Asia Pacific Region is the home of ancient civilisations
in a vast geographical area with a staggering diversity
of flora and fauna, races, languages and cultural expressions.
From time immemorial, the people of this region have
lived with nature and a vast variety of trees, plants
and herbs have been venerated for their therapeutic
and medicinal properties. Amongst these plants and herbs,
Naga Vallari or Tambool is special
and distinctive. The leaf of this creeper is known in
most parts of South Asia and South East Asia. It has
generated a whole culture of social behavior at different
levels of society from the humblest to the most powerful,
the rich and the poor, the unsophisticated and the sophisticated.
It has permeated the lifestyle of practically all groups.
In turn, it has inspired a variety of craft traditions
in different materials. The leaf and its condiments
and serving methods constitute an important aspect of
the distinctive artistic traditions of the countries
of the Asia Pacific Region. The betel leaf or the paan
has been responsible for the beautiful innovative crafting
of functional objects of great beauty.
The custom of
"Tambool" exchange and chewing betel nuts
and leaves is practised all over the Asia Pacific Region.
Hence the theme of "Tambool" was chosen for
the exhibition of "Betal Nut and Leaf Accessories"
that was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, at the National
Museum from 24th January to 2nd February, 2000. This
exhibition was held jointly by the Crafts Council of
Malaysia and the Crafts Council of India under the aegis
of the Indian High Commission in Malaysia to celebrate
50 years of the Indian Republic.
covered six aspects of crafts from India and displayed
typical products under each of the categories, which
included the art of marble inlay stonework, metal products
in silver, copper and brass, wood and wood inlay, embroidery
work and floor covering. The displayed products were
all with specific relevance to "sirih pinang"
or the "tambool" tradition.
A special focus of the exhibition was the collection
of betel nut boxes the "Tepak Sirih" in the
National Museum's collection.
the various crafts, the exhibition covered a wide range
of products, made from distant past till today, by craftspersons
who with special skills and sense of asethetics developed
specific products like special trays, bowls and boxes,
nut-crackers, grinding stones, spittoons etc. to cater
to the needs of this market. Today, new applications
of these traditional crafts are being continued.
As an extension
of the exhibition, an insight into the beliefs and practices
associated with the "Sirih Pinang" tradition,
a Curator's Forum was held on 29th January 2000. In
the sharing of experiences, the important role of this
tradition and its significance in India as well as in
Malaysia was discussed.