26 June 2014: Gedung Kuning & The Mango Tree

As the past grows evermore remote, one once again remembers the places where one played as a child.

Gedung KuningNothing could be more devastating than losing one’s home, even for a noble cause. Even worse is when the stories and life experiences cultivated through generations is consigned to the doldrums of human memory. Gedung Kuning: Memories of a Malay Childhood and The Mango Tree are the collected memoirs of Hidayah Amin, who grew up in a historical landmark in Singapore. Her story spans four generations, starting with her great-great grandfather’s arrival from Solo, Java and his son, an entrepreneur and a philanthropist who divided his time between his tali pinggang (money belt) and songkok (fez) business, the Muslim community and family. The Yellow Mansion acquired its name from the regal colour of its walls, chosen by a Johorean prince. Lives and activities within the mansion’s walls produced 28 fascinating, inspiring and anecdotal stories of six families, involving Malay culture, Muslim obligations and festivals, kinfolk, ghosts, spells and schooling. But more than just another memoir, Gedung Kuning: Memories of a Malay Childhood captures in a microcosm the lifestyles of Singapore’s Malays from the previous two centuries. The mansion was acquired by the government via the Land Acquisition Act in August 1999 and is now preserved as a historic building under the Malay Heritage Centre.

Reading Gedung Kuning was for me like opening … a treasure box, where, to my delight, I found long, long lost memories of my life as a young boy growing up in Bedok in the 1960s.

Sabri Zain, archivist, Sejarah Melayu portal

The story itself is well told and is an interesting piece of Singapore family history, the more so as the family involved is Malay. I think it will become increasingly important as a source for the history of Kampong Glam as the years go by.

Prof John Bastin

Mango TreeThe Mango Tree is the richly illustrated companion piece to Gedung Kuning. Early on in the memoirs, we learn that the writer’s birth was a cause for celebration, and to mark the occasion, a mango seed was planted by her grandmother. The tree sprouted into a huge tree heavy with sweet, plump fruit, which were affectionately called ‘Cik Idah’s mangoes’ and shared among friend’s and neighbours. Growing up together, it was inevitable that a ‘spiritual bond’ formed between tree and owner, and these moments form the basis of the stories in The Mango Tree. Despite promises to maintain it, the mango tree was felled in 2012 and with it also went the silent witness of a child’s fond memories of growing up. The Mango Tree is suitable for all ages.