Games and Pastimes
Experience the Expressions of Community
Malaysians' strong sense of community is reflected in many of their traditional games and pastimes. These activities are still played by local children on cool afternoons and are also a communal activity during festivities such as before or after the rice harvest season and weddings.
This fascinating Malay martial arts is also an international sport and traditional dance form. Existing in the Malay Archipelago for centuries, it has mesmerising fluid movements that are used to dazzle opponents. It is believed that practising silat will increase one's spiritual strength in accordance with Islamic tenets. Accompanied by drums and gongs, this ancient art is popularly performed at Malay weddings and cultural festivals.
Also known as sepak raga, it is a traditional ball game in which a ball, made by weaving strips of buluh or bamboo, is passed about using any part of the body except the lower arms and hands. There are two main types of sepak takraw: bulatan (circle) and jaring (net). Sepak raga bulatan is the original form in which players form a circle and try to keep the ball in the air for as long as possible. Sepak takraw jaring is the modern version in which the ball is passed across a court over a high net.
A wau is a traditional kite that is especially popular in the state of Kelantan, on the East Coast of Malaysia. Traditionally flown after the rice harvest season, these giant kites are often as big as a man - measuring about 3.5 metres from head to tail. It is called wau because its shape is similar to the Arabic letter that is pronounced as 'wow'. With vibrant colours and patterns based on local floral and fauna, these kites are truly splendid sights.
A gasing is a giant spinning top that weighs approximately 5kg or 10lbs and may be as large as a dinner plate. Traditionally played before the rice harvest season, this game requires strength, co-ordination and skill. The top is set spinning by unfurling a rope that has been wound around it. Then it is scooped off the ground, whilst still spinning, using a wooden bat with a centre slit and transferred onto a low post with a metal receptacle. If expertly hurled, it can spin for up to 2 hours.
Wayang kulit is a traditional theatre form that brings together the playfulness of a puppet show, and the elusive quality and charming simplicity of a shadow play. The flat two-dimensional puppets are intricately carved, then painted by hand. It is either made of cow or buffalo hide. Each puppet, a stylised exaggeration of the human shape, is given a distinctive appearance and not unlike its string puppet cousins, has jointed "arms". Conducted by a singular master storyteller called Tok Dalang, wayang kulit usually dramatises ancient Indian epics.
Congkak is a game of mathematics played by womenfolk in ancient times that only required dug out holes in the earth and tamarind seeds. Today, it is an oval solid wood block with two rows of five, seven, or nine holes and two large holes at both ends called "home". Congkak, played with shells, marbles, pebbles or tamarind seeds, requires two players.
Sepak manggis is a unique outdoor game played by the Bajau and Iranun men of Sabah. Forming a circle and facing each other, players aim to strike the bunga manggis floral carrier that dangles from a 10-metre high pole. The winner will be rewarded with money, gifts or edibles, which are in the carrier.