Tin miner’s rice bowl


I was browsing in an antique shop in Penang and saw a stack of these bowls. The pleasant and informative shop assistant told me they were given to individual tin miners for their rice ration. Each had a different pattern and many of them were etched with the name of the owner on the inside. The Kinta Valley in Perak (the state in which we live) was the centre of the Malayan tin mining industry from the end of the 19th century.‘Perak’ means ‘silver’ so it is possible that the area was named after the silvery colour of the tin. I bought this particular bowl because I liked the decoration, it has a faint mark on the inside signifying whose bowl it was and we live close to the area where the tin miner who used the bowl may have worked. It is a lovely object. Today’s workers in Perak eat their lunches out of polystyrene containers, which you then see lying in piles of litter wherever you go. That doesn’t seem like progress to me!

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