Enquiry about object: 5401

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Large Malay Silver Water Container (Kendi)

Malay People, Riau or Malay Peninsula
circa 1900

height: 27.5cm, width: 25cm, weight: 479g



private collection, UK.

This large vessel of hammered and chased silver alloy sheet was used by the Islamic Malay peoples of the Malay peninsula, Singapore and Riau in Sumatra to hold drinking water. Being of silver, it might have been kept for important ritual events such as weddings.

The shape of the body is based on the flattened and gadrooned shape of a pumpkin or gourd, dried versions of which originally were used to hold water. The vessel has a round neck, a thin spout and a ring foot.

Both the neck and the spout are fitted with covers, which accords with Islamic preoccupations for hygiene and cleanliness. Both covers are secured with a fine silver chain.

The kendi is very light for its size. This is typical of this type of Malay silverwork, whereby the largest possible vessel has been made from a given quantity of silver. It fits in with the need to make the most ostentatious display as possible at a public event such as a wedding despite limited means.

The vessel itself is in fine condition. It is impressive, sculptural and has much presence.


Brinkgreve, F,. & R. Sulistianingsih (eds), Sumatra: Crossroads of Cultures, KITLV Press, 2009.

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