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Fieldwork in Malaysia

“Halal” Intimacy: Love, Marriage & Polygamy in Contemporary Malaysia

Man & Wife (Nurul Huda Mohd Razif, 2017)Here Comes the Bride & Groom (Nurul Huda Mohd Razif, 2017)Raja Sehari (King[s] for a Day) (Nurul Huda Mohd Razif, 2017)My research explores how Malays’ experiences of love culminate into marriages — both monogamous and polygamous. Some of these marriages were highly scandalous or entirely undisclosed affairs contracted through elopements to Southern Thailand, usually without parental consent. Marriages contracted with the full blessing of both the bride and groom’s families on the other hand were celebrated as befitting this joyous occasion: wedding gifts (“hantaran”) were exchanged, elaborate receptions were arranged, and the bride and groom indulged in the pleasure of celebrating their union with friends and family. This series of pictures capture the nikah (solemnisation) ceremony of a young Malay couple just about to embark on a conjugal journey for the first time.

From top right:

Man & Wife: After the nikah (solemnisation), the bride kisses the groom's hand as a sign of respect, and the groom kisses the bride’s forehead as a sign of his protection over her. These affectionate physical gestures signify to the public that as husband and wife, such expressions of intimacy are now “halal” (permissible). In the background, wedding gifts exchanged between the bride and groom are showcased for all to see.

Here Comes the Bride & Groom: The groom’s entourage arrive with the bride and the groom for the wedding reception at the bride’s family’s house in Sabak Bernam, Selangor.

Raja Sehari (King[s] for a Day): The bride and groom pose for wedding portraits on the pelamin — an elaborately decorated “throne" where the bride and groom sit as family members and guests pay their respect and well wishes to the newlyweds.