In August 2021, Nur Farzana began her internship at the Malay Heritage Foundation (MHF) while pursuing her year 3 undergraduate studies at National University of Singapore (NUS), majoring in Malay Studies and Economics. We recently got in touch with Farzana to find out more about her previous 3 month journey as an intern at MHF.
Q: What much do you come to know about this internship programme with the Malay Heritage Foundation (MHF)?
I found out about this internship from the previous interns while I was trying to find possible internships to apply for that is relevant to my course of study. Upon knowing that MHF offers such an internship, I was very keen to find out more about it. My seniors only mentioned good things about their experience at MHF and it really made me want to do my internship at MHF. I had no regrets from the first day at the office.
Q: How well do you know about MHF at that time?
I didn’t know much about MHF and I did assume MHF and Malay Heritage Centre (MHC) works hand in hand to handle the museum. I do think it is a common misconception how MHC and MHF are the same which I came to know the differences clearly upon embarking on this journey with MHF. Having previously been part of a programme to carry out a tour at the museum, I was really eager to come back and contribute to MHF’s effort in safeguarding Malay Heritage.
Q: Could you share with us your experience, your role as an intern in MHF? Some memorable moments?
During my time at MHF, I was involved in the eighth, ninth and tenth sessions for Wacana Warisan Series (WWS), the fifth and sixth sessions for Cendekiawan Lestari Series (CLS), the fifth Sembang Ilmu Series (SIS) session and the newest initiative, Hari Warisan (Cultural Heritage Appreciation Day). The bulk of my task includes producing article write-ups of the events that will be published on the MHF website for online media publication coverage of the past events. I also assisted in administrative work such as being the liaison between MHF and NUS Malay Language Society (PBMUKS) as I am the current secretary of the 53rd Executive Committee. Other than that, I was also involved in book editing and proofreading books that will be published by MHF and also provide aid, organise and facilitate in all other MHF events, programmes and initiatives. These tasks were done with the aim to strengthen cultural identity beyond just appreciating and knowing Malay culture in mind. Based on my observation, the programmes and initiatives organised by the organisation effectively provide opportunities for any intern to become future ambassadors of culture and heritage.
The highlight of the internship experience would be Hari Warisan. Hari Warisan is the newest initiative organised by MHF “to acknowledge and appreciate cultural practitioners and activists working tirelessly behind the scenes to create cultural content”. From the start to the end of the event, I was largely involved in the planning and preparation process which made me experience something I’d never experienced before. Despite being involved in the planning of multiple events during my ad hoc experiences, Hari Warisan was different because it involved many prominent individuals and groups that contributed to making this event a successful one. Other than the involvement of the President, Madam Halimah Yacob, the board of directors at MHF that includes Dr. Norshahril Saat (MHF Chairman), Dr. Azhar Ibrahim (MHF Vice-Chairman) MHF also invited Orkestra Sri Temasek (OSrT) led by Megat Muhammad Firdaus Mohd to perform as well as Mr Shafyre, a rock-ballad singer. It was a fulfilling but nerve-wracking experience to be in their presence and many others who attended the event.
A day before the event, I attended the full rehearsal, taking up the whole day. It allowed everyone involved to practice our roles and responsibilities before actually delivering the performances, responsibilities on that day. I was tasked to usher the Guest-of-Honour (GOH), Madam Halimah Yacob, President of the Republic of Singapore, as well as be the liaison between the volunteers and MHF. The full rehearsal significantly helped me to visualise the flow of the programme compared to looking through the programme outline. It also allowed me to be prepared and aware of things to look out for on the day of the event itself, this includes the markings found on the floor to ensure safe distancing, certain cues to prepare for the arrival of GOH, and signals to cue the start of the next segment. In addition, the rehearsal allowed me to communicate with the individuals involved that day to agree on the signals and their meanings if anything were to happen. This refers to hand signals or gestures such as to wind the music down if the GOH comes in early, to speed up if we are behind schedule as well as to signal the arrival of the GOH.
This event reminds me how each and everyone has an important role to play in promoting and safeguarding Malay heritage for all and how MHF is playing a crucial role in providing a platform of opportunity to involve the community to achieve MHF’s strategic outcomes. It was a celebration for those who have contributed religiously to the Malay cultural heritage but it was also a way to inspire others to find out more about their own cultural heritage and motivate individuals and youths to contribute in their own ways. It was shared with me how the whole day was purposely to recognise the efforts of the younger generation as cultural arts activists themselves, this is by having the appointment of Teman Warisan, but not forgetting those who have contributed greatly before them by having the Hadiah Warisan and Tunas Warisan. It was also purposely highlighted in the emcee script that OSrT comprises young individuals and a 22-year-old undergraduate, Anatasia Sabrina, was also highlighted. This is again to show how youths are involved in the cultural and heritage sector in their own ways, either traditionally or modernised. Despite how busy the day was, I enjoyed the process of organising the event and it is an event I would cherish.
