Off Walls Off Pedestals

Rediscovering Our Own Malaysia 1: Kuala Pilah – Segamat – Bandar Muadzam Shah – Pekan (Part 2)

Posted in With Friends by tsabri on February 28, 2010

The Journey continued:

Sunday, 17th January 2010

About 0800 a.m

Sunday morning in this part of Segamat was empty. We packed our bags and equipments, checked out the Villa Hotel and searched for a local Malay breakfast_ and we found the usual nasi lemak, meehun goreng, mee goreng, lontong and the kuehs, at a roadside eating stall at the junction towards our next destination; Bandar Muadzam Shah in the district of Rompin, Pahang – some 80 km or so from Segamat.

The road was near empty with a few lorries transporting machineries and palms produce. The landscape was of oil palm plantations and secondary jungles. A quick look on the Internet:

Bandar Muadzam Shah telah dibuka pada 1979 oleh Lembaga Kemajuan Pahang Tenggara (DARA). Lembaga Kemajuan Pahang Tenggara (DARA) telah ditutup setelah lebih 25 tahun mentadbir Bandar Muadzam Shah. Penutupan DARA telah menutup ruang dan cita-cita Tun Abdul Razak untuk menjadikan Bandar Muadzam Shah sebagai sebuah bandar pendidikan yang memiliki pentadbiran sendiri seperti terciptanya Putrajaya. Kini Bandar Muadzam Shah diletakkan di bawah pentadbiran Daerah Rompin. Sebelum itu, bandar Muadzam Shah telah diletakkan di bawah daerah pentadbiran Pekan. Jika diambil kira status pembangunan dan kemajuan bandar, Bandar Muadzam Shah adalah lebih maju berbanding Rompin. Jadi kenapa Bandar Muadzam Shah tidak diletakkan di bawah pentadbiran Pekan.

Antara kemajuan Bandar Muadzam Shah yang melebihi kemajuan Rompin ialah kewujudan Hospital Besar Muadzam Shah. Muadzam Shah memiliki kesemua kemudahan awam termasuklah mahkamah, JPJ, Jabatan Polis dan Bomba, sekolah-sekolah, malah memiliki universiti bertaraf antarabangsa. Bandar Muadzam Shah memiliki wilayah pentadbiran yang besar seperti Bukit Ibam, Keratong, dan sekitarnya.

Kemajuan Bandar Muadzam Shah terus disekat dengan pembatalan projek pembinaan kilang Proton dan akhirnya telah dibina di Pekan. Pembinaan sebuah UiTM di Bandar Muadzam Shah juga telah dibatalkan walaupun tapak hutan telah diratakan dan akhirnya tapak tersebut digantikan dengan pembinaan Politeknik Muadzam Shah. Banyak usaha yang diutarakan Tun Abdul Razak semasa hayatnya tidak dapat tercapai sepenuhnya. Dalam erti kata lain, Bandar Muadzam Shah diwujudkan untuk bumiputera dan disebabkan itu juga UiTM ingin dibina oleh Tun Abdul Razak.

Semasa hayat DARA sebagai badan yang bertanggungjawab membangunkan Bandar Muadzam Shah suatu ketika dahulu, 100% penduduk Bandar Muadzam Shah adalah Melayu. Tetapi kini kemajuan tanah dan banyak syarikat di Bandar Muadzam Shah telah didominasi oleh kaum Cina.

The article from http://ms.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bandar_Muadzam_Shah above quoted displayed perhaps some uncertainties and dissatisfactions might have had occurred on the establishment and development of Bandar Muadzam Shah, which might lead to political issues rather than socio-economics concerns.

Following on Bandar Muadzam Shah is quoted from the UNITEN’s Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah Campus, http://www.uniten.edu.my/newhome/ :

Bandar Muadzam Shah is a town in Rompin, southeast Pahang, Malaysia. Located at Latitude = 3°03′ and Longitude = 103°05′, it is about 80km from the Segamat, about 140km from Kuantan and about 214km from Kuala Lumpur. It is a major stopover for travelers from northern Johore, Malacca and Negeri Sembilan who are going to East Coast.

Area Width: 316 996.5 hectares

Population: 70,000 ( 2006 )

Population Overview : Felda 59.6% / Town area 33.6% / Orang Asli village 5.5% / Malay traditional village 1.3%

Main Activities: Felda settlers, government worker, private worker, farmers

Majority: 99.9% Malay, 1% lain-lain.

Driving Distances: 3 hours drive from Kuala Lumpur, 1 hour drive from Segamat, 1 1/2 hours drive from Kuantan, 1 hour drive to Tg Gemok – to Tioman Island

And we entered Bandar Muadzam Shah at about 1030am. The town is almost empty.

Naim came across a teenager somewhere down the Dataran DARA.

‘Maseh sekolah? Tingkatan berapa?’

‘Tingkatan Lima.’

‘Ini buat apa dekat sini?’

‘Tunggu kawan.’

On his trail back to the car, Raid encountered the teenager again – this time with a girlfriend and they holding hands.

“Ni kenapa pegang-pegang ni? Tak baik.’

‘Alah, biasalah bang.’

‘Biasa?’

Empty Street

The Station Without Buses

Empty Street & The Station Without Buses on a Bandar Muadzam Shah’s Sunday

We went around the bus and taxi station. There were waiting passengers, mostly students in uniforms and a few elders. An eatery adjacent to the bus and taxi station were also filled with people, though not many and they were talking their Sunday morning away over tea and roti canai.

We approached a man in early fifties for some information about the town and its folk. He was very cooperative and very happy for an interview. He even paid Hanafiah and Naim’s tea and roti canai.

We then started towards Pekan, the Royal Town of Pahang, at about 1145 a.m. The sun was high and it was sweaty hot. The landscape was beginning more into tanah terbiar with grownup lalang and other foliages. An Internet reference followed: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pekan

Located on the banks of the Pahang River 50 km south of Kuantan, Pekan is the royal town of the Malaysian state of Pahang Darul Makmur. Its name comes from a flower, the Bunga Pekan. Pekan is also the name of the district the town is situated in, and a parliamentary constituency in its own right. It is the home of the state’s royal family headed by Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah Al-Musta’in Billah Ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Abu Bakar Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mu’adzam Shah [1]. It is also the hometown of the second Prime Minister of Malaysia Tun Abdul Razak Hussein [2]and the current Prime Minister of Malaysia, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak. Najib is also Pekan’s current Member of Parliament.

Further reference on the Majlis Daerah Pekan page, http://www.mdpekan.gov.my read:

Gelaran tua bagi negeri Pahang itu ialah Inderapura, disebut Pahang Inderapura. Bandar Dirajanya yang terkenal sampai sekarang dan ibu negeri Pahang pada zaman dahulu bernama PEKAN. Sebelum negeri Pahang ditakluk oleh Kerajaan Melayu Melaka, orang Hindu-Asli (berbahasa Sanskrit) memanggil ibu negeri Pahang itu Pura. Orang-orang Melayu ada juga menyebutnya Pura (ada tersebut dalam hikayat Sejarah Melayu 1977 : hal 73). Manakala orang melayu yang diam berhampiran dengan Sungai Endau, Sungai Rompin dan Sungai Bebar memanggilnya Pekan Pahang pula. Pada masa ini Bandar Diraja Pahang yang dinamakan Pekan itu ialah daerah-daerah yang di kiri dan kanan Sungai Pahang dan Sungai Pahang Tua hingga ke hulu had Tanjung Langgar. Bandar Pekan itu terbahagi kepada dua bahagian : Pekan Baharu dan Pekan Lama. Di Pekan Lama itulah tempat kediaman raja-raja dan orang-orang besar Pahang.

Pekan Baharu itu pada zaman dahulu kampung Cina namanya, kemudian baru disebut Pekan Baharu. (Buyung Adil, 1972 : hal 2) Bandar Pekan dikatakan wujud semenjak abad ke 17 lagi. Namun demikian, tidak ada tarikh yang pasti tentang penemuan Pekan tetapi ramai penulis samada penulis Barat, Arab atau penulis Cina menyebut dan menceritakan tentang Pekan.

Mengikut pendapat orang-orang tua, Pekan mendapat namanya dari sejenis bunga yang dipanggil Bunga Pekan yang banyak tumbuh menjalar di tebing-tebing Sungai Pahang. Bunganya berwarna putih seperti bunga Melor, namun bakanya kini sudah tiada lagi untuk dikenalkan kepada generasi sekarang dan akan datang. Di Bandar Pekan juga terdapat sebatang sungai yang digelar Sungai Pekan (berhampiran Kampung Mengkasar) tetapi tiada bukti yang menyatakan Pekan mendapat nama dari sungai ini.

About 30 kilometers towards Pekan, we stopped at a roadside stall for some refreshments, at a place called Kampong Pulau Rumput. Tall grasses and bushes seemed to be the familiars in the surrounding landscape. Men in kampong working clothes were drinking, smoking and talking. A conversation soon took place and Naim managed to get them talking about their kampong and what most of them do for a living.

