The filmmaker Mahen Bala witnessed a very rare traditional ceremony in the state of Negeri Sembilan, a Malay customary law that favours women’s right to property.
It’s a joyous occasion where two young girls are ceremoniously adopted into a clan with no female descendants, thus inheriting also their properties, names and titles.
There’s a real communal and celebratory feel to the occasion, as even the elders of the village were looking forward to it. Even the 80-yr old he met had not experienced this ceremony in his lifetime!
Mahen says: “While the men are encouraged to venture the world and seek a fortune and as such, women are expected to stay at home and be responsible of the family.
“This matriarchal tradition guarantees that the females, in the event of any misfortune, at the very minimum will have a piece of land and a house to live in.”
This custom has been practised before Islam came to Peninsular Malaysia. The traditions of “Adat Pepatih” are still practised in modern day Malaysia, specifically in the state of Negeri Sembilan and the district of Naning in Melaka. Malay societies in other states adhere to the customs of “Adat Temenggung”, where inheritance is passed down from father to son.
Mahen is a filmmaker, photographer, researcher, and writer. This short film was nominated for the Best Short Documentary Award at the 4th Malaysian Documentary Competition.