"Kemunting: a journey"-Malay identity in pre- and post- independence Singapore
Muhammad Hidhir Md Razak
Date of Issue2018-01-16
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
Kemunting follows a young village girl, Yah, living on the rural beaches of 1950s Malacca. Based on my own ancestral village, Padang Kemunting (Kemunting Field in Malay) is the village where the novel's events play out. The Malay name for the rose myrtle, "kemunting" refers to the shrubs commonly found growing wild along the sandy stretches of the seaside where Yah spends most of her days. A hardy species, it is often treated as an invasive plant capable of altering ecosystems of foreign habitats but for the village children of Padang Kemunting where the plant is native, its bright flowers and soft, sweet fruit makes it a beloved part of their everyday life. As a novel, Kemunting fills a void in Singapore literature in English, being one of the few works written by a Malay writer to represent the Malay experience of the 1950s and 1960s in the English language. Historical novels dealing with the postcolonial realities of self-rule feature prominently in the Singapore literary canon. However, a diversity of perspectives is needed to avoid a truncated view of Singapore’s history. Kemunting adds to that diversity.