Soon, familiar excuses and explanations surfaced:

  • Most young people didn’t want to do the lands. They prefer to work in towns and most have migrated to live there.
  • Inadequate monetary resources and technical assistance from responsible parties (government?) to execute projects and programs.
  • Failures of contractors and responsible parties (government?) to execute and develop projects based on local needs and resources.

And, a bitter complaint:

  • Some of the kampong folks (Malay) have been working for the Orang Asli / Asal. Orang Asal has become rich landowners and entrepreneurs because the responsible parties (government?) helped and subsidized them with many things.
  • We have tried many projects but most failed. We are willing to share, or we can agree on some kind of collaboration, perhaps we all need some kind of leadership that can bring prosperity to the kampong folks.

We started towards Pekan after about 45 minutes or so at the Kampong Pulau Rumput’s roadside stall. We saw the Sungai Pahang on the left, and the landscape started to change from deserted tanah terbiar to clusters of houses, well-made houses, on the riverbanks. An intuition of wanting to learn more about the well-made houses, after hearing the complaints and grouses of Kampong Pulau Rumput, made us to follow a kampong road going to this cluster of well-made houses, after a signboard of Kampong Pulau Rumbia.

We saw houses painted in light purple and orange, and most houses were decorated with tiles and balustrade of bright shiny colors. Asking permission for photographs was welcomed with an unfamiliar Malay dialect, and the woman of the house – she was wearing a little-finger sized golden necklace that might be near 10 thousand ringgit in value! We learned that they are the Melayu Kemboja that came from Kampuchea during the country’s political crises in the 1980s.

A Google search brought us to this blog, http://helmyzain.blogspot.com

Lebih 30 tahun yang lalu, Tanjung Agas dan kawasan pinggirnya iaitu Sekukuh didiami oleh orang Melayu tempatan. Waktu Rejim Pol Pot mengganas dan menjarah Republik Kampuchea, ramai Melayu Kemboja menjadi orang hanyut atau pelarian dan ada yang ‘terdampar’ di Tanjung Agas. Mereka berkumpul dan menetap khususnya di kawasan Sekukuh. Kala itu cukup sukar buat mereka, merempat di tanah orang dan dipandang hina oleh orang setempat.

Kesusahan adalah sekolah survival masyarakat Melayu Kemboja di kampung ini. Mereka lakukan apa sahaja yang halal untuk terus hidup, jadi nelayan, jual kain, buat ikan kering dan lain-lain. Lebih 30 tahun telah berlalu sejak mereka mula-mula ‘terdampar’ di Tanjung Agas. Percaya atau tidak, orang Melayu tempatan yang dahulunya memandang hina pada orang-orang pelarian ini masih duduk di rumah-rumah yang kian mereput dan usang, tetapi Melayu Kemboja yang berstatus penduduk tetap ini telah mampu tinggal di banglo dan ada yang memandu Toyota Estima! (kalau teman-teman tak percaya, mari ke Pekan dan PZ akan tunjukkan). Berkat usaha anak dagang, akhirnya lebih mewah daripada anak tempatan yang telah berada turun-temurun di tanah sendiri dan akhirnya ada yang makan gaji dengan anak dagang! Cukup menjengkelkan buat PZ.

Jangan ditunding pula jari menyalahkan Melayu Kemboja tersebut mengaut kekayaan di tanah orang! Itulah rezeki bagi mereka yang tidak culas dan segan berusaha. Sedang anak tempatan hanyut dibuai mimpi, rasa complacent dalam zon selesa. Jangan pula diapi-apikan pula dengki dan hasad kesumat kepada Melayu Kemboja itu! Anak tempatan juga berupaya mewah seperti mereka jika sanggup berjerih payah. Tapi berapa ramai di kalangan anak tempatan yang punya kesedaran seperti itu. Mereka datang tanpa sebarang harta dan kini berbangga dengan Estima menjalar di jalan raya, sedang anak tempatan terus berlagak Mat Rempit dalam bodoh sombongnya dengan Honda C70 tua, itu pun bukan sendiri punya, tapi dipinjam dari si bapa!

We were in a Melayu Kemboja kampong. A local Malay working with them assisted us in knowing more about them:

They were 10 siblings here, saved their earnings and managed to buy this land, 5 acres. They worked hard – breeding Ikan Patin, Udang Galah and all in cages. Some of the harvest were exported to Temerloh, supporting the Bandar Ikan Patin. Every sale, transaction, here are all I cash. See here, RM300. I just sold 5 fish. I work part-time with them.

Farms on Sungai Pahang

Fish Cage besides a Volleyball Court

Farms on Sungai Pahang. Results of the Melayu Kemboja’s entrepreneurship skills.

Fish Cage besides a Volleyball Court. The Melayu Kemboja works and plays on the Pahang riverbank.

We left the kampong wondering what’s happening with the local Malays and their tanah terbiar. Hanafiah pointed out that the Melayu Kemboja are really hardworking and support each other as proven with the establishment of a Pasar Kemboja in many parts of Peninsular Malaysia.

An example of determination and hard-work, http://mariafirdaus.blogspot.com/2009/11/potret-kejayaan-kemboja

Asalnya, anak kelahiran Praek Pra, kawasan berdekatan Phnom Penh, Kemboja ini hanya bersekolah sehingga darjah empat dan terpaksa menghabiskan usia remaja dengan menjadi buruh paksa sebelum nekad melarikan diri ke Thailand pada tahun 1980.

“Ibu selalu menangis apabila melihat saya terpaksa membanting tulang bekerja pada usia muda. Untuk mendapat wang, ia adalah sesuatu yang mustahil.

“Sebagai galakan, ibu akan membuatkan sosej daging lembu yang sedap untuk saya. Itulah ganjaran istimewa yang saya terima selepas berbulan-bulan makan kangkung rebus,” imbasnya. Tidak hairanlah pada tahun 1985, setahun selepas Hassan tiba di Malaysia di bawah program Suruhanjaya Tinggi Pertubuhan Bangsa-Bangsa Bersatu untuk Pelarian (UNHCR), nostalgia itu memberikannya satu azam untuk menjadikan sosej warisan itu sebagai punca rezekinya.

About five kilometers approaching Pekan at Kampong Pulau Keladi, we again stopped and ventured into another Melayu Kemboja kampong. The kampong is much bigger than at the Kampong Padang Rumbia, but it seems to be much earlier established. The surrounding was alive with activities. Most houses have some kind of stalls selling sundry goods and small eating stall. We stopped and have a nice Kemboja nasi goreng and somtam. And, yes – there were an Estima and other new Protons and Toyotas.

Approaching the Royal Town, we encountered the Kompleks Budaya Pulau Keladi. Thinking to see the famous weavings of Pahang we ventured to the complex. And, we found the complex was almost locked, nobody was seen around and the surrounding kampong is almost quiet – perhaps everybody went for their afternoon nap, it is a Sunday after all.

An article on a page from http://www.pahang-delights.com/famous-woven-silk ,

In fact, the village of Pulau Keladi in Bandar Diraja Pekan, located about 20 km (or 25 minutes drive from Kuantan) is the main source of Tenun Pahang Diraja, and the majority of the Pulau Keladi village folks are skilled in the manual weaving of silk threads into highly desirable quality designed silk cloth, famed all over Malaysia. It is a small cottage industry, and just like the woven silk clothes in the east coast states of Kelantan and Terengganu, they are mostly done by the womenfolk of the village.

Nestled amongst the quaint wooden houses of the village, you will find the Kompleks Budaya Pulau Keladi, (or Pulau Keladi Cultural Complex), a modern wooden-styled building opened officially in 1996 by the then Chief Minister of Pahang. This complex is not only a place showcasing Tenun Pahang Diraja fabrics and related products, it also acts as a center for training young men and women who are interested in learning the art of silk weaving that is unique to the place. This is to ensure that the art and skill of silk weaving of fabrics in the Pahang-style would be preserved and continued by the future generations.

Inside this building, there are written explanations on the various stages and processes involved in silk weaving and making. You can also find a pictorial history of silk weaving in Pahang and of the prominent personalities involved in Pahang silk weaving in the past, namely, Tuk Tuan Keraing Aji (see below) and also Puan (Mrs.) Selama binti Sulaiman. The latter, who died in 1958, was a renowned Pahang silk weaver who exhibited her beautiful products in London in the early 1950s and had won recognition and acclaim as “Tokoh Tenun Pahang” from the English government for her skills.

Besides the pictorial history and display of the beautiful and fine silk clothes made at the Complex, this is also a place where visitors can see first-hand the actual equipment used for silk weaving and closely observe the actual spinning of the silk threads and weaving of silk into the actual completed cloth by the skilled craftsmen and women.

We drove into Pekan around 0230 p.m. It was a hot afternoon. We wanted to see the Muzium Sultan Abu Bakar.

The museum displays many artifacts which are important in the state’s history and the local Malay culture. The museum was officially opened by Sultan Ahmad Shah in October 1976. It is located in the former residence of the British Resident, which was built in 1929. It was acquired by the Sultan of Pahang in 1948 and was renamed Kota Beram Palace. In 1965, the Sultan moved his residence to a new palace (the Abu Bakar Palace), where the current Royal Palace is situated.

