PETALING JAYA: A local brand synonymous with jewellery is treading uncharted waters – earlier this month, the Habib group, founded by Habib Mohamad in 1958, unveiled Harta Space, a venue dedicated to promoting Malaysian heritage and art.
Located between the Habib II showroom in Ampang Point and its offices on the upper floors, this formerly unused 8,030-sq-ft premises has been transformed into a gallery, jewellery museum, and café under the guidance of Harta director Mirsham Meer.
Speaking with FMT Lifestyle at the launch of Harta Space recently, Mirsham – who is the grandson of the company’s founder – shared that the idea for this project and its execution astonishingly came together within just three months, “including renovations”.
“The whole idea of Harta – which stands for Habib: Action for the Revival of our Traditions and Arts – is to allow people to learn about and develop an appreciation for Malaysian jewellery and heritage,” he said.
“Similarly with the gallery, we want to promote Malaysian artists and provide them with exposure, while educating and engaging with a younger generation of Malaysians.”
To that end, Harta’s jewellery museum examines the evolution and tradition of Peranakan ornamentation and fashion through a collection amassed by the family over 65 years.
Curated by a team of experts, the museum plays host to traditional kebaya outfits and more than 800 jewellery pieces, some of which date back to the 1800s!
Indeed, the museum – which is open to the public for free – showcases the finest pieces of Chinese, Chitty and Jawi Peranakan heritage and the stories behind their motifs and materials.
“We’re not a space that’s reserved for enthusiasts or those who are already in the scene,” Mirsham explained. “It’s aimed more at those who may be curious about, or who might not have even thought of, heritage jewellery.”
To cater to the layperson, the descriptions and information are “not overly academic or complex”, he said, adding that the onsite café is another way to make visitors, especially young people, feel welcome in this space.
“Guests may come for the coffee but could, out of curiosity, walk through the museum or gallery. That’s why the café is designed as such – it’s odd, quirky and bright.”
Meanwhile, in conjunction with the launch, the gallery presents “Open House”, featuring the works of 16 local artists including James Seet, Nadirah Zakariya, Azzah Sultan and Ahmad Zakii Anwar, and curated by Aminah Ibrahim.
The exhibition is segregated into domestic spaces, such as the kitchen, the garden, and the bedroom. In the living space, artist Chong Yan Chuah examines the future of such spaces through a simulated reality.
Inspired by homes he has lived in in the past, visitors can interact with his work “Bloody Memories” through a console game of his own devising, as well as pictures hanging on the gallery walls.
Meanwhile, over in the garden, things get more political with the works of Sabahan artist Yee I-Lann, best known for her utilitarian “Tanah & Air” tikar series.
Here, she explores bioregionalism – the belief that human activity should be largely governed by ecological or geographical boundaries, such as rivers or deserts, rather than political ones – through her “&” series.
“Open House” runs until Nov 12.
Mirsham revealed that in the near future, he aims to hold more exhibitions, as well as artist talks and workshops, in Harta Space.
As for the long-term, he hopes to collaborate with international galleries to bring Malaysian art abroad, and perhaps even showcase the family’s impressive collection of heritage jewellery overseas.
Harta Space (above Habib II)
Level 1, Ampang Point,
93-95 Lorong Mamanda 2,
68000 Ampang, Selangor
Business hours: 10am-5pm, Tuesdays to Sundays