Q: What have you learned during your 3-month stint in MHF?
One of the key takeaways from this internship I’ve gained is the skill to make education accessible to everyone in my own way. One of my life goals or principal is to always give back to the community and hence I actively participate in volunteering opportunities such as befriending the elders who live alone, mentoring students from lower-income families as well as participating in neighbourhood cleaning once in a while. This internship made me realise a way for me to spread the knowledge I learnt in university to anyone who is interested and also gain their interest in issues I was introduced to in my curriculum. This realisation came upon writing the programme highlights after each event as I summarise the perspectives and research shared during the lecture series such as CLS and WWS to make it easily understood by the general public. Before that is possible, I have to fully understand and absorb the content shared before I am able to summarise, highlight the key points and produce a write up that is engaging and interesting for anyone to read. It showed me how education can be shared online by posting reflection pieces, write-ups that are accessible for anyone because not everyone has the privilege of time and/or money to enrol in a university or attend the webinars. Sharing these documents will allow anyone, in their own free time, to read, comprehend and grasp the information is one key takeaway from my 3-month internship with MHF.
Q: What are some of the challenges that you face at work and how do you overcome it?
A challenge I faced is the worry that I do not meet the expectations which caused me to hesitate to ask questions. Despite being aware that I had to ask questions and clarify whenever I am in doubt, I will hesitate due to the fear that it may seem straightforward. I certainly did not reflect on what would happen if I continued to be in doubt. During Hari Warisan, I was tasked to be the liaison between the volunteers and MHF, hence any questions the volunteers had, they came to me to clarify and ask for advice. Being on the receiving end of the questions made me understand how crucial it is to clear up any questions I had to avoid any hesitation or lack of confidence while answering the volunteers. I was viewed as a staff at MHF, who should be knowledgeable of the programme flow and the roles and expectations required of the volunteers. Any hesitation or doubt will reflect back on MHF negatively hence it was my responsibility to practise good decision making when portraying myself to the volunteers. The importance of asking questions also includes the need to pay attention to details, even when it is being done multiple times. Mr. Fadli displayed this very well to me how he remains attentive and careful during his tenth WWS with Dr. Azhar. Even after doing it for the tenth time, he reminds me that one has to be 2 or 3 steps ahead to ensure that everything will not be compromised because a small mistake or detail that was not given attention to can put the event at risk. I guess this is a personal challenge I placed on myself and I will definitely continue work on it as it is still in progress.
Q: You are a Malay Studies student from NUS? What sparked your interest to further your studies in this area?
Yes, I’m a current Year 3 undergraduate in NUS, majoring in Malay Studies and Economics. I’ve always enjoyed learning my language, culture and anything related to the Malay culture and heritage. However, I felt that my knowledge about Malay culture and heritage is limited and I wanted to know and learn more. Throughout the years of education, I’m mostly exposed to the Malay language and literature. The department of Malay Studies offers just what I wanted. I also hold “kalau bukan kita, siapa?” saying close to me because it really holds the truth where if it is not their own people to love the culture, heritage and language, then who will do it. Though I am aware that I don’t need to be a Malay Studies student to show my passion for it, I feel happy reading Malay Studies modules and would like to stay that way for as long as I can.
Q: Going through the internship, does it help to shape and further reinforce your interest in learning more about our Malay Arts, Culture & Heritage?
It definitely did. It further affirms my decision to pursue Malay Studies in order to continue learning and exploring our Malay Arts, Culture and Heritage. I am thankful for this opportunity to grow and empower myself with skills outside the curriculum. I was inspired in so many ways and this internship has been a growing experience throughout, providing me with so many opportunities to continue learning all the time. It made me realise my role as a youth in the Malay cultural heritage sector and the importance of ensuring that it does not perish or remain undocumented. The way MHF emphasises the importance of documenting our Malay heritage for everyone’s access showed me how oblivious I have been to not seeing the importance before this despite loving Malay’s culture and language.
Q: What do you intend to do after graduation?
After graduation, other than job scouting and attending job interviews, I do hope to still continue to be involved in the Malay Arts, Culture and Heritage scenes and contribute in any way that I can.
Q: Describe yourself in three words.
Q: What do you envision the art scene will be like in the near future?
I envision it to be relatable, on a bigger scale and a rise in the visual art installation. Coming to the third year in this pandemic, with less in a critical state after contracting the virus, I do envision an arts festival or carnival in the very near future. Singapore Art Week 2022 just happened from 14th to 23rd January, celebrating art in a hybrid format where art lovers are able to enjoy art in both physical and virtual spaces. An art scene that creates spaces for people to engage physically, something many of us misses.
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