The museum was officially opened to the public in October 1976, in conjunction with the birthday celebrations of the Sultan of Pahang. The first Chairman of the museum was the late YBhg. Dato’ Haji Mohd Mokhtar bin Haji Daud and the first Director/Curator was YBhg. Dato’ Mohamed Mokhtar bin Haji Abu Bakar. The museum expanded its collections of artefacts very actively during this era up to 1997. The locals eagerly surrendered and provided as gifts certain unique artefacts to the museum. One example of these is a keris (a type of Malay dagger) which was found by a young man in a river about 20 km from the town of Pekan. This particular keris drew a lot of attention, coupled with strange stories of its mystical prowess. The keris is still on display at the museum.

The museum has dedicated galleries focusing on water transportation, personal belongings of the late Sultan Abu Bakar and the late Tengku Ampuan Pahang Tengku Afzan.

The museum is currently undergoing renovations (as at Oct 2008). Visitors are advised to call the museum first (contact details available from the Malaysian Yellow Pages)

( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pekan )

Indeed, the museum was still under renovation when we arrived at the gate. We made a few rounds and headed Kuala Lumpur via the Pantai Timur Highway.

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Rediscovering Our Own Malaysia 1: Kuala Pilah – Segamat – Bandar Muadzam Shah – Pekan (Part 1)

Posted in With Friends by tsabri on February 28, 2010

‘Let’s go for a weekend drive and see Peninsular Malaysia.’

‘A good idea, I say. Let’s get to know our lands better. There will be interesting things to discover… or rediscover.’

There were Hanafiah, Naim, Nizam and myself. Hanafiah studied with me in ITM and is also a working colleague of mine at MMU in Cyberjaya. Hanafiah practices painting and is currently into photography. Naim and Nizam are two younger friends who are interested in video and photography. The four of us share similar interests in investigating the multicultural life of the Malaysians. We held discussions on various cultural aspects and eventually started plotting several small projects like visiting towns, talking with people and documenting places, hoping to develop all of these into much more matured and meaningful projects.

Following is a journal of a journey starting from Kuala Pilah, through Segamat, through Bandar Muadzam, to Pekan, that we did on 16th & 17th January 2010.

Saturday, 16th January 2010

About 1130a.m

Started from Puchong, through Bandar Baru Salak Tinggi, Nilai, the North-South Plus Highway, Senawang and Jalan Kuala Pilah. We arrived the Kuala Pilah district, stopping at the Ulu Bendul recreation spot at about 0100p.m.

Waterfalls. The paths. Rocks. Trees. And the man-made pool for children – how badly designed everything were! And surprisingly the pool’s area is a WI-FI free area! Then the Majlis Daerah Kuala Pilah’s page http://www.mdkp.gov.my/home said:

Hutan Lipur Ulu Bendul Hutan Lipur ini dibangunkan pada tahun 1971* oleh Tuan Tulis dan dijadikan sebagai tempat ibadat. Pada tahun 1920an, tempat ini dijadikan kawasan riadah iaitu rumah rehat dan ladang kuda. Hutan lipur ini terletak di KM 20 jalan Seremban – Kuala Pilah di dalam Hutan Simpan Angsi. Ia mengambil masa kira-kira 20 minit dari bandar Seremban. Terdapat Gunung Angsi setinggi lebih kurang 825 meter dari aras laut dan ia boleh didaki dengan menyusuri Sungai Batang Terachi. Landskap semulajadi di sini menjadikannya unik untuk mandi-manda dan sesuai bagi aktiviti lasak, berkelah, berkhemah dan bersiar-siar.

The date published was confusing as it was stated on the same website that Tuan Tulis was a name given to a known Negeri Sembilan’s ulama that lived from the 1840s until 1923! Tuan Tulis was described on the Majlis Daerah Kuala Pilah’s page as follows:

Tun Tulis atau Tuan Tulis adalah gelaran kepada seorang ulama Negeri Sembilan yang bernama Haji Ismail Bin Hussein. Beliau berasal dari Kampung Kuala Talang, Kuala Pilah, Negeri Sembilan. Beliau dilahirkan pada 1840an dan meninggal dunia pada tahun 1923. Tun Tulis adalah seorang anak muda yang miskin tetapi penuh semangat untuk menuntut ilmu agama. Kerana kemiskinannya, beliau tidak mampu untuk membeli buku. Oleh itu, beliau meminjam buku dari rakan-rakannya dan menyalin buku itu dengan tulisannya sendiri. Dari situ rakan-rakannya mengelarkannya dengan gelaran Ismail Tulis. Selepas perguruannya, beliau tidak henti-henti menulis kitab sehinggalah orang kampung menggelarkannya Tuan Tulis. Selepas beliau meninggal dunia, Yang Dipertuan besar Negeri Sembilan mentitahkan agar dibina bangunan di makam Tun Tulis dan bangunan tersebut kekal hingga ke hari ini.

The place was crowded with weekend picnickers; families with their children splashing in the man-made pools, teenage couples sitting on the rocks, people having lunch at the small food court, and a row of stalls selling deep fried sausages, kerepok lekor, banana fritters, burgers and other fritters, and assorted souvenirs which we may find at almost every tourists’ spots in Malaysia – key chains, batik, t-shirts, shorts, hats, caps and etc.

Most of the crowds were Malays (we saw only two Chinese families). The place was crowded only on weekends and almost deserted on weekdays, said one stall keeper. After lunch of nasi campur we left Hutan Lipur Ulu Bendul.

Some findings at Hutan Simpan Ulu Bendul:

Rocks and Trees in Ulu Bendul

Making Fun to Nature?

Rocks and Trees in Ulu Bendul. Perhaps it was somewhere near here or around this area that Tuan Tulis established a ‘tempat ibadat’. Now it is a ‘tourist spot’ popular to locals for recreational activities.

Making Fun to Nature: A Lesson to the Children? An image captured to denote perhaps the failure of good education amongst the society: was it mere playfulness of the picnickers, or was it a conceptual art work?

Approaching Kuala Pilah town: tanah terbiar with bushes and forgotten rubber tress are the landscapes of both sides of our view. Nizam, a native of Kuala Pilah, remarked:

No young people are around to do the lands. To tanam padi not anymore. They prefer to work in factories in Senawang or Seremban.

Megalithic Sites of Kuala Pilah.

A quick reference on the Majlis Daerah Kuala Pilah page:

Perkataan ‘megalitik’ yang berasal dari perkataan Greek ‘mega’ yang membawa maksud besar dan ‘lithos’ iaitu batu, boleh didefinasikan sebagai batu besar yang didirikan di atas tanah secara bersendiri dan berpasangan. Penemuan batu megalitik di sekitar negeri ini merupakan tanda perkembangan penempatan masyarakat awal yang menjadikannya sebagai tempat pemujaan, selain menaruh pelbagai kepercayaan yang diyakini mampu mempengaruhi ekonomi (pertanian) serta kebudayaan masyarakat ketika itu. Pada ketika itu juga, masyarakat yang bergantung terhadap pertanian sebagai sumber ekonomi utama mempercayai bahawa penyembahan serta pemujaan batu megalitik mampu membantu mereka untuk memperoleh tanaman yang subur,” katanya ketika ditemui di sini hari ini. Katanya, batu-batu megalitik yang merupakan monumen bersejarah itu turut digunakan sebagai tempat masyarakat dahulu berkumpul dan mengadakan persembahan tradisi untuk tujuan riadah. Antara tapak megalitik yang dikenal pasti di sekitar negeri ini ialah Pengkalan Kempas, Kuala Pilah, Kampung Ipoh dan Pulau Sebang di Tampin, Lembah Terachi, Kuala Pilah, Kampung Gedang, Kampung Padang Lebar, Kampung Kundangan Kiri, Kampung Masjid, Kampung Parit Tengah dan Kampung Talang – kesemuanya dalam mukim Terachi (Tampin-Kuala Pilah).

We stopped at a small site by the roadside. It was right in front of a compound of a house, but at the time nobody was seen around. We were alarmed to discover that the site was in somewhat a sorry state, though it seemed there were some kind of a restoration work going on but no traces of anything official from some museum or any establishment and the stones were left unguarded. We almost could lift some of the small megaliths into the car’s boot!

Then we wondered whether if they were originals or just replicas, or even make-believe structures merely to attract curious tourists on the road?

Approaching Seri Menanti, the Royal Town of the Negeri Sembilan’s royalties: patches of green fields with young padi plants. Nizam commented:

This area is always with padi; perhaps to make the landscape looks beautiful and green. This is the Royal Town.

We stopped at a place called Perkampungan Budaya Terachi, which was situated by the roadside junction adjacent to an uphill road to the Royal Town. The greening padi field also surrounded it. The big place was almost deserted safe for the restaurant, the Restoran Warisan, and one or two craft stalls selling batik wares and other usual products for tourists.

The uphill road towards Seri Menanti was decorated with buntings congratulating the Yang di-Pertuan Besar of Negeri Sembilan for his recent 62nd birthday, 14th January 2010. And so did the Seri Menanti town, flags of various colors were in the air and parts of the padang was crowded with people. Music was in the air. People were still celebrating the Yang di-Pertuan Besar birthday. It was about 0400 in the hot afternoon. It reminded us of the kenduri and temasya 40 hari 40 malam whenever the Malay rajas were celebrating whatever celebrations in the Malay hikayats and folklores.

