Singapore, 25 November 2023 – The Indian Heritage Centre (IHC) invites the public to delve into the heart of the Malayalee community in Singapore through its groundbreaking exhibition, “Ente Veedu, My Home: Malayalees in Singapore.” Co-created with the Malayalee community, this unique showcase is the first-ever to exclusively highlight the heritage, culture, and identity of the Malayalee people in Singapore.
Running from November 25, 2023, to September 15, 2024, the exhibition traces the journey of the Malayalees from their ancestral roots to migration, settlement in Singapore, and their significant contributions to the nation. It offers a reflective exploration of the evolving notions of home and identity within the Malayalee community.
Ms Maria Bhavani Dass, General Manager of IHC, expressed the significance of the exhibition, stating, “Ente Veedu means ‘my home’ in Malayalam. By co-creating this exhibition with the community, we invite all to hear their stories and explore notions of home and identity from the Malayalee community’s perspective. We hope that visitors to the exhibition will come away with a deeper appreciation of this rich and vibrant culture.”
Originating from the South Indian state of Kerala, the Malayalees constitute the second-largest sub-group within Singapore’s Indian population. The exhibition showcases the community’s diversity, comprising Hindus, Muslims, Syrian Christians, Roman Catholics, and more. Malayalees have played a vital role in Singapore’s development since the 19th century, contributing significantly to sectors such as healthcare, community and social services, politics, defense, and law.
Ms Liviniyah P, Assistant Curator at IHC, expressed her joy at working with the Malayalee community in putting the exhibition together. She stated, “In this exhibition, we celebrate the invaluable contributions of the Malayalee community to the rich tapestry of Singapore’s history. They have been extremely generous with their time and contributions, and their steadfast dedication to preserving heritage paves the path for future generations.”
Dr. Anitha Devi Pillai, Guest Curator and Senior Lecturer at the National Institute of Education/Nanyang Technological University, emphasized the richness of Malayalee culture and its parallels with Singapore’s multiculturalism. She shared her excitement, stating, “This exhibition provides an opportunity to present the research as captivating stories for the world, where visitors are invited into the Malayalee ‘home’ to get to the heart of Malayalee heritage.”
Featuring over 200 artifacts from the National Collection and various institutions, including the National Library Board, National Museum of Singapore, Singapore Press Holdings, and contributions from the Malayalee community, the exhibition is organized into four distinct zones, offering a comprehensive view of Malayalee heritage. Some artifacts will be on public display for the first time, enhancing the exhibition’s significance and providing a unique experience for visitors.
Zone 1: From Kerala to Singapore
The journey begins in the first zone, “From Kerala to Singapore,” where star artifacts from Kerala take center stage. Notable among them is the striking decorative elephant caparison, or nettipattam, adorned with intricate designs and vibrant multi-colored thread work. Traditionally used in community and temple festivals in Kerala, this artifact is on public display for the first time, providing a unique glimpse into the cultural richness of the Malayalees’ home state.
Zone 2: Ente Singapore: My Singapore
The second zone, “Ente Singapore: My Singapore,” delves into the Malayalees’ contributions as they settled in Singapore. Exhibits explore the living, working, and recreational spaces they occupied, showcasing the art forms and languages they brought from Kerala. A highlight of this zone is the only pair of Malayalam palm leaf manuscripts in IHC’s collection, emphasizing the significance of the Malayalees’ mother tongue in a linguistically diverse community.
Zone 3: In a Malayalee Home
Celebrating the depth of Malayalee customs and traditions, the third zone, “In a Malayalee Home,” offers an intimate look into personal spaces. Notable artifacts include the traditional doorway of a Syrian Christian house, underscoring the importance of religious beliefs and customs in this religiously diverse community. This doorway makes its public debut, enhancing the exhibition’s significance.
Zone 4: Malayalees in Singapore
The final zone, “Malayalees in Singapore,” presents a visual chronicle of the lives of Malayalee pioneers spanning the 19th and 20th centuries. A compelling video installation, “Being Malayalee: Voices of the Future,” produced in collaboration with youth wings of various Malayalee associations, provides a contemporary perspective. Ten Singaporean Malayalee youths share their thoughts on home, culture, and identity, inviting visitors to reflect on these notions personally.
The exhibition, uniquely enriched by the active involvement of the Malayalee community, reveals intimate stories and anecdotes that have not been shared publicly before. This co-creation aligns with the National Heritage Board’s Our SG Heritage Plan 2.0, fostering greater community engagement in the celebration of Singapore’s rich heritage.
“Ente Veedu, My Home: Malayalees in Singapore” welcomes visitors from 10 am to 6 pm, Tuesdays through Sundays. Admission is free for Singaporeans and Permanent Residents. For more information, please visit IHC’s official website. Don’t miss the chance to embark on a journey through time, culture, and the heart of the Malayalee community in Singapore.