this out: Nama saya Delia…kutleri ada sana.
Other than that, my main challenges were juggling school and work. As a year one student, I am thankful my modules were not super heavy and tedious during my time at the internship. Finding time to complete work-related tasks and writing essays for school is difficult but it is nothing good time management cannot fix. I was previously not a micro-planner, I did not plan my day-to-day down to the minute. With work and school providing competing priorities, I had come to appreciate the planning and organising of my day. Though I still do not micro-plan myself minute by minute, I make sure I strategise my time and lay down my expectations and goals for each day. This structure was excellent for me to complete all my work and studies efficiently.
Q: As an Anthropology student from NUS, what piqued your interest in pursuing Anthropology? Can you apply any takeaways from this internship to your studies?
I have always been fascinated by culture on both micro and macro levels amongst humans and societies. I pursued Anthropology at NUS because I wanted to nurture this passion and delve deeper into understanding the “why’s” and “hows” of people from various communities across the world.
This internship was relevant for me in helping me see how societies maintain and uplift cultures through institutional structures. In usual circumstances, we see that the maintenance of culture depends on the cohesive agency of a community to reproduce beliefs and practices. However, MHF has shown me that there are institutional ways of inviting your communities, to appreciate and reproduce their culture in order to keep it alive and burning bright. It has also revealed the significance of such institutions in preserving this cycle, especially in our society where competing factors potentially quell the importance of culture. Pursuing this internship coincided well with my major, providing me with a platform to practice analysing from an anthropological perspective. When new problems occur regarding the reception and feedback of participants, I put my research and critical thinking skills to the test to analyse the problems and strategize new ways to improve.
Q: Going through the internship, does it help shape and further reinforce your interest in learning more about our Malay Arts, Culture & Heritage?
Definitely! My knowledge of Malay Arts, Culture and Heritage was primarily limited to what my “Malay“ friends would share about, and even, Hari Raya events growing up. Being exposed to the variety of Malay arts and heritage in, and not limited to, Kampong Gelam piques my interest in learning more about its growth over time. I am also fascinated by the myriads of ethnic “Malay” sub-groups like the Bugis, Javanese, etcetera, present in Singapore. For many sub-groups to be evident and yet generalised as “Malays” is interesting as it reveals the everlasting impact of colonial history on their identity and community kinships.
Q: What do you intend to do after your graduation?
I have big dreams of pursuing my Masters in order to deepen my skills and knowledge in Anthropology. I believe there are still areas within this study of humanity that has yet to be developed, I hope to become more involved in the refining of already-known knowledge and the discovery of new ones too.
Q: Describe yourself in three words.
Passionate. Inquisitive. Targeted
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