The Seri Menanti Royal Museum. A page from http://www.tourism.gov.my read:

The Seri Menanti Royal Museum was built in 1902 – 1905. It was originally a palace for the Negeri Sembilan Royal family. It is situated in the Royal town of Seri Menanti, about 50 km from the capital, Seremban. This five storey wooden palace was built using no nails or screws. The carpenters at the time used wooden pegs so that the palace would be able to withstand the times. It also uses 99 solid timber pillars, soaring 65 feet. Black in color, the palace also has intricate flower motifs beautifying the regal palace. Visitors can find costumes, weaponry, bedchambers as well as documents on the royal lineage on display in the museum.

There were visitors. But I supposed there were security problems  – visitors could easily put away the cutleries on display into their bags.

Towards Kuala Pilah town. A page from http://www.journeymalaysia.com read:

Kuala Pilah is one of the main towns in Negri (as the locals call Negri Sembilan). It is a nice old valley town with many of the pre-war Chinese shop-houses still fronting the main streets. This is one of the better places to savor Minangkabau food and there are a few Nasi Padang food-stalls that serve piping hot rice with a variety of savory, spicy dishes you can choose from.

Kuala Pilah town itself is a main stopover for transport routes. It is made up of a sizeable Chinese community that has been around since the mining days during the early British rule. The Sim Tong Chinese Temple is the oldest temple in town and is worth a visit if you have not been to one before. Behind the temple is a large hexagonal shaped market place with lots of food outlets selling local food from chicken rice to fresh water turtle soup. Turtle soup is a delicacy here. The slaughtering of these turtles is most horrid. This was once witnessed at a market some years ago where the vendor used a turtle, usually of the same sex to entice the chosen turtle to stick its head out of the shell. The sight of a rival aggravates the chosen turtle; it sticks its head out and locks its jaw on the other in a battle. The cook then chops off their heads with one fatal blow of the cleaver!

On the main road is a Chinese-styled arch dedicated to Martin Lister who was the first Resident of Negri Sembilan. If you have a chance to stay over, you have a choice to stay at the old Kuala Pilah rest-house. Although there have been some changes to the old government built rest-house, many English folk who had lived here during the British occupation return to these rest-houses to rekindle fond memories of their days in Malaya. In the early years, rest-houses were the only available motels and where everyone from businessmen to travelers stayed. The Kuala Pilah Rest-house whips up some pretty good seafood dishes and is a popular place with locals and out-of-towners.

Compare this quote from http://en.wikipedia.org.

… On the main road is a Chinese-styled arch dedicated to Martin Lister who was the first British Resident of Negeri Sembilan, commemorating his effort in ending the intermittent violent conflict between Chinese secret societies then rampant amongst the migrant Chinese populace. Lister was killed by his enemies in the nearby hills at Ulu Bendul.* The old Kuala Pilah Rest-house was a government built rest-house during the British occupation. In the early years, rest-houses were the only available hotels and where everyone from businessmen to travelers stayed.

* Apparently the two pages were almost the same. It was interesting to note that the underlined sentences were absent in http://www.journeymalaysia.com

We made a few around the town drives before landed at the Kuala Pilah bus and taxi station. Nizam showed us the cendol stall that he frequented as a school boy waiting for the bus home. Not many people were around.

Waiting Bus

Chinese-styled Architecture

Waiting Bus. A bus waiting for passengers and the departure time at the Kuala Pilah bus and taxi station.

Chinese-styled Architecture. A building with colorful pasts opposite the bus and taxi station.

Next stop was the Kuala Pilah Market. We agreed that the marketplace is an important place to visit, as it’s where the town’s food should mainly came. Nizam was excited. It’s where he followed his father as a boy to buy vegetables and other foods. And how delighted one old Chinese vegetable-seller was, when he recognized that the photographer who was photographing his wares was this little boy who used to come to his stall.

Looking at the Photographer's Pasts

Foul Smelling Debris

Looking at the Photographer’s Pasts. Capturing the Kuala Pilah marketplace’s interior. It’s where Nizam met his childhood’s vegetable-seller.

Foul Smelling Debris. Like most traditional marketplace in Malaysia, Kuala Pilah Market was also dirty. It made us to wonder what sort of food that came from such place as the Kuala Pilah Market. Poor boy, Nizam. Rubbish was everywhere. Hanafiah parked the car in front of a sleeping stray dog, which later we found out that it was not sleeping but dead!

We chose to have coffee and roti bakar at a kopitiam called Sinaran before making our way to the next destination, Segamat in Johor. A quick check on the Internet proved an interesting found.

Acknowledged for their culinary skills and specialty dishes, the Goh family, like their peers from Hainan Island, started the Foh Heong Kopitiam in Kuala Pilah, Negeri Sembilan. Popular in colonial times, the restaurant was favored and patronized by the British and also catered for the parties and official functions of the Negeri Royal Family. Together with Tunku Kudin, they set up the Sinaran Restaurant Cafe in 1944. (From http://www.hailam-kopitiam.com)

While waiting for coffee, and with the towkay’s permission, Nizam and Naim went photographing the patrons and the kopitiam’s kitchen. There were many patrons of various race-groups: the Chinese, Malays and Indians – together sipping coffee and munching roti bakar amid teatime conversations. One Chinese-man from a group of middle-age patrons asked Nizam where we were from and why we were taking pictures. After some explanations, he asked Nizam not to show the photographs of the group to the police! It reminded us of the underlined quotation aforementioned.

The road to Segamat was smooth – not many traffics. Landscapes of palm plantations, a few rubber estates and bushes of tanah terbiar. The Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org page read:

Segamat is a town and district located in the north of the state of Johor in Malaysia, bordering two other states of Malaysia (Negeri Sembilan on the west and Pahang on the north). It is located roughly 172 kilometers from Johor Bahru, the capital city of Johor State. It is 95 km travel distance via North-South Expressway from Johor Bahru to Yong Peng. It is another 77 km via Federal Route 1.

Strategically situated between Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bahru and Singapore, Segamat is a fast growing agricultural oil palm and rubber district, famous for its delicious durians, and the recent slogan used to attract tourists to Segamat is Selamat Datang ke Segamat – Tanah Raja Buah-buahan (Welcome to Segamat – The Land of King of Fruits). Segamat town is a typical medium size town with a blend of old and new cultures. A mere 45 minute drive from town offers a variety of hiking and swimming sites namely the famous Gunung Ledang, Air Panas Waterfall and Bekok Waterfall which make an enjoyable weekend getaway.

Some reflections from the past found on the same site:

According to a local historian, Hassan bin Muhammad, the area used to be known as Rantau Panjang. In around 1511, a Bendahara (Prime Minister) of Melaka (Malacca), Bendahara Tepok and his troops were retreating to Johor after the fall of Melaka to the invading Portuguese forces led by Alfonso de Albuquerque. The Bendahara and his troops stopped and rested by a river in the area and drank water from the river. After the drink, the Bendahara exclaimed, “Segar amat! or “Very refreshing!” in Malay, and named the river Segar Amat, which over time evolved into Segamat. However, initially the name Segamat only applied to the river. The settlement, which later became Segamat, was originally called Rantau Panjang. The town assumed the river’s name only at the turn of the 20th century.

By the end of 19th century, the four original districts have several minor districts, for example the previous Muar District has 4 minor districts – Parit Jawa, Chohong, Lenga and Segamat. The first District Officer of Segamat Minor District was Encik Menthol bin Haji Ahmad. In 1933, the district of Segamat was formed after a major district boundary realignment was made by the government of Johor to split the original 4 districts (Muar, Batu Pahat, Johor Bahru and Sedili) into 8 districts (before the 2008 realignment which added the Kulaijaya and Ledang districts to form 10 districts in Johor).

After the formation of Segamat District, the government began to develop Segamat, mainly with agricultural activities to boost the economy of Segamat. This included the construction of the national railroad system passing the town of Segamat and also the construction of the main road known today as Federal Route 1.

In 1970s, Tun Razak Highway was constructed to boost the economy of Segamat as an agricultural hub, to shorten the traveling time to Kuantan and to speed up the development progress of the poorly developed areas in southern Pahang.

The Johor branch campus of Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) was constructed at Jementah in the end of 1980’s and started its operation in 1991. The construction of UiTM campus in Segamat district turned Segamat into another important educational hub in Johor besides Skudai, which houses Universiti Teknologi Malaysia.

In 1996, Segamat Land Port was constructed to make Segamat an important transportation hub, like Nilai in Negeri Sembilan. By constructing the land port, manufacturers may just transport their goods to Segamat Land Port and then the goods can be transported to the nearest seaports such as Pasir Gudang by train and this will increase the transportation efficiency.

In 1999, the second bridge of Segamat, funded mainly by private developers was constructed to reduce congestion at the main bridge. The second bridge was included as a part of Segamat Inner Ring Road package consisting the road upgrade to 4-lane road at Jalan Pemuda, Jalan Hassan, Jalan Pee Kang Hai and Jalan Chia Chin Koon, which was completed in August 2005. The inner ring road package is useful to divert the traffic flow when the main roads at the town center are closed for special occasions and events such as National Day.

