Permanent exhibition launched at NIE library for Malay literary icon

SINGAPORE – A permanent exhibition has been launched for Dr Muhammad Ariff Ahmad, who is regarded as the father of Malay language, literature and culture in Singapore.

Known affectionately as Cikgu or teacher, he died in 2016.

The National Institute of Education (NIE), an autonomous institute of Nanyang Technological University (NTU), launched the Dr Muhammad Ariff Ahmad Research and Resource Hub (MAS [email protected]) on Wednesday (March 31) at the NIE library.

President Halimah Yacob, who was the guest of honour at the ceremony, said: “The late Dr Muhammad Ariff Ahmad deserves to be given our highest honour. He contributed extensively to the Malay language and literature. In addition, Cikgu Ariff also played a significant role in Singapore’s nation building, performing pivotal roles in many relevant councils and advisory committees at community and national levels.”

Dr Ariff, a former lecturer at the Teachers’ Training College and Institute of Education from 1959 to 1979, was a “Pendeta” (Sage), an honorific title conferred on only three individuals throughout the Malay world. He received the title in October 1999 from Majlis Pusat Singapore, a non-profit organisation synonymous with the Malay community in the Republic.

He also had a hand in Singapore’s National Anthem, helping late composer Zubir Said craft the lyrics.

Dr Ariff’s other achievements included being the first winner of the Tun Seri Lanang Award in 1993 and receiving the Cultural Medallion, Singapore’s highest literary honour, in 1987.

The hub at NIE, which took seven years to complete, features Dr Ariff’s writings on Malay language and culture which NIE said will be useful and relevant for teachers and curriculum developers.

Associate Professor Hadijah Rahmat, head of Asian languages and cultures academic group at NIE, who spearheaded the hub, said: “We are hopeful that this exhibition will continue to inspire more literary enthusiasts, educators and researchers from Singapore, South-east Asia and globally, to dive into flourishing Malay literacy and culture.”

Some of the resources available include Dr Ariff’s bibliography, which contains over 600 references to works by and about him and over 400 manuscripts which include his unpublished works. The resources are available online to make it more accessible locally and internationally. Dr Ariff’s family donated the manuscripts and an additional 150 books written by him and other authors to the hub.

Visitors will also learn about his early life, career and contributions through his personal artefacts and memorabilia on display.

There are also workshops and learning activities related to the hub’s resources for primary and secondary school students as well as educators.

Dr Ariff’s daughter, Madam Shahrulbariah, who is teaching English and mathematics at Anderson Primary school, said: “My late father always said that his work would be appreciated and shared one day. It is coming true in front of my eyes. I hope these resources will be well used by current educators so that the Malay language will continue to prosper.”

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