Observations – KL Visit – Islamic Art Museum part 3

Continuing on from my last post, we go on to the next gallery, The Malay World, which is immediately in front of the China Gallery. This gallery, in my opinion, houses a significant collection of Islamic Malay artifacts, ranging from small coins to handwritten manuscripts to carved gateways. All of these artifacts to me seemed eerily familiar even though they obtained many of the items from Malaysia and Indonesia – perhaps simply because I have lived in the Malay archipelago all my entire life, i might have chanced on one of the items or its replicas.

the exhibits are displayed around a large hall, and like the China Gallery, under another heavily decorated dome, amber in colour. Surrounding the hall are artifacts such as coins and manuscripts displayed in glass cases, as well as some smaller items displayed under the massive dome itself.

Medallions on display in the Malay World Gallery of the Museum – apologies for my reflection!

Some artifacts are displayed against one wall of the hall in glass cases. Here medallions, coins and more manuscripts and hand written Al-Qur’an are being displayed, alongside explanations of motifs and designs common to the Malay Islamic world.

A panel explaining the different motifs found in Islamic Malay world – this one discusses foliage type of motif, the similarities and differences between the motifs and arabesques of the middle east as well as samples

In my opinion by looking at the exhibits, and having been to Indonesia a couple of times before, I see the similarities of the designs with Javanese batik designs and Balinese woodcarving motifs. Hindu and Buddhist influences are aplenty, as shown on the designs   on the illustrated pages of the handwritten Qur’an which looks similar compared to the traditional paintings of Hindu-Java or Bali, minus the figures. Also, the liberal usage or reds and warm colours, that can be seen on Buddhist or Hindu paintings are in contrast to the traditional Middle-Eastern illumination which mostly features cobalt and blues with golds.

Breakdown of Malay Qur’an design and other motifs. The Qur’an radial design evokes traditional Hindu-Buddhist influences

Larger artifacts were displayed against one wall with velvet ropes around them. Among the larger artifacts are a majestic carved gateway with Malay designs. Traditionally in the Malay world, carvings are inspired by flowers and vegetation. Though stylized, one, with a very keen eye, can still see the specific plants or flowers the design were based upon, since the design were not as heavily stylized as the ones found in the Middle Eastern Islamic world.

The large carved gateway. This magnificent paneled doorway were carved and painted with golds and red and oranges.

Another large artifact of note is a chair, more like a throne made of silver and leather. The chair is for the Khatib, the sermon reader in the Mosque during Jumu’ah or congregational Friday prayers. The seating was a gift from the Indian government to the Malaysian government, however it still has Malay characteristics to it.

The Khatib’s chair made of Silver and leather.

And finally, above all the displays and the artifacts is the majestic dome, decorated with arabesques in amber, like a sun radiating its light above the visitors.

The dome high above the visitors in a warm amber light

For the nest post of this series I will start on the Indian Gallery.



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