Review of 2013 NADGE Works, Projects and Achievements

January 7th, 2014 Comments Off Posted in BlogoNadge

A Busy and Productive 2013 for NADGE

The year 2013 saw a sharp increase in the volume of research and writing works or contracts as well as invitations to give talks or lectures and for symposia and conference participation by NADGE, and charitable contributions on the side.

Besides those, the Academy also continues with its own research on issues of the history, archaeology, development, geocultural syntheses and ethnolinguistic links of the entire Malay Archipelago or Nusantara.

NADGE also even attended various international fairs for promotion of its varied but especially ethnolinguistic or translation and writing services, such as at MIPTV in Cannes, France from 7th to 10th April 2013 – particularly to bridge between the Malay World and the rest of the international media scene, including our culture and heritage.

The Academy’s key findings especially on Heritage Conservation were delivered at the ‘Le Vie dei Mercanti; XI Forum Internazionale di Studi‘ held jointly at the campus of the Universita’ in Aversa, Naples and on the resort island of Capri in Italy on 13th to 15th June 2013. In line with the Conference’s theme of Heritage, Architecture, Landesign – Focus on Conservation, Regeneration, Innovation, the Paper presented from NADGE was titled “Southeast Asia’s Heritage at the Cross-roads – How to Reconcile Tradition and Modernity Within Competing Constraints“. Judging from the many participants who came after to ask questions and discuss the issues further, the Paper was an active success. NADGE also had the distinction of being the only Southeast Asian presence in the entire Conference.

It is easy to academically reconcile Traditions with Modernity, but practically it becomes almost impossibly difficult when competing constraints including Economic pressure, Socio-Communal differences or Political opportunism and especially the Human Factors (Sentiment, Perception) all come in –  at least not without some strong political will, and forget about pleasing everyone.

The research case of the Kampung Bharu Malay village enclave within the city centre of Malaysia’s fast-growing capital Kuala Lumpur was a case in point.

Besides over twenty other localised lectures or at least invited talks on various Heritage, Culture or Tourism issues around Malaysia, NADGE was also invited to give a key presentation on Architectural Heritage at the ‘Sharing Art and Religiosity’ Seminar (Sarasehan ‘Srawung Seni dan Ketuhanan’) held at the State Institute of Islamic Studies or IAIN in Surakarta, also known as Solo city, Indonesia, from 7th to 9th September 2013.

The title there was “The Evolution of Mosque Art and Architecture in the Malay World“. NADGE’s Director and Presenter was incidentally the only representation from Malaysia in the whole sarasehan. The presentation, delivered in Bahasa Indonesia, shared with the mixed Indonesian and Indonesian-speaking foreigners in the audience an insight on the way that mosques in the Malay Archipelago have undergone a high level of influence and transformation; in many respects altering and even losing a certain amount of the traditional tropical-friendly Nusantara style of multi-tiered pyramidal roof structures that once dominated domestic mosque architecture.

Old Bumbung Tumpang type mosque in Perak, Malaysia - environment-friendly style yet dying out

Old 'Bumbung Tumpang' type mosque, Perak, Malaysia; environment-friendly style yet dying out

This is a pity as instead of taking advantage of the locally wise designs and to also develop it further for even ‘export’, the region has been inundated with various Islamic style influences from the Middle East and the Indian sub-continent especially Mughal (or Moghul) Islamic India with its onion-shaped domes/cupolas and chatris. Worse, this is then called Moorish, confusing it with the different Islamic style of the ‘Moors’ of Andalucia (Muslim Spain) and Muslim western Africa (Morocco, hence ‘Moorish’).

NADGE has a long way ahead to help change perceptions that what is local is not good enough, and that we should rely on our own ingenuity to holistically advance, beginning with appreciating our own regional, tropical and local cultural legacies – such as these Bumbung Meru or Bumbung Tumpang pyramidal roofs.

In fact, 2013 also saw the Academy’s sigh of relief as our quiet but active efforts to educate especially Indonesians bore some positive outcome about the validly shared ethno-cultural heritage of the entire Malay World of the Nusantara; be it not just Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines but also southern Thailand, Cambodian Cham and across to the Polynesians – that it is something to be cherished, not falsely accused of ‘mencuri budaya‘ that benefits no-one except the perpetrators and detractors of the shared strength of our Nusantara and Malayo-Polynesian heritage.

