Closing Chapters (2022)

Megara Tegal | Aamina Nizar

Gundul, the Malay language in Arabic script, was used by the Javanese people for centuries past. It transported to the shores of Sri Lanka during Dutch colonisation, and was part of the identity of a new ethnic minority — the Sri Lankan Malay (SLM) community.

Over the past four centuries, as the SLMs strived to make Sri Lanka their home, Gundul was abandoned for the Roman script; a necessity for the survival of the community. ‘Closing Chapters’ seeks to explore the life of Gundul in Sri Lanka as a written language of the SLM community, while reflecting on the evolution of the SLM community.

Exhibited at the Rio Cinema Complex for Colombosocpe 2022.

Ummah Thangam (2022) 16″x24″ Digital print on archival paper | Aamina Nizar

Moor Grandmothers in Nawalapitiya are titled Ummah Thangam, loosely translated into Tamil as golden mother. My Malay grandmother, Gnei Raheema Muthalif (b.1935) , who moved to Nawalapitiya upon her marriage to my Moor grandfather, was fondly referred to by her grandchildren and great-grandchildren as Ummah, Ummah Nene, and Ummah Thangam. 

Sarah (2022) 16″x24″ Digital print on archival paper.

Sarah’s Nene and my Ummah Thangam are first cousins. Sarah (b.1990) has both Malay and Sinhalese heritage. While being able to understand spoken Malay, she is not conversant in it.  Like many Muslims, familiarity with the Arabic script continues.

Nene (2022) 16″x24″ Digital print on archival paper.

My great grandmother (b. 1918) was known as Nene or Moye Nene, which is Malay for grandmother or great-grandmother.While their home predominantly conversed in Malay to everyone including the cats, having been educated in the Tamil medium, she would primarily read and write in Tamil. Gundul as a script was already disappearing and Sri Lankan Malays would choose the written scripts of English, Sinhala and Tamil to express themselves. 

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