Runtik Binti Murtono: Urut Lady

Trading Stories

2 min read
Trading Stories Overview

This story was first published in Trading Stories: Conversations with Six Pioneering Tradesmen at National Museum of Singapore that was exhibited from 15 March till 23 June 2013.

Runtik Binti Murtono - Urut Lady

Since moving to Singapore in 1994, Ibu Tutik’s work as an Urut Lady has helped her support her family in Singapore as well as in Surabaya. Demand for her services was particularly high in the Chinese Dragon year of 2012. That year alone, she took care of 600 new mummies. Ibu Tutik enjoys her work and is happy that at 52 years old she is still strong and able to continue working.

Urut Lady - Trading Stories: Conversations with Six Pioneering Tradesmen

In the past, maternity clinics and modern hospitals were hard to come by. Many women thus relied on the skills of a bidan or Malay midwife, who drew upon her knowledge of traditional post-natal rituals to help ease the discomfort of new mothers.

One of the skills wielded by a bidan to restore new mothers to health and shapeliness is urut, or traditional massage techniques. The practice of post-natal jamu massages and benkung has its origins in Indian Ayurvedic traditions, which spread to Southeast Asia via Java. Rarely captured in writing, the art of the bidan was handed down orally from mother to daughter over generations, and each family of healers would maintain their secret techniques and mixes for the poultice of jamu.

To this day, urut remains a popular treatment during the confinement period. One of the leading practitioners of this craft is 53-year-old Madam Runtia Binte Murtono, also known as Ibu Tutik to her clients. She has been massaging and “wrapping” new mothers back to health and shapeliness for more than 35 years. Born in Indonesia to a family of traditional midwives and jamu healers, Ibu Tutik trained under her mother. In 1994 Ibu Tutik came to Singapore, where she began to earn a living as an Urut Lady, making house calls to all corners of the island from her home in Sengkang. She counts mothers of many races amongst her clients.

Educators Guide & Activity Sheet

About the Exhibition

Trading Stories: Conversations with Six Pioneering Tradesmen draws on firsthand accounts of six tradesmen and community contributions to provide fresh insights on old trades of Singapore. In spotlighting the lives of six individuals and placing their contemporary accounts at the heart of storytelling, the exhibition's approach presents old trades as practiced and the tradesman's story as a history of negotiating change in modern Singapore.

A community exhibition presented by the National Heritage Board, Trading Stories also showcases the memories, personal photographs and memorabilia of Singaporeans who have come together to contribute their stories. This exhibition is as much a tribute to the fortitude and entrepreneurial courage of Singapore's older workforce, as it is an acknowledging nod to the many experiences and voices that make up the fabric of the Singapore Story.