This is the second of a two-part article on the Demang Abdul Ghani Gallery in Merlimau, which used to be the ancestral home of the descendants of the village headman who built the house 187 years ago. The first part appeared on Dec 25.
MELAKA: Melaka is known for the unique and traditional architecture of its Malay kampung houses.
These wooden houses are a symbol of the skills and expertise of the artisans who lived there long ago.
It is also said that the architectural beauty of Melaka’s traditional Malay houses symbolised its owner’s status, character and identity while also conforming to factors such as the environment, customs, beliefs and appreciation of Islam.
Among the architectural gems is the 187-year-old house in Merlimau, Jasin, which was turned into a gallery in 2011 by Melaka Museum Corporation (Perzim).
Art aficionados will likely need hours to peruse the intricacy of its craftsmanship and artworks.
The house, which has national heritage status, had served as the ancestral home of the family of a village demang (headman) named Abdul Ghani Abdul Majid, who was said to have built it in 1831.
Perzim curator Fadhilah Md Saleh said the house was known as Rumah Penghulu Md Nattar (House of Headman Md Nattar) when the National Heritage Department stepped in to carry out restoration work at the house in 2008, which cost an estimated RM2mil.
After the restoration work was completed, she said, Perzim took over the house with the permission of the family that owned it for the purpose of converting it into a gallery.
“The family requested that we name it Demang Abdul Ghani Gallery since Abdul Ghani was the original owner of the premises while Md Nattar was his son,” added Fadhilah, who is also the general manager of Perzim.
She said although Perzim has taken over the traditional building and made it a tourism product, the house and the 0.4-hectare land it is located on still belongs to Demang Abdul Ghani’s family.
According to her, it was Demang Abdul Ghani’s grandson Prof Dr Noor Hassim Ismail, a lecturer at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia's Faculty of Medicine, who played a significant role in uniting the family and convincing them to allow Perzim to convert the house into a gallery.
“As noted by the family, their house has been in good condition ever since Perzim took over. In fact, we have no objections should any family member want to use the house to hold an event or function,” she said.
Fadhilah also said that the Melaka government, National Heritage Department and Perzim had campaigned hard to get the federal government to declare Demang Abdul Ghani’s house as a national heritage because they viewed it as a treasure of great historical value that deserved to be preserved for future generations.
Their efforts paid off on Oct 17, when the house was declared as a national heritage by the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry.
“The recognition was something we all really wanted as it fosters the spirit of statehood and nationality.
“It also gives us an advantage in terms of preserving the house and enhancing its tourism potential," Fadhilah said.
Between January and November this year, a total of 1,227 tourists visited the Demang Abdul Ghani Gallery, she added.
She also said the awarding of the national heritage status was a step forward in the state’s efforts to eventually get the house recognised as a world heritage by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.
The beauty of the Demang Abdul Ghani Gallery is not only attracting tourists, but also newlyweds, fashion designers and models who use it as a location for photo shoots.
Perzim operations assistant Khairul Amri Ismail, who is in charge of Demang Abdul Ghani Gallery, said: “They like to come here to take pictures as the house reminds them of a classic palace.
“Among the favourite locations for photo shoots are the front portion of the house and the ‘throne’ in the main section of the house.
“There was one occasion when two or three couples came at the same time to take photographs,” said Khairul Amri, who has been taking care of the house since Dec 24, 2011.
He said the gallery was also frequently visited by school and university students who wished to do reference work for their assignments.
Demang Abdul Ghani’s house is divided into six portions, namely the meeting hall, verandah, the main section of the house, master bedroom, centre section of the house and kitchen.
The gallery is open daily from 9am to 5.30pm.
Tickets are priced at RM3 for adults and RM1 for children below 12. — Bernama