” The Jawi Peranakan of Penang can be considered the earliest community of town or urban Malays when their migrant Indian Muslim forefathers established a trading community in George Town in the mid 18th century.The alternative term by which they are known, Jawi Pekan (town Malays) and its use in the British census categories from 1881 to 1911 bears testimony to a formal recognition of this status. The indigenous Malays of the time were found in the hinterland and were mainly occupied with farming activities. Historically, these differences in demographic and occupational distribution brought about early differences not only in the socio-economic and educational development of these communities (see Chapter Two) but also in the development of their mind and personality.

Most of the second and third generation Penang Jawi Peranakan today were brought up in the urban environment of George Town in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s where they attended English schools and interacted with teachers and peers from different ethnic backgrounds. They had to compete openly and cooperate with one another in their academic work and co-curricular activities as well as sporting interests. Outside of the school in the multi-ethnic environment of Penang there were plenty of opportunities for socialising with the other races. In Kuala Lumpur where many of them migrated, these conditions are replicated in their work place and in their areas of residence. This generally unrestrictive urban environment has nurtured a personality that is outgoing, friendly and sociable, personality traits which are typical of the Jawi Peranakan of Penang. A general observation is that they are socially adaptable and accomodating. They are usually confident and uninhibited in a social setting and try hard to fit in at whatever level of society. They appear to have no hang-ups about their social abilities and have a high self esteem. Their social ease is greatly aided by the fact that they are ready talkers and eloquent speakers, expressing themselves directly and openly.

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A socially hesitant and reticent Jawi Peranakan would be challenged to forge ahead with the metaphor  ” Tak ada hidungkah?” (Don’t you have a nose (confidence)?). For this the more verbose among them have earned the reputation of being brash, abrasive and pushy – negative traits which are discouraged in the traditional Malay metaphor hidung tak mancung pipi tersorong-sorong ( pushing their cheeks ahead of their flat noses), which has the effect of restraining initiative and drive.”



7 Responses to “”

  1. June 21, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    this is interesting. I know many jawi pekan who refer to themselves as mamak(correct me if m wrong tho). I ve never heard of the jawi pekan altho my late dad is from penang. bt now I know:)

    I do doubt tho that the jawi pekan have different characteristics from native Malays simply cos they lived in towns. Put a Malay ina town n he will stil be meek, ‘humble’, gullible, naive and lack confidence. not forgetting maintaining his unshakable belief in the supernatural bomoh (did u read about teh Malay Malaysians in the UK who are being fooled by the spirited pisang bomoh duo?) i almost cried reading that.

    Have u ever wondered too about the way we use the suffix ‘kan’. As k the man on teh street for his opinion and he will give one , he will make a statement, bashfully, and then add the dreaded ‘kan’at the end signaling his search for approval, his unsureness about what he just said.

    Have u ever wondered why we needed the ‘malaysia boleh’ slogan as a nation for years to give us the spirit that we didnt /dont have inside of us/ of our minds?

    have u ever wondered why we cant ever be consistent and maintain our achievements in sports and athletics at an international level? we lack teh spirit n the will and in one particular sepak takraw match with a neighboring country a few years ago the Malaysian team were busy doing the doa before each session while their opponents we busy limbering up forthe big win. And win they did.

    I often ask myself why…and its often tht i put it down tothe Malaysian Malay culture and upbringing at home. We are obsessed with being humble cos humble is ‘good’, we are obsessed with being always reticent n not to ‘tunjuk pandai’, not to b too forward,..to the point of being meek, gullible , bashful always, and as a result completely lacking the confidence n spirit to compete…in short we become lazy …Or have we always been lazy?this is very much the chicken n the egg.

    I say Malaysian Mlay cos the Indonesians, our Mlay cousins are so completely different. They are fighters, they are articulate and htey dont have the’humble’ obsession that we have over here.

    or perhaps we have had it too easy, historically, economically, politically.

    I cld go on and on but one thing is for sure…that is, we, as we are now, do not/will not a great people/nation make.the change begins inside of us. our mindset needs a complete upheaval and overhaul. and the sooner we realize that the better for us, our children and our country.I doubt that i will live tosee that happen but I hope tt we as parents have created Malaysian Malays wiht new mindsets who will live to something worth seeing in their lifetime.

  2. 2 ol' zai
    June 21, 2009 at 11:43 pm

    Good show Ninitalk..! What better way to engage your readers to the appeal of “Images of the Jawi Peranakan of Penang” than to highlight a facet of their arresting mind and personality through the passage lifted from the book!

    For me, your posting immediately evokes memories of the images of contextual events, the kaleidoscope of unforgettable moments, the ‘agony and ecstasy’ we went through in our joint endeavour, in our labour of love for the people and community we belong to (me, by birth, and you, by long-standing conjugal affiliation)..!