Further surfing landed us at the Laman Web Rasmi Pejabat Daerah Segamat (http://www.johordt.gov.my/pdsegamat) that noted:

Segamat merupakan sebuah daerah paling tua di negeri Johor yang kaya dengan sejarah silamnya lalu ianya digelar “Daerah Lagenda“. Sejarah silam daerah Segamat sering dikaitkan dengan kehebatan kerajaan Malim Dewa yang kononnya pada suatu masa dahulu pernah wujud di satu kawasan luas merintangi Kuala Muar hinggalah ke hulu daerah Segamat. Menurut cerita orang tua-tua Putera kepada Raja Malim Dewa iaitu Raja Malim Deman pernah mencintai seorang Puteri yang bernama Puteri Santan Bertapis. Malangnya, Puteri yang digilakan oleh Malim Deman itu telah dibawa lari oleh seorang Putera dari kayangan. Kegagalan untuk mencari Puteri tersebut telah menyebabkan baginda membuat satu sumpahan iaitu selagi Puteri yang dicintainya itu tidak ditemuinya maka daerah Segamat akan dilanda banjir. Dengan demikian, daerah ini telah dikenali sebagai “Daerah Sumpahan Malim Deman“.

Dari perspektif Sejarahnya pula, kira-kira 500 tahun yang lalu, peristiwa Bendahara Tepuk iaitu Bendahara Melaka yang terakhir berserta rombongannya telah melarikan diri ke Segamat apabila Melaka ditawan oleh Portugis. Tempat yang mula-mula didatangi oleh Bendahara Tepuk dan orang-orangnya ialah di satu kawasan berhampiran sungai Segamat. Kawasan tersebut berbukit-bukau dan terdapat sebatang anak sungai yang penuh dengan lubuk dan tebingnya pula batu-batu kecil putih berserakan. Justeru Bendahara Tepuk pun menamakan penempatan ini sebagai “Kampung Lubuk Batu“.

Dan di pengkalan Lubuk Batu, kononnya terdapat 2 peristiwa penting telah berlaku. Pada hari Bendahara sampai ke Lubuk Batu itu cuaca sangat panas. Justeru, Bendahara Tepuk yang telah uzor dan tidak bergigi serta kakinya yang lumpuh terpaksa diusung ke pengkalan untuk mandi. Airnya yang jernih lagi sejuk betul-betul menyegarkan tubuh Bendahara lalu beliau pun berkata “Segar amat badanku ini”. Kononnya perkataan “Segar Amat” yang dilafazkan oleh Bendahara Tepuk itu lahirlah nama “Segamat”.

Segamat juga disebut sebagai “Rantau Panjang” dalam abad ke-18. Ini ada kaitannya dengan keadaan muka bumi sekitar kawasan sungai Segamat pada masa itu. Menurut orang tua-tua, pada masa dahulu kawasan tebing sungai Segamat begitu lurus dengan pasir di tebingnya halus. Apabila terkena sinaran matahari, sepanjang tebing sungai kelihatan seperti hamparan permaidani putih. Air sungainya yang jernih dan berkilau-kilauan menambahkan lagi keindahan kawasan sekitar itu.

Orang-orang Segamat suka berkunjung ke sebuah kawasan bernama Pasir Jenaling untuk berkelah. Ia merupakan sebuah kawasan yang airnya jernih and pasirnya putih berhampiran dengan Pengkalan Esah (sekarang terletak di belakang Pawagam Cathay). Orang-orang luar yang datang ke Segamat melalui sungai akan berhenti di Pengkalan Esah di mana terdapat pokok-pokok Jambu and Leban ditebing sungai. Keadaannya yang condong telah menamakan Segamat sabagai “Jambu Condong” dan “Leban Condong” .

We arrived Segamat, the Tanah Raja Buah-buahan or Daerah Lagenda or Daerah Sumpahan Malim Deman or Rantau Panjang or Jambu Condong or Leban Condong at about 0700 pm. After a few turns, we parked near the Dataran Segamat on Jalan Awang, near Jalan Aji, where Jakel Trading was situated. Jakel Trading is famous all over Malaysia for textile-related products and as such. A note from http://wikimapia.org/2516575/Jakel-Trading-Sdn-Bhd on Jakel Trading said:

Merupakan bangunan tekstil yang terbesar di Johor. Mempunyai pelbagai jenis kain dari sutera Korea dan lain-lain. Juga menjual langsir, tudung wanita dan karpet.

After strolled the Dataran Segamat and Jalan Aji, we found a pasar malam on Jalan Tengku Ahmad, mostly selling local delicacies and the usual pasar malam wares. Malay and Chinese traders seemed to work side by side.

We drove to the side of the river through Jalan Pee Kang Hai looking for a lodging place. Finally we found ourselves at the Villa Hotel Segamat in Jalan Ros. Dined at a nearby Mamak restaurant, roti nan with mutton curry. The Segamat Billion Supermarket was crowded with evening shoppers.

A Drawing Marathon in USM, Penang, 2009

Posted in With Friends by tsabri on February 26, 2010

…the artist group from KL. Friends, we are

We four artist are friends. We first met as fine art students at the then School of Art & Design, MARA Institute of Technology (ITM), Shah Alam, in the 1980s. Shukri, Suhaimi and myself were of the same batch. Zainal was a senior of ours. When we enrolled ITM in 1982, Zainal was already in his final year. In ITM, Shukri and myself took sculpture as our majors, though Shukri was more into painting since graduated. Suhaimi was a painting major, whilst Zainal was a printmaking major. Zainal is painting these days.

The artist group from KL? Yes, that’s how the 1st Malaysian International Drawing Marathon’s master of ceremony introduced us to the other participants…

What is a Marathon? A Drawing Marathon?

Suhaimi brought the news. Then we were talking about marathon, the USM Drawing Marathon, Pulau Pinang, nasi kandar, pasembor, roti canai, murtabak, ikan bakar, the colonial architecture, the charcoals, pencils, drawing boards, Associate Professor Fauzan Omar (Fauzan), and many other things including the Marathon’s entrance fee! Then we were laughing at the English Pheidippides (Pheidippides was the Greek soldier-messenger who ran the Marathon), the Japanese Pheidippides, the Javanese Pheidippides and many others including our own Malaysian stars, running around Georgetown with drawing boards hung to their necks, drawing the city, the Pearl of Orient – Sir Francis Light re-lands today!

The poster sat on the table. The Marathon is about drawing Pulau Pinang, in particular, Georgetown – remnants of the treacherous colonialism that were hastily made into some kind of a world’s heritage. What else to refer to when one looks into Pulau Pinang’s pasts? The poster. It brought the event as ‘the 1st Malaysian International Drawing Marathon’_

Fauzan Omar, Associate Professor

He was our best teacher, I would say. Suhaimi, Shukri and Zainal agreed. Suhaimi, Shukri and myself knew Fauzan sometime in 1985. Zainal knew him earlier. Yes, Fauzan was (and still is, of course!) the ‘cowboy’ who knew his herds and his guns well! He didn’t teach us to draw. He taught us to see instead. He didn’t teach us to become ‘drawers’. He taught us to become ‘cowboys’ – to rid off the fears, to confront whatever obstacles with wisdom, to become artists.

Fauzan would be overseeing the Marathon. Zainal mentioned that Fauzan was excited knowing that the four of us would be joining the Marathon.

The Drawing Marathon: An Academic Exercise? (1)

The Dean’s officiating speech gave aspirations on art and academic research, and the university’s (USM) roles in developing studies on the arts and culture in general. It’s just appropriate for the fine art practices to be assessed or reviewed through and within academic approaches. I heard Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris in Tanjong Malim is offering art studio courses for graduate students. I am also currently participating in developing a ‘research-creation’ culture in FCM, MMU. The idea was simply to cultivate research attitudes in the creation of art and other media forms.

I read the Marathon’s program simply as: the participating artists would go around Georgetown (… or elsewhere on the island, hmmm…), looking for things and/or matters of his or her interests, to be later worked out into drawings; the organizer, USM, would be documenting the whole process to be later made into a publication.

The Drawing Marathon: An Academic Exercise? (2)

Starting the Marathon in the closed studio (Dewan Perhiban) reminded us of our own ITM’s Drawing Studio back in the 1980s. Shukri would be drawing in the corner. His motorbike was even one of the props! Suhaimi would came sneaking around from his painting class. Bob Marley would be singing in someone’s cassette player. Indeed! Fauzan even put up the drawings of this ITM’s Drawing Studio for his presentation that Marathon’s morning.

From My Position 1

From My Position 2

From My Position 3

The setting or environment set up was a big distraction if I were to consider my first reading of the Marathon – that was to draw Pulau Pinang. (Though the Secretariat allowed participating artists to draw their own ‘subject-matters’, ‘themes’ or in one’s own style.)

Fauzan talked about approaches to drawing; interpreting space thus making up compositions; the use of drawing elements such as lines to justify positions of objects through illusions onto flat drawing surfaces; etceteras – all the while showing examples produced from that 1980’s ITM Drawing Studio.

