Published on 19 October 2017

Sirri na Pesse- Navigating Bugis Identities in Singapore

The Malay Heritage Centre (MHC) presents the heritage and culture of the little-known Bugis community in Singapore with a special exhibition.


“Sirri na Pesse: Navigating Bugis Identities in Singapore” is an exhibition solely dedicated to the Bugis community in Singapore. Named after the Bugis core values of Honour (Sirri) and Pride (Pesse), it looks at the different facets of Bugis identity, and how this Malay sub-ethnic group has developed a reputation in this region as ambitious royals, enterprising merchants and fierce warriors.

The Bugis hail from South Sulawesi, and were one of the earliest seafaring traders to Singapore. Their history is closely intertwined with Singapore’s narrative as a port city.

The MHC curators worked closely with members of the Bugis community to paint a comprehensive picture of the rich Bugis history and culture. The exhibition showcases over 40 artefacts, some of which are family heirlooms on loan from Singaporeans of Bugis descent.

There will also be multimedia and interactive installations which MHC co-created with students from Nanyang Polytechnic and Nanyang Technological University. To cater to young visitors, Playeum came on board to co-conceptualise a family and children activity space with a Bugis ship-themed installation.

This is the fourth installation of MHC’s Se Nusantara (Of the Same Archipelago) series, where the heritage and cultures various Malay sub-ethnic groups are presented with close community consultation. The previous installations featured the Bawanese, Minangkabau and Javanese communities.

“We hope to deepen the understanding of the local Malay community and encourage them to find out more about their own personal histories,” said Mr Harneis Hadir, General Manager for MHC.


The exhibition is also accompanied by a series of public programmes that will showcase the intangible culture heritage of the Bugis. Here are three which we think are worth checking out:

Screening of Calalai – ‘In-Betweeness’
Sat, 21 Oct, 8pm – 9.30pm
MHC Auditorium
Tickets at $6/pax – buy here

The Bugis people categorise people into five genders, one of which is the ‘calalai’. Indonesian filmmaker Kiki Febriyanti investigates in this film who this group of people are.

Community Talk: Modern Bugis Wedding
Sun, 22 Oct, 2pm – 4pm
MHC Auditorium
Free with registration here

Mr Ibrahim Ariff, a member of the Singapore Bugis community, will share the processes and protocols of a modern Bugis wedding practiced in South Sulawesi.

Kampong Gelam Bugis Trail
Sat, 28 Oct, 4.30pm – 5.30pm
Meeting point: Malay Heritage Centre
Tickets at $10/pax – buy here

Follow Mr Sarafian, a member of Singapore’s Bugis community, as he shows you where the Bugis community used to live in the past.

“Sirri na Pesse: Navigating Bugis Identities in Singapore” will be exhibited at the Malay Heritage Centre till 24 June 2018. Click here for more information.

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