Exhibited at the National Museum of Singapore
A Southeast Asian Folktale Reimagined
With AI Image Synthesis Software
A gifted palace gardener, Hitam Manis, falls in love with a prince.
The tale of Hitam Manis and the Tualang Bees originated from the honey hunters of Kedah, Malaysia.
Hitam Manis means “sweet darkness" in Malay and Bahasa Indonesia.
This is the honey hunters' name for the Asian Giant Honey Bee or Apis Dorsata F. one of the largest honey bee species native to South East Asia.
Today, we know Apis Dorsata F. exhibit patterns of nest recognition, which means they do return to the same nesting sites post migration.
While modern honey harvesting methods utilise metal equipment for efficiency, we are reminded to be critical of any overexploitation of a natural resource.
Deforestation, rapid urbanisation, and climate change have continued to threaten regional and local populations of native honey bees. Bees rely on foraging from hectares of rainforests to produce honey.
The majestic Tualang trees have a protected status amongst locals and the felling of these trees for timber is highly taboo, particularly as rainforest honey is a highly valuable and precious crop.
In certain regions, individual trees are owned by families and inherited through matrilineal succession.
Regional names of the ‘bee trees’:
* Tualang (Malaysia, Singapore)
* Sialang (Indonesia)
* Tapang (Iban peoples, Sarawak)
* Tanying (Berawan peoples, Sarawak)
* Mangaris (Sabah)
* Bangris (Kalimantan)
OF NATURE, CULTURE AND ART
The Hitam Manis story has its roots in Kedah, Malaysia.
Story Inspired by
Heidi Shamsuddin, ‘Hitam Manis & the Tualang Bees', Nusantara - A Sea of Tales
Hasnoor Hussain, ‘Honey Hunters of Ulu Muda'
The synthesised images in this film have been created by training on selected datasets with permission from the
‘Collection of Asian Civilisations Museum',
'Collection of the Peranakan Museum',
'Collection of the National Museum of Singapore, National Heritage Board.
Gift of Mr. G. K. Goh.’
BEYOND THE WALLS