Live models, wearing traditional Malaysian costumes were posed wherever possible in the setting. There were a few participants interested in figure and portrait drawings. The Drawing Pheidippideses were drawing the setting from where they were – standing upon big plywood boxes onto where the drawing papers were stuck. The setting was a bit ‘centered’ – creating some kind of an island in the middle of the studio. I found no views of ‘deep space’ to start drawing ‘academically’ from my position. There were plenty of ‘shallow space’ views. And a model wearing a Chinese cheongsam was staring at me.

Am I to draw Pulau Pinang, Georgetown? Or the setting with the model wondering how she would look like? A wayang kulit suddenly popped out from one of the potted-plant in the setting (What a wayang kulit is doing in this isle of boria?). But Shukri was happily drawing images of ‘as his pleases’.

… Georgetown. A Wet Afternoon

Yes. On the first afternoon, the participating artists were brought to the heritage area of Georgetown. But the weather was not permitting us to roam around, sketching or taking photographs. It was raining. Many ended sipping coffee in one Wah Bin Coffee Shop in Lebuh Armenian, and drawing portraits amongst themselves.

Georgetown 1

Georgetown 2

Georgetown 3

Georgetown 4

Sir Francis Light

Georgetown 4

When the rain turned into a drizzle, I walked the Lebuh Acheh. There he was, Sir Francis Light himself! Puffing away some aromatic tobacco from Sumatra, What’s he’s doing here on this wet afternoon? Two jewelers, Haji Othman Pillai and S. Abdul Kassim, were seen hurriedly walking towards Lebuh Armenian. Sir Francis Light then get on the awaiting black Jaguar. I traced the way back to Wah Bin Coffee Shop. Two homeless Indians suddenly stirred in their afternoon nap on the pavement near the coffee shop. Some were sketching, and I joined Suhaimi for a plate of mee goreng at the Lebuh Armenian’s junction.

The Drawing Marathon: An Academic Exercise? (3)

Drawing the setting was tiring _ what more to draw it all day, all night. I thought the organizers would be very cruel if they wanted us to draw the setting all the twenty-four hours. It would completely drain the adrenaline away. Observation drawings demand attention – concentration on whatever we chose to draw and whatever to ignore. I turned my attention to the wet afternoon when I saw Sir Francis Light at Lebuh Acheh.

I surfed Google Maps for the map of Lebuh Armenian from the MacBook that I brought to the Marathon. I looked at my photographs of Lebuh Chulia and the surroundings, the jewel stores, the homeless, lorries and go-downs along the Fish Lane, etceteras. I brought Lebuh Armenian to the Marathon studio. Zainal finally drew the Cathay Hotel of Leith Street in the Marathon Studio. Suhaimi drew the wayang kulit whilst Shukri sketched away his surrealistic figures.

The Drawing Marathon: Where is the Ball (or Majlis Tari Menari)?

Fauzan introduced us as naughty boys to the participating artists when we were his students _ but we were also his best students (at least that what’s he said). We were always the latecomers to the class. He, once, woke us up one morning to start class! (We were sleeping in the studio…) He caught us smoking behind the studio. And he praised our drawings!

The Marathon promised no fun. Somebody played classical in the audio system. The participants were drawing seriously _ trying to capture the setting. Soon as the audio system went dead, I plugged on the iTunes – playing music of our youth! What else – let’s rock the Marathon!

I walked the Dewan Perhiban_ the Marathon’s studio, circling the ‘island’ – looking at the fresh new lines, new tonal values and new stories happened on the participants’ drawing surfaces. What a concentration the participants had! I remembered Fauzan’s asking us to rest a while; walk around and see your friends’ drawings – the ghosts of the 1980’s ITM Drawing Studio came to the Marathon! They were joining the Majlis Tari Menari in the Dewan Perhiban…

Off the Drawing Marathon…

Mr. Jalil is one of Suhaimi’s friends in Penang, residing on the Penang’s Twin Towers apartment, overlooking the Penang Bridge and Butterworth on the mainland. He started to like appreciating art and is beginning to collect art. He even took up ‘learning to paint’ during his leisure. He was the one who took us around the foods in Georgetown. One night, with another friend, Haji Masri, they took us to have nasi kandar sometime after midnight.

Cikgu Saidon Ahmad is a friend of ours since the ITM days. On his way back home in Sungai Petani from a meeting in K Lumpur, he found us at the Cathay Hotel and brought us some duku and rambutan. Cikgu Saidon teaches art and loves music. He played us the nostalgic sixties and seventies on his new Honda.

Mr. Budin, Suhaimi’s cousin and a long-time friend of Shukri, also came to find us at the hotel, with a Chinese friend who looks like Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye, a social activist who was before a known politician. We talked the night away at the Jalan Penang and Lebuh Chulia junction.

… the Marathon’s Finishing Line. You Are, I Am

Dot to dot. Another dot to another dot. The line goes on and on.

Notes:

  1. Zainal wrote about this event in his blog http://zainalabidinmusa.blogspot.com/2009/10/1st-malaysian-international-drawing.html
  2. Shukri wrote about this event in his blog  http://budakad82.blogspot.com/2009/10/drawing-marathon.html http://budakad82.blogspot.com/2009/10/drawing-marathom-usm-penang-09-day3.html http://budakad82.blogspot.com/2009/10/drawing-marathon-usm-penang-09-day2.html http://budakad82.blogspot.com/2009/10/drawing-marathon-usm-penang-09-day1.html as well as his collection of sketches http://shookseye.blogspot.com/2009/10/shooksketch-drawing-marathon-usm-061009.html

The Fish Head at Sekolah Stella Maris, Kuala Lumpur

Posted in Collaborative Works by tsabri on February 23, 2010

Finally, it’s the fish head.

When first approached by Bin (from the RAP) about the CAIS project sometime in April or May 2008, we were working on images derived from a selection of traditional Malay ‘perumpamaan’ found in folklores, the hikayats, pantuns and such. They were, of course, laden with meanings, values and ideas that represent an exciting culture that of living with nature and making representations understood from rich historical heritages and beliefs.

The CAIS project ( http://caisproject.blogspot.com/)

diverted our attention to the signs and symbols related to Christianity.

Stella Maris. The name carries other name like Star of the Sea. It refers to Virgin Mary, made Guardian, by people of the sea – the fishermen, the seafarers, the merchants and the pirates, as well.

The sea now, the sea. First we were thinking about making a canvas boat, hanging in the Stella Maris School’s atrium. A canvas boat. A red canvas boat. A red canvas boat could be interesting to complement the dark green hues along the corridors of the Stella Maris’s interior.

Sketch: Boat - Top View

Then, it was not a canvas boat. It could have been a wire boat. A boat constructed from wires, hanging in the Stella Maris’s atrium.

Working Image: Reference

Manipulated Image: In the Sea 1

Working Sketch/Plan: The Schoolmaster

Then, a fish. A big fish, the Schoolmaster, a kind of snappers.

And, finally it’s the fish head. A wired fish head.

    Excerpts From Mastura’s Diary As An Artist-Researcher

    Posted in Mastura's Works by tsabri on February 23, 2010

    Mastura recorded sort of a diary for her previous research on ‘The Process of Making and Exhibiting a Multimedia Art Project’. These excerpts illustrated her experiences with multimedia.

    Excerpts from the Artist’s Diary & Notes: Mastura A Rahman

    23rd May 2005

    Until 1993/4, my images were still. They are not moving! They are paper cutouts, drawn or painted. I depended on the design elements of color and shape to represent them in my paintings. There were always combinations and rearrangements of the images represented. Eventually, the design principle of repetition, either in the use of the images and compositional considerations, became dominant in the paintings.

    18th June 2004

    I began to use a computer in mid 1990s. It was to write notes, keep the class attendance and as such. I began to know Microsoft PowerPoint and Microsoft Excel and began exploring them. Though the software is basics and considered simple to use, I found them fascinating as I could now animate my images. My images are finally moving!

    20th April 2004

    Experiences visiting and exhibiting art in Singapore, Kassel and Amsterdam in the late 1990s reintroduced me to the moving images. I saw potentials and excitement in artworks done with multimedia tools. Discussions with fellow artists further convince me that multimedia are just tools like pencils, pens, brush, chisels and gouges. They are extensions of the artist’s hands.

    7th August 2003

    Working with multimedia made me aware of the element of time, audio as well as motion or animation. These elements do not appear in two or three-dimensional compositions. The presentation of the images hence has more alternatives. I feel that my images could provide more meaningful messages.

    5th February 2005

    Suddenly the images are much more meaningful. I feel that I could translate my emotion and thoughts easier _ layers after layers of animation, layers after layers of colors _ a somewhat definite or up to the artist’s story lines could always be constructed. Stories, however mixed-up, always carry meaning _ projecting an idea or a thought, and the manipulation of images through multimedia means could enhance the stories.

    22nd September 2004

    Further working with multimedia introduces me to digital equipment such as camera and video. I could directly capture my intended images to be later manipulated with certain software. The manipulation brought me back to the understanding of still images where basic pictorial elements and principles are essential considerations.