NADGE Research Sheds Light on Our Genetic Diversity

August 28th, 2009 Comments Off Posted in BlogoNadge, Geocultures

Studies of human DNA have found genetic changes or mutations over time that are distinct to certain groups of people. These distinctions are found in the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA, passed down continuously only from mother to daughters) as well as Y chromosomes (which are passed down only from fathers down the male line).

Both Y chromosome and mtDNA types become genetic markers that enable human gene mapping of migrations and dispersal of human populations over time and place, through respectively male or female lines.

When these related genetic lines of human movement are plotted on a world map, they show the migration patterns through both male and female lines around the world. The distinct DNA markers are clear enough to show individual charting of male and female genetic movement of related peoples, going back 100,000 years to the earliest known human origins in eastern Africa.

What has been surprising in these mappings is, why are there differences between the movement of men’s and women’s genetic markers, sometimes quite disparately? (Fig.1)

Fig.1 Map of Y Chromosome (blue) and mtDNA (yellow) migration routes @Dr. Spencer Wells

Fig.1 Map of Y Chromosome (blue) and mtDNA (yellow) migration routes @Dr. Spencer Wells

The challenge to find the answer to this question was taken up by the Nusantara Academy of Development, Geocultures and Ethnolinguistics (NADGE), an independent research academy based in Malaysia and Indonesia. NADGE had in fact been doing its own studies of ethnic origins and population relationships among the Southeast-Asia/Pacific’s native Malayo-Polynesian peoples.

Observations during NADGE’s research show that there are at least two reasons why the migration charts of female genetic markers differ from that of males.

One reason, which in retrospect seems so obvious, is that male and female children of any given father and mother do not always migrate in the same direction.

NADGE Director and Lead Researcher A. Najib Ariffin explains, “A brother and a sister, each carrying the group’s paternal Y chromosome and maternal mtDNA respectively, may move in completely opposite directions and pass their genes along different routes.”

“So this male and female sibling separation rather than moving together,” Najib adds, “is one clear explanation of the dichotomy between men’s and women’s genetic marker distributions around the world.” He calls this the Male-Female Sibling Separation theory.

The other reason is less immediately obvious, but just as important and was discovered by Najib himself. It is basically that male and female mating partners may change within a lifetime of each man or woman.

Thus after having children with one mate, a man or woman may then have other children with another mate in another place, whose children will later migrate in directions other than that of the first half-siblings, whether male or female. This also contributes to the disparate migration routes between the genetic markers of the two genders. Najib names this the Polyparental Dispersion theory.

This observation began from Najib’s own family history, where both his native ethnic Malayo-Indonesian grandfathers had more than one wife each while his maternal grandmother was a member of the Qing imperial family of faraway China. This resulted in a widely spread family with a mix of several male and female genetic markers.

Najib even expands this mating partner observation, as follows, “In fact, the change of mating partners opens up at least two other lines of scientific enquiry; one in human genetic diversity, the other in social anthropology.”

“The first issue is, with the large number of possible DNA marker configurations between different male or female siblings of more than one shared father or mother, it is surprising that human genetic route differences are not even more convoluted than we can see on the human genome map.”


A. Najib Ariffin speaking in a TV documentary.

The other line of enquiry arising from this observation is the question of prehistoric human mating patterns and even marriage existence and its patterns then.

Najib explains, “In more recent human sociological history, we are used to the idea of the married father and mother family unit.”

“But thousands or more likely tens of thousands of years ago, we know little of how developed was this ‘pairing’ concept and practice in prehistoric society, and thus how it would have affected the differences in genetic movements of and between human population groups.” Najib is in fact interested to do more research into this aspect of human evolutionary history.

“All we do know,” Najib expounds, “is that there must have been persons who had children with more than just one partner, as people still do today, resulting in more genetic route diversity and cross-mixing.” He adds, “This multiple pairing could have been voluntary, or forced by separation through natural incidences such as death, disasters or even getting lost while searching for food, or forced as in abductions and taken to other places.”

Whatever it is, these explanations have helped to answer and even expand the matter of why there were baffling differences between the movements of male and female genetic markers in the great ancient human migration routes.

Najib’s research at NADGE on these issues is continuing and would be submitted to Malaysia’s National Science Academy as well as other scientific researchers for review.

