To the uninitiated, the keris conjures up an image that is as old as the craft itself. But the powerful dagger, forged through alternating laminations of iron and nickelous iron, poses more than just a weapon or mode of combat — it symbolises power, identity and sovereignty. To highlight keris as a cultural maker of the Malay world, as well as document and preserve its legacy, Yayasan Raja Muda Selangor (YRMS) has partnered the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia (IAMM) for a royal exhibition, which will be held from Dec 2 until Mar 13, 2023.
In this inaugural collaboration, both parties are putting together a show that features 94 unique keris, of which 59 are from the exclusive collection of HRH Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah Alhaj, the Sultan of Selangor, as well as supplementary artefacts from the IAMM. Viewers will be able to delve into the longstanding history of the keris up to the present day, while appreciating the enigma and iconography that have transcended generations.
The show will be divided into six sections, bringing visitors on a journey through the maritime realm of Southeast Asia and tracing the rich history of the keris from its inception to the ascent of its legendary status in the country. A host of activities have been curated to keep museum-goers engaged, be it a workshop on keris-making, talks by historians or demonstrations by experts.
In addition to the special collection by Sultan of Selangor, the exhibition will also spotlight three modern-day keris masterpieces, produced by a new stable of young keris-makers under the Talent For The World programme in an effort to ensure the continuity of the craft. The three outstanding youths who will be debuting the fruit of their mentorship are Muzaffar Bin Mohd Zafri, Ahmad Azuan Bin Othman and Abdul Hakim Bin Zulkifli.
The Talent For The World initiative has provided opportunities for B40 youths with exceptional creative talents in various fields such as sports, arts, music, culinary, drama and dance. To date, YRMS has sponsored 28 individuals, with the hope of realising their dreams and honing their potential to go beyond.
A special publication will also be published to commemorate this exhibition with the same title. Available at RM145 at the IAMM Museum Shop, this 228-page tome is an extensive undertaking to document keris culture in the region with a new perspective, while highlighting its royal affiliations and impact by Islamisation.
See the full exhibition rundown soon here.