Of decorum and respect: Invitation to King’s installation ceremony steeped in tradition

admin admin | 07-10 16:10

KUALA LUMPUR, July 10 — With the final preparations underway for the installation of His Majesty Sultan Ibrahim as the 17th King of Malaysia on July 20, every effort is being taken to ensure the warkah persilaan or instrument of invitation is presented to the Malay Rulers decorously and in a manner befitting royalty.

The tradition of handing over invitations to the Rulers, state Governors and Yang di-Pertua Negeri to grace the installation ceremony dates back to 1957 when Tuanku Abdul Rahman Ibni Al-Marhum Tuanku Muhammad was installed as the first Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

Presented with decorum

Grand Chamberlain of Istana Negara (Datuk Paduka Maharaja Lela) Datuk Azuan Effendy Zairakithnaini said each invitation — its text, in Bahasa Melayu, handwritten in calligraphic Jawi script — is rolled up and inserted in a cylindrical-shaped case.

The delegation entrusted with the responsibility of delivering the royal invitations comprises Communications Minister Fahmi Fadzil, who is also chairman of the special committee for events in conjunction with the King’s installation; Azuan Effendy as the representative of Istana Negara; Keeper of the Rulers’ Seal Tan Sri Syed Danial Syed Ahmad; senior deputy secretary-general at the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Awang Alik Jeman; and the Malaysian government’s chief protocol officer Datuk Rozainor Ramli.

"We strive to the best of our ability to present ourselves before the Rulers with full decorum and respect and present the instrument of invitation to them with all due ceremonial customs,” Azuan Effendy told Bernama.

He said the cases bearing the invitations for the Malay Rulers are coated in gold, while the ones for the Governors and Yang di-Pertua Negeri are silver-coated.

The message on the invitation uses the refined court language used by royalty, emphasising respect for sultans older than the King and employing honorifics for the younger rulers.

A total of 16 instruments of invitation have been presented, with the last one delivered to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim on July 5. The invitations were also presented to the Sultan of Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah and the King of Bahrain Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.

Calligrapher Abdul Baki Abu Bakar (left) and Chief coordinator of the Pahang Calligraphy Academy at Yayasan Pahang Khairi Izat Amir Mohd Izam show the invitation letter for the Installation Ceremony of Sultan Ibrahim as the 17th Yang di-Pertuan Agong. — Bernama pic

Meanwhile, Abdul Baki Abu Bakar, 50, one of the two calligraphers involved in creating the calligraphic texts for the invitations, said several types of calligraphic script, including Nasakh, Thuluth and Muhaqqaq, were employed to produce a neat, balanced and easy-to-read text written in Jawi.

"Before embarking on the writing process, we discussed with the palace representatives the types of calligraphy we were going to use. I also spoke about the calligraphy commonly used by calligraphers in Malaysia,” he said.

Elaborating on the calligraphy for the invitations to the installation ceremony of the 17th King of Malaysia, Abdul Baki told Bernama the verse from the Al-Quran featured at the top of each invitation is written in the Thuluth script, which has a slight flourish.

"For the main text, we leaned more towards Nasakh, which is the script usually used by calligraphers in this country as it is simpler and easier to read,” he said, adding for an instrument of invitation like this, "We usually start with the Basmalah and a verse from the Al-Quran, followed by the main text of the invitation inviting the sultan or ruler to the installation ceremony of Sultan Ibrahim.”

Abdul Baki, who is from Sik, Kedah, said although he has over 30 years of experience in the field of calligraphy, the task of producing the calligraphic text for the invitations was not a walk in the park for him.

Not only was the process time-consuming, but he also had to ensure the pen and ink were appropriate and suitable for the specific type of calligraphic script he was using. He also had to determine a nib size that was appropriate for the text’s length and the space allocated to it.

"We were provided with special paper from Istana Negara (for the invitations). Although this is the fourth time I was entrusted with the job of writing the calligraphic text on the invitations to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong's installation ceremony, I still needed to find the right rhythm to complete them.