Malaysian authorities are hopeful that more research such as these could one day lead to the nation’s first Nobel Prize nomination, especially in the Sciences.

Puteri Santubong – Mythical Princess of Sarawak

August 16th, 2009 Comments Off Posted in Ethnolinguistics, Geocultures

A tour guiding & research trip to Sarawak brings back this perennial tale.  By A. Najib Ariffin

Great view of Mount Santubong outline from Bako National Park.

Great view of Mount Santubong outline from Taman Negara Bako main beach. Foto Nadge

In the Damai area not far from Kuching, the bustling state capital of Sarawak, lies a set of picturesque low mountains. An even better view can be found from Bako National Park, where from the beach on a clear day the profile of Gunung or Mount Santubong looks like a pregnant lady lying on the horizon. This is the abode of Puteri Santubong, the mythical Princess of yore. There are a few versions of this ancient legend, and here is told the popular general version. More »

Observational Poem of Life

July 30th, 2009 Comments Off Posted in BlogoNadge, Ethnolinguistics

If you seek wealth, you only feel heat;
If you seek power, you only face hate;
If you seek women, you only flow hard;
But you would not get the richness, the respect or the roaring orgasm that you really sought.


Salams from Jakarta, Indonesia on the Day of the Bombs

July 17th, 2009 Comments Off Posted in BlogoNadge, Development
Today Friday 17 July was a sad day in Jakarta. I woke up this morning to the sound of explosions at several points in the city, especially two prominent hotels, the Ritz Carlton and JW Marriott (this poor hotel was already greatly damaged in an earlier bomb in 2003). Luckily I had long passed by the Ritz Carlton and as my taxi drove by it, I was just thinking “wouldn’t it be nice to be able to stay in a luxury place like this”. Well, fate (of course for us Muslims, this automatically means God) knew better for me.
A view of Jakarta from Masjid Albina

View of Jakarta from Masjid Albina. Photo Nadge

For us Architects and builders who work so hard to raise these bombed buildings, this thought came to mind: “It takes so much time, thought and toil to build something, and it takes just a moment of madness to destroy everything.”
As of the time of writing, no perpetrator was known yet. If it was Muslim, rest assured they were operating well outside the teachings of Islam as also pointed out in the Imam’s khutbah (sermon) during today’s Friday prayers that I attended in Jakarta, as well as in all mosques across this vast nation of 17,000 islands. Or it may have been quietly perpetrated by others.
In any case, all my IMS meetings in the end were postponed due to the situation, even the big modern malls were fairly quiet. But life must go on, and by and large with only some exceptions, Indonesia’s 240 million are a very, very patient and tolerant people.
Glad to visit Institut Teknologi Bandung

Glad to visit Inst. Teknologi Bandung, and famed Aula buildings of 'Indies' Nusantara inspiration.

I’m glad to mention that the day before, Thursday, I was in the pretty hill city of Bandung, and visited the prestigious Institut Teknologi Bandung, Faculty of Architecture. For our UPM FRSB staff and students, you’ll remember many months back we had a Design Series Lecture where ITB’s Senior Lecturer, Prof. Dr. Ir. Rini Raksadjaya gave a good talk on Nusantara Architecture & Landscape, showing us a key feature: that in the traditional Malayo-Indonesian manner, indoor and outdoor is married together – very environment friendly architecture.
I met Dr. Ibu Rini, who sends her salam to all at UPM FRSB, especially to the Head, Assoc. Prof. Ar. Meor Fared, also staff and students who attended her lecture. ITB has a beautiful campus, with iconic tropical Nusantara style modernised architecture that is immediately recognisable. I also met other Architecture Faculty members: Pak Indra, Pak Firman, Pak Bambang (famous for his research and work on mosques across Indonesia) and Pak Budi who kindly showed me around campus including the famous Aula Timur & Barat halls as well as Masjid Salman, one of the first Indonesian mosques to break away from conventional ‘Islamic’ styles, alluding to hands cupped upward in do’a.
Masjid Salman, named by Pres. Sukarno after the Prophet's companion Salman Al-Farisi

Masjid Salman, named by Pres.Sukarno after the Prophet's sahabah S. Al-Farisi Photo by Nadge

It would have been a totally great visit if not for the unfortunate bombs. May the bombers be punished, but life must go on. And my UPM students don’t forget to attend the Green Revolution lecture on Monday; remember how I was pressing on environment consciousness in my class lectures too…  Salam sejahtera. Najib-

School of Kings, King of Schools

June 11th, 2009 Comments Off Posted in Geocultures

The Malay College Kuala Kangsar, Perak

It is not just any school.

