For the love of antique tableware

Lyna Mohammad

It was a pleasant surprise to discover in Brunei Darussalam collectors passionate about corralling tableware from the yesteryears.

Haji Yahya bin Haji Abdul Rahman, whose wife is an avid collector, shared that the true allure in collecting tableware is being able to see the intricate designs married with the right combination of colours.

What is interesting is that these old plates dish up childhood memories; his collection used to be what the family reserved for special occasions.

His wife, Hajah Mardinah binti Haji Sulaiman’s passion for collecting antique tableware was ignited 15 years ago. Throwing his full support behind her, Haji Yahya began meeting collectors (mostly from social media platforms) and formed a circle of friends and relatives to help with networking. Gradually he too began to develop an interest in the hobby.

“There were not many collectors in Brunei who seriously pursued this hobby. So I expanded my network to neighbouring countries like Malaysia and Indonesia. We usually just share our collections, purchase and exchange with one another,” he said.

Haji Yahya and Hajah Mardinah with the almost 60-year-old childhood collection. PHOTOS: LNYA MOHAMAD

The greatest satisfaction comes when the couple is able to obtain an entire series and display it, such as their ‘Bunga Kangkung’ and ‘Dumex’ tableware collections.

The tableware, primarily carrying flower-based motifs, come from both local and foreign collectors. Some of the items are obtained through social media platforms, where antique shop vendors and enthusiasts display selections for sale or exchange.

Among the many collections the couple have are several prized ones, such as the very much intact mini cups and saucers set Hajah Mardinah received as a gift from her parents as a child.

Another treasured collection is a set of plates that goes back long before Hajah Mardinah was born, passed down from her great grandparents.

“This set means a lot to us not only because of its age and uniqueness, but because it was used by my great grandparents. The motifs on the set are coming back in trend, as companies are looking into designs from many years ago to incorporate into more contemporary ones.”

Haji Yahya and Hajah Mardinah take great pride in their collections, proudly displaying them in cabinets in their living and dining rooms for families and friends to see.

“Most of them are in awe of our collections; some shared their personal experiences using similar tableware when they were younger, while others have contributed to our collections. I plan to build a gallery to help the younger generations see and create more memories for them, especially my grandchildren. I would like to share with them how my passion has helped fill my time and bridge the generation gap,” Haji Yahya said.

The couple is pleased that their children and spouses share interest in their passion, and hope that they too will help pass on the hobby the next generation.

Insya Allah, we hope to broaden our network to Europe, someday. We would love to have collections from there. Currently we are also looking into extending our network of collectors to keep our circle growing, especially here in Brunei,” they added.