SOAS University of London

Brunei Gallery, SOAS University of London

Spirit of Wood

An Exhibition of Malay Woodcarving

January 19th - March 19th 2004

Malay Woodcarving is one of the oldest traditional Malay arts. It's fragile nature, and the destructive climate of Malaysia has ensured that little remains today from its early beginnings. In 2000 Nik Rashiddin Nik Hussein, Malaysia's foremost master woodcarver,and a small group of concerned people in Malaysia believed that it was in danger of becoming a dying art and organised a small exhibition in Kuala Lumpur to publicise the beauty, the history and the philosophy behind Malay woodcarving in the hope of instigating a reaction.

They put forward the premise that Malay woodcarving has a distinct regional style, which owes its origin and composition to its varied cultural and religious backgrounds. This is taken for granted in the context of today's multicultural Malaysia, but the specific nature of these cultural strands tends to become increasingly blurred when one goes back into history. Facts and extant artifacts are few; however legends and myths remain, and also and of far greater value, traditions and motifs.

This exhibition, now greatly enlarged, has been developed through the knowledge of, and with artefacts drawn from the collections of Nik Rashiddin Nik Hussein and his protégé, Norhaiza Noordin. Tragically Nik Rashiddin recently, and most unexpectedly, died after a short illness. His loss makes it all the more imperative to document and showcase his knowledge and work.

Arising from the first exhibition in 2000, with its associated publications and workshops, further research into the background and origins of this art has been stimulated, and already an incipient vitality is apparent.

Look here for some sample images. There are lectures accompanying this exhibition.

For further information visit

Before coming to London the exhibition will be shown at the Asian Civilisation Museum Singapore.

 in its new premises at Empress Palace from the 4th September until 28th November 2003. And on leaving London it will be shown at the National Museum in Kuala Lumpur from mid 2004.