    26th January 2005

    My images are somewhat nostalgic in certain ways. Images from the Traditional Malay arts are very close to me. They are not totally historical but much more cultural. The images are still in use throughout the Malay societies though maybe now in different contexts and situation. I am proud to understand that past traditional Malay artists and designers were very close and learn their ways through their natural surrounding. In the visual arts, metaphors created from nature were translated in geometric and abstract images.

    I Spoke At Zainal’s Reception of Sunrise on the Water and Other Stories

    Posted in My Artist-Friends by tsabri on February 23, 2010

    In 2006, Zainal (http://zainalabidinmusa.blogspot.com/) asked me to curate his landscape paintings into an exhibition. The exhibition was titled as ‘Sunrise on the Water and Other Stories’, held at the Loft Gallery and organized by ArtSeni. I introduced Zainal and the exhibition:

    Ladies, gentlemen and friends, good evening. Please allow me a few minutes to introduce this exhibition. But first, I must say thank you to the organizers, the Artseni gallery, and the artist, for giving me the opportunity to say a few curatorial remarks about the exhibition, titled as Sunrise on the Water and Other Stories, by one of our promising artist, Mr. Zainal Abidin Musa. Congratulations to Zainal.

    Now, this exhibition of about 26 paintings is a result of the artist’s endless endeavor and passion in painting his favorite subject-matter or theme, the landscapes. It is interesting to note that, whilst many of his contemporaries and the younger artists are working and exploring with the styles of like abstract or semi-abstract, the American Abstract Expressionism, Conceptual Art, Installation Art, and the international or contemporary art trends, Zainal chooses to quietly paint the pictorial compositions of the landscapes.

    And for us, the audience, it is equally refreshing to appreciate that, evidently, there are a few underpinning thoughts for us to consider in reading these paintings or this exhibition. One: There are echoes of the age-old ‘Mimesis Theory’, where questions like, should art imitates nature, and how should artists represent nature? and what are the artist’s roles in a society?, came into our discussion. Two: There are traces or reminiscences of the 18th/19th century French Impressionism’s style, particularly that of Claude Monet or Pissaro, the theory of light and colors as well as painting techniques, all these came together for our consideration. And three, there is a historical reference of significance with our own Modern Malaysian Art history of the 1930s and the Merdeka Period, where the pioneering artists, like Hussein Anas, Abdullah Ariff, Yong Mun Sen, the Nanyang painters and others, were painting the landscapes of our land.

    These three premises of thoughts, if I may say so, merge together and are developing in the paintings. They are like seeking our attention and justifications as informed audience. Apart from the paintings, these thoughts are also developing in Zainal himself as the artist, motivating, encouraging and gaining his confidence in his artistic pursuits. When prompted with playful questions like; why are you painting landscapes, is it a bit outdated, who wants to see landscapes now? Zainal chooses to be himself, or in other words he is telling us that he wants to paint as he pleases and as he wishes. He seems trying to be sincere in his artistic ambitions, painting as his emotion flows.

    Now, in this exhibition, the landscapes become memories. They are reflections or references to our very own days, some scenic spots somewhere, the sunrises and sunsets on particular beaches, and the chirpings of the birds _ all these made us to understand, made us to know that there is an everlasting beauty in nature. There are always lessons for us to learn from nature.

    And with that, I wish you all happy appreciating. Thank you.

    Zainal Abidin Musa, Water Lilies in Janda Baik, 64 x 57 inches, acrylic on canvas, 2006

    Cracked Earth

    Posted in Students and Art by tsabri on February 23, 2010

    In November 2007, I wrote an exhibition’s note to accompany an exhibition of FCM students’ works. They were from the Design Fundamental class’s project that is taught at the Alpha or Foundation Level.

    Cracked Earth

    Acid RainChlorofluorocarbonGlobal DimmingGlobal WarmingHazeHypoxiaMarine PollutionOcean AcidificationOil SpillShip PollutionSurface RunoffThermal PollutionWastewaterWaterborne DiseasesWater StagnationBioremediationHerbicidePesticideActinides in the EnvironmentEnvironmental RadioactivityFission ProductNuclear FalloutPlutonium in the EnvironmentRadiation PoisoningRadium in the EnvironmentUranium in the EnvironmentInvasive SpeciesLight PollutionNoise PollutionRadio Spectrum PollutionVisual Pollution

    …the list goes on and on, with additional new things every other time.  How restless life is!

    This exhibition is yet another statement of getting us together to see and know the world we are living today.  The issues presented were nothing new – we have heard all about the polluted world countless times before.  We debated them in the primary and secondary schools.  We were asked to write essays.  We found them in songs, in books… We heard them on the radio.  And yesterday, 11th November 2007, an oil tanker split into two, after being lashed by a violent storm in the Black Sea, spilling at least 2,000 tons of fuel oil. …and three cargo ships sank with 6,800 tons of sulphur.

    This exhibition showcases a potpourri of art forms_ mind-maps, drawings, paintings, sculptures and objects, by the Alpha students of the Faculty of Creative Multimedia.  Though labeled as students’ works, they, the exhibits are displaying great promises and potentials to become ‘great works of art’.  Line, the design element central to the students’ studies for the project, is resourcefully executed in the exhibits – pulling together all the other elements like shape, texture and color into pleasing design compositions.  These fledgling artists are the people to watch in the coming years.

    Congratulations.

    What I Am Doing Now (Serunai Mentakab)

    Posted in Wayang U-Wei by tsabri on February 22, 2010

    It was in 1978 that I knew somebody from Mentakab, Pahang. It was a brief encounters of some three to four days and I couldn’t remember his name now. He came to visit his sister working in Kampong Raja, some 10 km away from my house in Jerteh. Kampong Raja is an administrative town of the Besut district and there are many government and its agencies’ workers staying there. And at that particular time, Kampong Raja was having a sort of festival and there were stalls selling all sorts of wares, stage-shows and people. I came to know this guy from Mentakab whilst watching the local band playing Deep Purple’s Sail Away.

    ‘The guitarist is awesome! You know him? A local guy?’

    ‘Yeah. He is one of the best guitarists around. Hey, where are you from? We have never seen you around before… and your dialect is… different.’

    ‘Hey. Yes. I am can’t remember from Mentakab. Nice meeting you… I am visiting my sister. She’s living somewhere around here in Kampong Raja. Hey… good song, eh? Sail Away…’

    The Google's Mentakab on 22nd February 2010

    Mentakab has become a metaphor for me now. Mentakab is the town where U-Wei came from. It is a fast growing town in the district of Temerloh, Pahang. There is a Sungai Semantan flowing through the town into Sungai Pahang.

    I would imagine U-Wei as a boy growing in 1960s Mentakab. Diving and swimming the Sungai Semantan (or was it Sungai Pahang?), and running around the river’s bank looking for his future: He found, this U-Wei, found strips of the coconut leaves and made a pipe – a long pipe indeed he made that he couldn’t hear what he was blowing! He, like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, blew his pipe and all the Mentakab children followed him into the Pahang jungles! U-Wei was and still is the Pied Piper of Mentakab!

    The Serunai In Progress

    The Serunai Parts

    Che Mat on the Serunai's Mouth

    Pak Rauf on the Serunai's End

    The Serunai's Mouth

    The ‘Serunai Mentakab’ that I am making now is for U-Wei to blow his magical tunes again. Made from filmstrips of ‘Buai Laju-Laju’, this ‘Serunai Mentakab’ will produce sounds or tunes that only U-Wei knows.

    My Father, Tengku Ibrahim Wook, the Master Craftsman

    Posted in Uncategorized by tsabri on February 20, 2010

    Recollections of His Personal Life. His children called him Ku. His nephews and nieces called him  Ayah Su, literally means Youngest Uncle, and his grandchildren called him Tok Ku. His close friends  called him Pak Ku whilst others called him Ayah Ku or Pak Engku. I was the eldest son of his from his  second marriage. His first marriage had him a daughter. I have two brothers and three sisters from his  marriage with my mother, Khatijah bte Othman. My mother was a widow when my father married her.  She had two daughters from her earlier marriage. My father was born in Kampong Panji, a small village  near Kota Bharu, Kelantan, sometime in1929. I was not informed on how they met but I recalled my  mother used to tell that she visited Ku somewhere in a military prison in her early pregnancy of me.  Apparently Ku was imprisoned for absence without leave from military duties!

    I don’t know when exactly he moved to my mother’s kampong, Kampong Gong Kemuntong, Jerteh, in Terengganu, a neighbor state of Kelantan and also that of where I and my other siblings were born. There were also my Tok (my grandmother, my mother’s mother), two uncles and my two stepsisters. Mother passed away in 1989 leaving Ku, together with a brother and two sisters of mine living in Gong Kemuntong. During the time, me and other siblings are living in various places in the Klang Valley. About two years after my mother’s death, Ku married another woman; Aminah bte Abdullah and together they had no children.