Nestled in one of the most scenic and heritage-filled settings of Perak, indeed of all Malaysia, is a fully residential secondary school that is unique not only to the country but it could be said, even to the world.

MCKK, as the college’s acronym is now long known, would in turn bring worldwide fame to the charming, quiet hamlet where it was born.

The Big School - photo by Nadge

The Big School - photo by Nadge

Kuala Kangsar was already a royal town of Perak state when at the start of the 20th Century, the 28th Sultan of Perak, Sultan Idris Murshidul Azam Shah (1849-1916), began calling for an exclusive school to be set up to educate children of the local elite. Even at the 2nd Conference of Rulers in Kuala Lumpur in July 1903, the Sultan had criticized the discrimination in British education policy for, in his words, “…producing better Malay farmers and fishermen only…”

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Pekan, Pahang- Heritage & Architecture study trip

March 9th, 2009 Comments Off Posted in BlogoNadge, Geocultures

A serene Royal Town well worth preserving for its history and for tourism

Pahang’s Royal Town of Pekan is located near the mouth of the Pahang River, about 50km south of the state capital Kuantan. It is an attractive place of valuable and interesting heritage such as picturesque Malay villages, pretty mosques and of course the old and new royal palaces as well as an excellent state museum. Interesting activities abound including the traditional ‘tenun Pahang’ hand-woven cloths as well as local lifestyle homestays, fishing and taking nature or heritage trails.

Kampung Budaya Pulau Keladi cultural complex houses traditional Pahang structures and the ‘Tenun Pahang’ Silk Weaving Centre nearby. Photo by Nadge

Kampung Budaya Pulau Keladi cultural complex houses traditional Pahang structures and the ‘Tenun Pahang’ Silk Weaving Centre nearby. Photo by Nadge

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Matrade “Malaysia 50 Years Economic Transformation” Exhibition

December 29th, 2007 Comments Off Posted in Development

Held at the Matrade Exhibition Centre, Kuala Lumpur, Nov-Dec 2007 in conjunction with Malaysia’s 50th celebration of Independence

Malaysia is internationally regarded as one of the world’s most successful developing nations, having risen from a poor backwater ‘Third World’ country relying on raw commodities to currently one of the Top 20 trading nations with a remarkably diversified economy that has embraced globalisation while retaining its independent control.

It is indeed an example of a national economic transformation that has pulled the country away from poverty and potential strife and brought itself to an enviable level of peace, progress and prosperity. Much can be learnt from Malaysia’s 50-year experience in sustainable economic development.

This Exhibition documented the 50 years of Malaysia’s economic transformation and achievements for all to learn and appreciate.

Malaysian boy Ahmad Naeim running past the poster that starts the section on Malaysia’s professional services sectors from Construction to Oil & Gas, from ICT to Tourism management and other services.

Malaysian boy Ahmad Naeim running past the poster that starts the section on Malaysia’s professional services sectors from Construction to Oil & Gas, from ICT to Tourism management and other services.

NADGE is proud to have been engaged to provide the bulk of the research and writing as well as English-Bahasa Malaysia translations of all the Exhibition’s written material.

The Malay Wedding

December 8th, 2007 Comments Off Posted in Ethnolinguistics, Geocultures

Bersanding ceremony. Photo by Nadge

A right royal affair – That’s a Malay wedding for you. And it is literally true, as the couple is called ‘Raja Sehari‘ or ‘King and Queen for a Day’. The wedding event is a display of regal splendour in the ancient kingly tradition of the Malay World. 

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Deepa-Raya and Malay-Indian History

November 27th, 2007 Comments Off Posted in Development

[This article by A. Najib Ariffin appeared in Kuala Lumpur's YellowPost, November 2007]

Soon after Hari Raya Puasa, we have Deepavali. For the past few years this holiday season has been a special convergence – Deepavali & Aidil Fitri just weeks apart! This timing happens every about 30-odd years… Some of us may not be alive to see the next convergence (although I hope we all do, with fulfilled long lives); so let’s make the best of it. Forget the narrow-minded ones, and look broadly.

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