"It took me more than a day to complete just one (invitation). The challenge was that the text must fit the given space. For instance, writing the titles for a sultan or ruler requires ample space due to the numerous titles and honours they have received including from foreign countries. Therefore, we need a large space to accommodate all these titles,” he said, adding he used the old Jawi script for the calligraphic text.

The interesting part was that Abdul Baki also managed to transcribe the English-language royal honours into Jawi calligraphy.

He added that to perfect the Jawi calligraphy for the invitations, he first drafted the text using a pencil before rewriting it with a calligraphy pen.

Chief coordinator of the Pahang Calligraphy Academy at Yayasan Pahang Khairi Izat Amir Mohd Izam shares his experience in producing the calligraphic text for the invitation to the King’s installation ceremony. — Bernama pic

Calligraphic art

For Khairi Izat Amir Mohd Izam, 31, chief coordinator of the Pahang Calligraphy Academy at Yayasan Pahang, it was a new experience altogether as it was the first time he was involved in producing the calligraphic text for the invitation to the King’s installation ceremony.

Describing the task entrusted to him as a huge responsibility, he admitted he was "somewhat slow” as he had to ensure the correct amount of ink was used and that the ink did not spill onto the paper.

He said he could not afford to make any mistake as the paper used was of high quality and had specific designs printed on it.

According to Khairi Izat Amir, the paper’s characteristics did pose a challenge for him.

"Some types of paper are suitable for printing but may not be ideal for handwritten scripts,” he said, adding, "(In the case of the paper used for the invitations to the 17th King of Malaysia’s installation ceremony) the surface was not smooth, which made it more challenging for the text to be handwritten.”

He also said the content of the invitations for the rulers also varied especially in terms of the titles and honorifics.

"For example, if the invitation was for a sultan younger than Sultan Ibrahim, then we used ‘Paduka Adinda’; if older, ‘Paduka Kekanda’ was used. So, we had to be aware of all these details and write carefully to avoid mistakes,” he said.

He also said he referred to the works of calligraphy experts, including Abdul Baki, in the use of the Jawi script for writing the titles and honours of the sultans.

Khairi Izat Amir also pointed to how crucial it was to prepare a draft of the invitation first.

"Even the slightest mistake would have required us to rewrite the invitation. It took me more than two days to complete an invitation.

"Since the work had to be done with precision and I had to be focused, I chose to do the writing at night when it was quieter,” he said, adding he did the calligraphic text for eight invitations with the remaining eight completed by Abdul Baki.

Calligraphy tools

Khairi Izat Amir also said besides having the knowledge, experience and skills related to calligraphy, the tools used to create calligraphic works are also crucial in determining their neatness and beauty. The use of the right technique plays an important part as well.

"If we talk about Jawi calligraphy, everyone can do it ... but not everyone knows the correct techniques and basic methods of writing. These techniques need to be understood and they actually take years to learn.

"Apart from the writing style, the tools we use also play an important role in calligraphy. It depends on the type of pen we use, that is, whether it’s made of bamboo, wood or metal, as well as the size of the nib and the ink used,” he said.

Khairi Izat Amir said with regard to the instrument of invitation, he felt more comfortable using a metal pen, which he finds easier to use as it is less prone to dulling and produces neater writing.

He said some calligraphers, mainly Al-Quran writers, prefer to use the stem of the resam plant — a common species of fern — as a pen.

"For resam stem pens, the pen has to be sharpened according to the desired shape or nib size. As for the metal pen that I use, I cut its nib using a special cutter to get the width I want,” he said.

He added he used a nib that was around 0.8 millimetres wide to create the text for the King’s installation ceremony.

"Using a bigger nib than that would have produced larger and thicker letters,” he said.

In terms of the ink used, he said most calligraphers prefer to use ink imported from countries like Japan or Germany as it is considered more suitable and of higher quality.

"Calligraphers have their own identity. Besides knowledge, skills and experience, the calligraphy they create also depends on what they are comfortable with, including the tools they use,” he said.

He added, "... and if you look closely, there are differences in the style or flourish (of the calligraphic text) on the invitations (to the installation ceremony of the 17th King of Malaysia) done by me and Abdul Baki, even though we used the same techniques and basic writing methods.” — Bernama

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