Traditional Malay Games

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In Malay culture, there are five types of traditional games that have garnered quite a following. These games stand out in terms of their history, characteristics and playing style. Let’s take a look.

Kites (Wau)
Besides being one of the oldest traditional games in the Malay culture, the practice of kite flying is also one of the most popular. Kites, called waus were carefully designed and came in various colours and patterns. Most kites had details such as floral cutouts and bright paper tassels. Each kite was quite large in size as well, measuring at least 1.5 metres by 1.7 metres. It is called wau because the shape of its wing is similar to an Arabic letter that is pronounced as “wow”. Initially flown by padi farmers after the harvesting season, the sport has become an international event. Wau festivals are organized each year and draw participants from as far away as the Netherlands, Japan, Germany, Belgium, and Singapore.

Sepak Takraw
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Sepak Takraw is one of Malaysia’s most popular sports. In a game reminiscent of hackey-sack (or some say it may have originated from it), players use heels, soles, in-steps, thighs, shoulders and heads–everything but hands–to keep a small rattan ball made of bamboo aloft. Sepak Takraw is further divided into two types; bulatan(circle) and jaring(net). In the former, players form a circle and try to keep the ball in the air for as long as possible while in the latter, which is also the more modern version, the ball is passed across a court over a high net.

Congkak
Congkak is a mancala game that is popular in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. The game is played on a Congkak board in which there are fourteen holes in two sets of seven, plus an additional store for each player. Each player controls the seven holes on their sides of the board, and their score is the number of seeds in their left-hand store. The objective of the game is to capture more seeds than one’s opponent.

Five Stones
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Also known as knucklebones, the game of five stones has been around for so long that it is hard to pinpoint when it first began. Played with five small triangular cloth bags filled with seeds, rice or sand, two or more players take turns to catch and throw stones, earning points in the process. The aim is to score as many points as possible.

Top Spinning (Gasing)
The art of top spinning or gasing requires strength, coordination and skill. The top is set spinning by unwinding a length of rope that is skillfully wound around the craved wooden top by throwing it onto the ground. The objective of the game is to keep the top spinning for as long as possible starting from the ground and eventually on to a small flat wooden base. In competitions, opponents strike each other’s top and try to hit them out of the game. This game is popular even with very young children.

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