    Yes, traditions and values die hard among the Jawi Peranakan (JP), as we have well observed. Despite social, cultural and marital assimiation, the people still cling on dearly to their own cultural traits and behaviour through a process of enculturation, where values and beliefs are consciously handed down by parents and grandparents. Sure, these inherited values and more pronounced traits of ethnic and genetic characteristics from their forefathers are still maintained and perpetuated today, especially in offspring of endogamous marriages, i.e. matrimonial union between members of the same JP community.

    As is evident from the analysis, the historical, socio-cultural and educational background of the JPs have determined their ethos, their distinct traits and atitudes, their mind and personality. As a group of people, they are indeed dynamic, possess great social and communicative skills and they know little restraint in their quest for attention, recognition, success, fame and fortune!! They penetrate social and business circles relatively easily; they have the facility to confer and convince through their linguistic abilities and mental agilities! They can be resilient and accommodating, liberal and pragmatic, extroverted and gregarious as the situation demands.. in their inter-personal overtures and posturing for opportunities and favours.. 😉

    Obviously by dint of their personality traits, others in the larger Malay community, and even in the other ethnic groups, would perceive them to be brash and brazen, artful and crafty, loud and aggressive, self-confident and self-conceited, overbearing and arrogant..!

    Having said all that, I objectively am of the opinion that there’s much for the rest of us to learn from the attributes of the JP and emulate them. Love the JPs or hate them, they have proven to succeed in business,in the corporate world and in politics through sheer grit and determination, courage and confidence, tenacity and perseverence! These are the traits and qualities we would like to see instilled in our young people within the larger Malay community, as well as in the future generation of Malaysians, so that together they will be empowered to stay competitive and be armed with the survival skills so vital in our resolve to confront the challenges of the times ahead..!

    BTW, Ninitalk, I love the picture of the JP ‘kutom’ extended family you posted! :-))

  3. 3 ninitalk
    June 22, 2009 at 8:41 am

    ZURIN – yes “mamak” is the colloquial, all-encompassing term used to refer to the Jawi Peranakan/ Pekan as well as the authentic Indian Muslims (who do not marry Malays of other backgrounds). Restaurants run by Indian Muslims are referred to as “kedai mamak”.

    Socio-linguistically “mamak” is a Tamil kinship word meaning “uncle” but adopted as a colloquial term of address for Indian Muslim men as in “mamak roti”. It became a popular term to refer to descendents of Indian Muslim/ Malay families thus “mamak (male) and (mami) Pulau Pinang”

    Living in the urban areas alone does not open up our minds and personalities as we can see in the Kampung Kerinci,Kampung Pandan, Sungei Besi and Puchong enclaves.Malaysian students who live in their own small communities abroad remain under their “tempurung”. The key words are EDUCATION and EXPOSURE! INTERACTION and COMMUNICATION!

    The early Penang JP were in open competition with the Chinese, Indians, Eurasian and Europeans in education and in business. It was meritocracy or die! Thus the dynamism!

    This is what the Malays must do now! Interact, communicate and compete, to build up their confidence and other strengths! Take multiculturalism to the rural Malays! Educate Educate Educate! Expose Expose Expose!

    I’ll give you a copy of the book published by UPSI after a 2 year research. Let’s have coffee!

  4. 4 ninitalk
    June 22, 2009 at 9:04 am

    OL’ ZAI – yes, wasn’t it a great labour of love to write about the people and the community who are closest to us!

    I must admit the sojourn was easy and hard at the same time! Easy, because we know them so well. You – a subjective true-blue JP and a veritable mami Pulau Pinang at that. Me – an objective associate MP of close to 40 decades. The book is as balanced as it can possibly be!

    Having seen them through their joys and sorrows, their ploys and antics, their communications and interactions through the years qualifies us to be the informed researchers and writers that we claim to be. Besides, our library research was extensive and intensive as was the interviews and visits!

    BUT the thrust of the book IMAGES OF THE JAWI PERANAKAN OF PENANG is to describe a group of Malays and to understand the conditions (historical, socio-cultural, economic) that make them what they are. They are distinctive because of their own unique experiences!

    So it is with the other groups – the Kelantan Malays, the Johor Malays, the Negeri Sembilan Malays etc. Apart from the special dialect or loghat of these areas, there are socio-cultural practices in adat and adab that are distinctive. I can think of istana rituals and the appointment of chiefs and chieftains in Negeri Sembilan and Perak.

    The Penang JP have been spared the constraints and restraints of feudalistic practises which make other Malays indirect, segan silu and malu. Thus they have to hide their true feelings behind pantun and seloka, sindir menyindir! The stuff of our next book perhaps!

    PS – your family features outstandingly in the photo! Dear Mami Che Jah!

  5. June 23, 2009 at 9:30 am

    Yes ..let’s have coffee! m free in the afternoons mostly. n u?

  6. 6 ninitalk
    June 23, 2009 at 9:40 am

    Yes – afternoon tea/ coffee will be nice next week. Will call or email OK.

  7. 7 ninitalk
    June 23, 2009 at 9:53 am

    OL’ZAI – “Me – an objective associate JP of close to 4 decades…”

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