This kendi is a particularly fine example of Malay brassware cast using the lost wax process. It has a ‘flying saucer’ type body, a tall baluster-form neck cast with a broad collar and a spout also cast with a prominent collar.
It is decorated with intricate leafy floral borders and a broad band of triangular stylised bamboo shoots (pucuk rebung)filled with floral motifs separated by raised triangular nodes. Pucuk rebung motifs are an identifying characteristic of Malay brassware. They are also commonly used in Malay textile design and woodwork.
Related examples are in the collections of the National Museum of Singapore and the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia and are illustrated in Singh (1985, p. 24), and Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia (2005, p. 203).
Vessels such as this example were cast by matrilneal Muslim Minangkabau brass casters either in Sumatra or possibly on the Malay Peninsula. They were made for Malay clients and were used to hold and serve drinking water. The neck functions as the handle allowing the spout to be brought up to near the mouth and for the water to be poured into the mouth. Water storage vessels were important among the Malays – drinking water tended not to be boiled first but allowed to stand for a few days. Allowing the water to stand was felt to purify it. Certainly it allowed any sediment to settle.
This example is in excellent condition. It is among the best examples of this type that we have seen.
Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, The Message and the Monsoon: Islamic Art of Southeast Asia, IAMM Publications, 2005.
Singh, B., Malay Brassware, National Museum of Singapore, 1985.