    On Ku being a military man, I was informed vaguely with many stories both from himself and my mother. He was a bright student in his class at a Sekolah Melayu then. After some examinations he was recommended to further studies in the English medium, the Special Malay Class. My grandfather had his hardest objection that my father will study the colonial British lessons that might make him a Christian! He then intended to send my father to the Sekolah Pondok, studying the traditional sciences and knowledge of Islam, which was significantly natural with the Malays during the time, Apparently, Ku, in his adventurous youth, didn’t like the idea much as he narrated how he often went loitering in cinemas, coffee shops and other places in Kota Bharu. Upon discovering Ku went loitering around town, my grandfather arranged a marriage for him. Ku didn’t like the idea and perceived it as a forced marriage as the bride was not his choice. Apparently at that time Ku was already in love with my mother who often visited her aunt, who was also living in Panji, Kota Bharu. My grandfather, whom I believed was a hot-tempered man, went bursting with anger as he already chose the bride who probably was a daughter of his friend or close relative. Ku eventually ran away from the house and took up the military service.

    I remember a scar somewhere at the bottom left of his back. According to Ku, it was from a communist bullet in a gunfight somewhere in Negeri Sembilan. He survived the fight and swam through a swamp with a badly injured friend. I’m not that sure why he went absent without leave but my mother narrated how Ku shaved himself bald and was working in a Chinese vegetable farm when the military police found him. I vaguely remembered my mother’s stories of visiting Ku in places like Kuala Kangsar in Perak, Port Dickson, in Negeri Sembilan and Pengkalan Chepa in Kelantan.

    I remember Ku worked with the then Public Works Department (now Jabatan Kerja Raya) as a coolie. This was in my very early life. I still can remember waving him goodbye, when the PWD lorry came and off he went in the back of the lorry with the other men. On payday, he brought home roti canai and murtabak. I saw square copper coins with King George’s image. I came to believe that Ku was working hard to make his ends met. Ku, at this time, already had a studio-workshop that he built adjacently to the main house. I remember that there was once a barber’s chair in the workshop and there were his regulars. I believed somehow the barber of Ku was a short-lived enterprise, as I also remember he sold off the barber’s chair. He was also a rubber-taper and a paddy-planter sometime in my early schooldays. We also had one or two cows and a few goats. Ku kept fighting-cocks for leisure, and we had a chicken coop. We never bought eggs and chickens.

    The Artist and His World. Ku was a quiet man. More of an introvert, I guess. He would only be alive with conversations on topics that were dear to him_ the arts. As far as I can remember, Ku would be always in his studio-workshop, even during nighttime and public holidays. The studio-workshop, in some ways, had become a sort of a ‘holy place’ for him.  ‘Tepat kherjo ni peting sangak. Kalu tepak kherjo tak seleso, kherjo kito pun jadi tidok molek. (The working place is tremendously important. If its not conducive or comfortable, our works also may get affected.)’ Ku told me many times about this, especially when I was called to cleanup the studio-workshop.

    He was very particular about his ranges of tools. There were trays of small tools that he made himself, to tailor his fine carvings on hardwood, ivory and other materials. Other materials! There was once an elephant tooth brought by his friend to make a keris hilt! There were at least five sets of chisels and gouges. There were all kind of saws and saw-blades, planes, hammers, clamps and etceteras. I had to oil the regular tools, swept the floor, and opened up the studio-workshop during my school holidays. I regretted that the studio-workshop was now gone. It eventually was turned into a storage area for all sorts of things.

    I often followed him for walks in a small forest nearby our rubber plantation. He would show me all sorts of vegetation and trees. We cut parts of fallen and uprooted trees for whatever things he wanted to do. He also sometimes set traps for quails. Ku kept a special small garden of herbs and foliages near the studio-workshop for his working references, He would spent hours tending and looking at his plants, which he would later developed and translated them into his carvings.

    Ku told me that my Tok Ku was also a craftsman, particularly in building houses and carpentry. Ku sometimes followed his father to work, helping to carry the tools and other things. Ku mentioned that Tok Ku was indeed a hot-tempered man and so did his brothers. Ku narrated how one of his uncles built his house single-handedly, simply either he couldn’t work with others or others couldn’t work with him!

    Ku actually learned his finer points of craftsmanship whilst in the military prison. He told me of his guru, a very fierce Siamese man who would rained his students with horrible swears if there were wrongs or inaccuracies in whatever designs or projects they were doing. Ku eventually became the Siamese favorite student for his discipline, hardworking, as well as his fine craftsmanship.

    Sometime in my early schooldays, Ku brought the family to Kuala Terengganu, leaving my two stepsisters, an uncle and me with grandmother in Jerteh.  He was attached to some departments, probably with MARA if I’m not mistaken, doing his art and crafts works. I was brought to Kuala Terengganu during the school holidays, and again I discovered a small studio or a workplace in the rented house.

    After some years in Kuala Terengganu Ku brought back the family to Jerteh. He later joined his friends, the brothers Abdul Rahman and Abdul Latiff Long, setting up their woodcarving studio-workshop in Kampong Raja, some eight miles from our house. Ku cycled to Kampong Raja and I used to be the pillion-rider on school holidays. Eventually their partnership broke-up and they all went setting up their own enterprises. Ku then worked in the studio-workshop at the house.

    Ku was very interested with traditional Malay weaponry, Apart from the tools, equipments and whatnot in the studio-workshop; there were also blades of the keris, badik, parang, golok and swords. He was known for his fine intricate carvings on the weapons’ hilts and scabbards. He was like never out of work, there were always people coming to have their golok or parang properly made. There were also occasional visits from his friends like the two Long brothers, and their eldest brother whom I called Ayah Mat, Nik Rashideen and others, including a metal-smith who always came with new blades and other curiosities. The studio-workshop then would be alive with conversations about their arts and other stories.

    Sometime in the early 1980s, Ku was called to join a woodcarving project by the then Kementerian Kebudayaan, Belia & Sukan (KKBS) in Kuala Lumpur. The project was executed in a spacious studio-workshop in the then Jalan Pekeliling (now Jalan Tun Razak), the Bengkel Seni Hias. Ku eventually brought the family to live in one of the residence quarters at the Bengkel Seni Hias. There were also some twenty Indonesian woodcarvers working and living at the place, specially brought from Jepara, Indonesia for the project. Ku was excited that he came to know other motifs, styles and techniques of woodcarving.

    I had the opportunity to share his studio-workshop as a sculptor after I graduated sometime in late 1980s. I was working on some wood sculptures with themes derived from the traditional Malay arts. Ku helped me to better understand the aesthetics of the Malays arts. We would talked into the nights with him explaining the meanings underpinning the Malay arts, the woodcarvings in particular. He emphasized that good artists (carvers) must understand nature well as its where we should refer to_ to make the carvings’ designs better as well as there were lessons of life from nature. The saying, ‘Tumbuh berpunca, punca penuh rahsia; Tajam tidak menunjak lawan; Tegak tidak memaut kawan; Tetapi melingkar dengan mesra (Literally translated by the author as, ‘Growing, from a clandestine origin; Sharp, but not to jerk the enemies; Stand, but not to step on friends; But moving in with peace and tolerance.’), which is commonly regarded by traditional Malay carvers as a guiding philosophy in practicing their art, was discussed in great length during the time. ‘The clandestine of live, the secrets, are meant to be discovered,’ said Ku. Noorhaiza Nordin, who is now a successful woodcarver, some times joined our discussions, or rather the tutorials from Ku. Noorhaiza at the time was working at our studio-workshop. ‘Carvers (artists) must get close to nature. Study how the seedlings grow, day by day, in search for light_ for life. We represented all these life challenges as well as excitements through our designs and of course, our craftsmanship. How we response to others, our friends and enemies, the edges and flows of the foliages should be moving, growing peacefully whilst sowing tolerance with others.’

    Ku passed away in 2000. He was laid to rest at his kampong in Kelantan.

    What I Did Before (Inside 4: Reformation or the Assembling of a Long Lost Labyrinth)

    Posted in Inside Series by tsabri on February 20, 2010

    In 1998, I was invited to participate in an exhibition entitled ‘Volume & Form’ in Singapore. I was given a space to build an installation at a place called Substation, on Armenian Street in the city. I wrote a proposal for the installation and made some necessary arrangements before went over building it.

    Below is a part from the proposal:

    PART TWO

    Inside 4: A PROPOSAL

    1. The title of the installation is Inside 4: Reformation or the Assembling of a Long Lost Labyrinth.
    2. Inside 4 is the installation’s sequential position in the Inside Series.
    3. Reformation is the shifts and changes made to remove imperfections.
    4. Assembling is the act of putting things or matters together perhaps into a collection or category.
    5. Long Lost is a thing or matter of a long time lost and perhaps is already forgotten. Upon discovery, the long lost may be recognized as somehow related or known to us, perhaps.
    6. Labyrinth is a network of winding paths or ways through which it difficult to finds one’s way without help.
    7. The installation is proposed for the Singapore’s 1999 Volume and Form.
    8. It will be a mixed material installation using a broad range of materials quite similar to the previous pieces.
    9. It is proposed to be an interior piece. It will also be an on-site installation. Size and placements are to be considered after discussions with the exhibition’s curator, at least three weeks before on-site works begin. Estimated construction hours are about 3 days with 1 assistant.

    Inside 4, Installation View 1

    Inside 4, Installation View 2

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