In August 2020, Nur Hikmah Binte Md Ali began her internship at the Malay Heritage Foundation (MHF) while completing her 4th year of undergraduate studies at National University of Singapore (NUS). We recently got in touch with Hikmah to find out more about her previous 3 month journey as an intern at MHF.
Q: Why did you choose to intern at MHF?
I chose to intern at MHF to gain an internal understanding of the cultural scene in Singapore, specifically of the Malay community. It also provided me with deeper insights on the politics and management of arts and culture that cannot be grasped entirely from reading texts. Given the location of the MHF at Kampong Gelam and its involvement in the space, it gave me the opportunity to see how the politics of space in urban development in Singapore played out, the challenges as well as competing narratives between groups in the way they defined Kampong Gelam.
Q: Before taking on the internship, how aware were you in relation to issues/matters relating to Malay arts and cultural heritage?
I was aware of the issues/matters only to the extent of my readings in Malay Studies classes, conversations with people who had knowledge or insights to offer on such matters, and the occasional news on development of the Malay arts and cultural community.
Q: What is something new you’ve discovered about Malay heritage at MHF that you didn’t know before?
I was not aware that the development of heritage and culture involved many stakeholders, individuals and organisations to “make it work”. Often when we discuss about developing heritage or preserving it, we tend to think that it is only on the shoulders of the museum or curators for example. But there are many other stakeholders that have the power to determine which heritage is emphasised or not, what is included and excluded from development of Malay heritage and how it is shared or presented.
Q: How has the internship changed your perception of Malay arts and cultural heritage?
The internship has empowered me to be more involved and aware of Malay arts and cultural heritage. I know where I can come in and contribute to the development of arts and cultural heritage, and that it is important to do so.
Q: What are some of the skillsets you’ve learned at MHF that are applicable to your future?
One of the skills I have learnt is planning and organising for heritage and cultural events. The internship helped me understand and navigate the necessary administrative procedures in planning events. I also learned more about working in an institution for the heritage and culture sector which improved my understanding of the scene in general in Singapore.
Q: Share one memorable experience from your time as an intern at MHF.
I enjoyed the tour around Kampong Gelam by MHF’s General Manager, Julina Khusaini, because it gave me a closer look at the place many people call home. I learnt also about the families that have continued to live in the area for generations, and still do until today. It is wonderful to see there are some things that stay the same in a space that changes so much. Overall, it taught me that Kampong Gelam can mean something different for people depending on who you ask.
Q: What and how do you aim to contribute to our Malay heritage after your internship at MHF? If you have already done this, please share with us!
I am open to volunteering at the MHF in any capacity as a guide or writer, or plan programmes for the MHF. I can contribute articles on Malay heritage and culture and suggest ways to improve and contribute to the development of the MHF as an important institution in Singapore.
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