Prominent Early Twentieth Century Singapore Malay Periodicals and Key Individuals

The Singapore-Malaysia Collection at NUS Libraries is home to many bibliographical treasures. Many do not know we have publications by journalists, editors, and prolific writers active during the first half of the twentieth century in Singapore. It was during this time that discourse on Malay identity and nationalism became particularly rife. The steady stream of queries, from within and beyond the NUS community, on vernacular periodicals and materials associated with these individuals and their writings, highlights an interest in this area. We would therefore like to share and showcase what we have in our collection. In particular, we would like to highlight some key Malay periodicals that were published before Singapore’s independence. 

In 1875, the first Malay-language newspaperJawi Peranakan, was published in Singapore. Various other Malay newspapers sprang into existence after, with varying frequencies and lifespans. The very first to be wholly owned, managed, and financed by Malays was the Utusan Melayu, which ran from 1939-1942. The Japanese Occupation later incapacitated the whole network of these Malay newspapers.  

These periodicals indicate the contemporary social and political thought of the time. While there are other periodicals, this project places emphasis on key newspapers. Individuals linked to these periodicals are also highlighted, together with their writings in our Singapore-Malaysia Collection. Abdul Rahim Kajai, one of the editors, prefaced his anthology of short stories, Pesaka Kajai, with this Malay idiom: 

Harimau mati meninggalkan belanggajah mati meninggalkan gadingmanusia mati meninggalkan nama[The dead tiger leaves its stripes, the dead elephant leaves its ivory, the dead human leaves its name] 

This essentially encapsulates the idea that a person will be remembered by his deeds after his demise. Like how the anthology seeks to immortalise the author’s ideas in those stories, we hope that the thoughts in the writings of these prolific individuals continue to live on and illuminate us. 

The Key Pre-independence Malay Periodicals project was created using NUS Libraries’ Digital Scholarship Portal.  

Screenshot of the list of Malay periodicals included in the project

Gephi was used to create a network graph to visualise the relationships among the authors and periodicals. 

Network graph of Malay newspapers and individuals

combination of Mapbox and Glitch was used for the scrollytelling format for authors’ biographies. 

Al-Syed Sheikh bin Ahmad al-Hadi’s biography visualised in a scrollytelling format

Lastly, a fully responsive and interactive timeline was designed in pure HTML and CSS.  

Head on over to the project page and hover over the individual newspaper titles to see which key individuals contributed to them

All in all, we aimed to present information about the key pre-independence Malay periodicals in an accessible and interactive online format. To check out the project, please go to

For more enquiries on Area studies, please contact Nur Diyana. If you wish to explore creating an interactive web exhibit or any digital scholarship/digital humanities related project, please contact the Digital Scholarship Team. 

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