This film is part of Free

Malay States

Silent, pre-World War Two documentary recording the people, landscapes and industries of the Federated Malay States, (1895-1946), which were to become modern-day Malaysia in 1963.

Documentary 1939 12 mins Silent


‘Malay States’ provides a British pre-war perspective on life in the Malaysian archipelago. Sections include ‘Life in a Malay Village’, ‘On the Way to School’, ‘En route for Malacca’ (by train), ‘The Sea Front, Malacca’, ‘A Tamil Child’, ‘Burmese Women’, ‘The Fisherfolk of Malay’, ‘Kuala Lumpur’, ‘The Travellers Palm’, ‘The Harbour, Penang’ ‘A Mohammedan Mosque’ and ‘Sacred Turtles in the Ayer Itam Temple’.

This film focuses on architecture: from the vernacular fishing village ‘Kampongs’ built on wooden stilts to aid ventilation and reduce flooding, to the colonial Portuguese and Dutch building styles, as seen in Malacca and Penang. As a British crown colony, the film documents the British-inspired architecture of Kuala Lumpur, including British architect Arthur Bennison Hubback’s design for the Kuala Lumpur railway station which was completed in 1910. In the district of Ayer Itam we see the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia, Kek Lok Si, which includes a sacred turtle pond as a method of spiritual liberation.