Moving house, the communal way

John Bunyan
Foreign students from Universiti Teknologi Petronas and Universiti Sultan Azlan Shah carrying the wooden house in Kampung Labu Kubong, Lubuk Merbau, Kuala Kangsar. ― Pictures by Perak Today

KUALA KANGSAR, July 21 — It was a tradition for the Malay community in villages to move wooden houses — literally by lifting and carrying the structures.

However, this tradition has long been forgotten and is rarely practised by the current generation.

To relive the tradition, a group of villagers from Kampung Labu Kubong, Lubuk Merbau in Kuala Kangsar, and university students joined hands to move an old wooden house for about 150 metres last Saturday.

Meor Samsudin Abu Hassan, 60, one of the organisers of the Lifting and Carrying Wooden House programme, said the activity was held to allow the younger generation experience the tradition.

“The last time I witnessed a wooden house being lifted and carried was in the 1960s.

Nowadays, this tradition is not practised as most of the houses are made from bricks,” he said.

“The house was abandoned for about 20 years and we decided to turn it into a gallery as we rarely see this kind of traditional houses anymore.

“The initial plan was to deconstruct the house and rebuild it in a new place, but some of the villagers suggested we move it using the traditional way.”

Meor Samsudin said the idea of turning the house into a gallery came after several foreigners, who visited the village, wanted to see the architecture of old houses.

The programme was an initiative by the Kampung Labu Kubong Homestay operators and Adventure360 Tour Sdn Bhd. 

Meor Samsudin, who is the coordinator for Kampung Labu Kubong Homestay, said he sought the owner’s permission and moved the house with the help of 150 people, including students and villagers.

Among them, were students from Universiti Teknologi Petronas, Universiti Sultan Azlan Shah and also tahfiz students from Patani, Thailand.

Villagers and university students join hands to relive the tradition of moving a wooden house in Kampung Labu Kubong, Lubuk Merbau, Kuala Kangsar.

Meor Samsudin also said the university students included those from Nigeria and Pakistan.

It took them about five hours to move the house, which weighs about six tonnes (6,000 kilogrammes).

“We started about 9.30am and only finished at 2pm. It was not easy to move the house through the paddy fields,” he said. 

Meor Samsudin said they used bamboo and pinang trunks to lash them onto the house’s beams to carry structure.

“The items in the house were cleared and we also removed the kitchen and veranda to make the lifting easier.”

Meor said the house is about 80 years old and can last another 100 years if it is taken care of.

“The house is made of solid wood. We won’t do much renovation as we want to preserve its original state as much as possible,” he said.

“Once simple restoration works are completed, it will be turned into a gallery exhibiting traditional clothes and musical instruments. People who visit the house will not only see the structure, but also other traditional items.”

He added that the reason why the Malays had the tradition of moving the house back in the day was because they wanted to live close to their friends and family.

“In those days, friendship among villagers were like a family bond.

“If a person became close to another, they would move their houses nearer and live together. Similarly, when marriages took place, the bride and bridegroom’s family will move their houses nearer to the couple.”