In January 2021, Syazwani Sanep began her internship at the Malay Heritage Foundation (MHF) while pursuing her undergraduate studies at National University of Singapore (NUS), majoring in Malay Studies. We recently got in touch with Syazwani 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 am confident that the organization could provide me with the experience and understanding of the field I intend to pursue & the realities of it. Additionally, I am positive that the experience I gained would allow me to get insights, which will help in affirming myself of the reasons I have been greatly considering this pathway and to parlay my passion for the field of Malay Studies into a career in the future.
Q: Before taking on the internship, how aware were you in relation to issues/matters relating to Malay arts and cultural heritage?
I initially perceived the promotion and preservation of the Malay arts and cultural heritage to be an easy task; one which has all the relevant parties/entities having the same agenda. However, I am cognisant of the fact that the functions of the infrastructure that support the Malay Heritage are sanctioned by the state. Yet, I was also uncertain of the extent of the state agencies’ management of such infrastructures or particularly narratives and discourses that surround the Malay Heritage.
Q: What is something new you’ve discovered about Malay heritage at MHF that you didn’t know before?
My internship stint at MHF has opened my perspectives to the politics of the Malay heritage, which I was oblivious to. While it is true that everyone has a stake in the promotion and preservation of the Malay heritage, it has to be acknowledged that some entities may have greater responsibility, resources and capacity to uphold their role. It made me realise the importance for one to be critical in positioning oneself in navigating the contestations that may arise among the stakeholders, negotiating the power-relations present be it in terms of infrastructure or discourses of the Malay heritage while fulfilling its responsibilities in the promotion and preservation of heritage. Ultimately, the entities/individuals shouldering the responsibility are part of the ecosystem, in the pursuit of the common goal and hence, these entities should tap on each other’s strength for the greater good.
Q: How has the internship changed your perception of Malay arts and cultural heritage?
It made me realise the weight of the role in safeguarding the Malay arts and cultural heritage for all. Ultimately, everyone has a stake in heritage and thus, it is important for the relevant entities to ensure that the decisions they made are supported while fulfilling its mission to safeguard as well as promote Malay heritage.
Q: What are some of the skillsets you’ve learned at MHF that are applicable to your future?
One of the skills I’ve further developed during my internship stint at MHF is the attention to detail, especially when it comes to events management. One has to be on top of the little things, ensuring that each detail is not being compromised and given the attention it deserves. A small detail is possible to put the success of the event at risk.
Another equally important skill I have managed to pick up is communication. The events or programmes under MHF usually involve various parties involved including vendors, invited speakers, distinguished guests and more. My experience liaising with the livestream recording company which MHF has engaged for one of the Cendekiawan Lestari Series events has taught me how important it is to be careful in understanding the needs of a party and ensure that they are given the assistance needed so that their service is rendered well. Not only that, as an organiser, it is useful for one to be well-versed in niche areas such as live-streaming, in external assistance is required to ensure that requests & expectations are conveyed clearly.
Q: Share one memorable experience from your time as an intern at MHF.
One of the most memorable experience I had as an intern at MHF would be the fact that I was given the opportunity to write my first ever reflective piece for an external organization, besides those I wrote for my assignments. I was tasked to write a piece in conjunction of one of the Sembang Ilmu sessions organised by MHF. Held on 6 February 2021, this edition of the Sembang Ilmu Series, titled “Understanding Our Past, Building for the future Malay youths and History Making” was based on the book “Beyond Bicentennial: Perspectives on Malays”. My piece highlights the need for the community to remain meticulous and critical of the prevailing narratives and stereotypes of the Malays that are being perpetuated, especially the negative ones due to the detrimental effect of such discourses that may endure in the society. It is also highlighted that though addressing the issue requires communal effort at every level, the role of the Malay leaders, elites and middle-class are still key in effectively articulating the concerns of the community. I greatly appreciate discursive spaces that allow different generations of people to share their thoughts and views about a particular issue that is pertinent to society.
It felt different having the piece published and publicised as I realised the extent of how I am accountable for what I had conveyed in the piece. It reminded me of my responsibility especially after having completed my university education, especially to be of service to the society within my means. In fact, it made me realise the importance of instilling values such as academic integrity, intellectual humility and having the moral courage to speak truthfully as I voice my opinions or more importantly, views of the marginalised segments of the community.
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!
Attending and participating in the events/programmes pertaining to the promotion of heritage be it those organised by MHF or not while bringing my families/friends along would be something I could do within my means in contributing to the Malay heritage. In fact, I hope to continue to do such whenever I can to ensure that I am well-attuned to the issues and discourses that surround the Malay Heritage even if my future career may not be in the field.
Also, my current involvement in NUS Malay Language Society (PBMUKS) and Silat enables me to continue to be a part of the promotion of heritage.
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