What We Did Before (Research Creation Exhibition at FCM, MMU)
Research Creation Exhibition is a biennial exhibition event by the FCM (Faculty of Creative Multimedia), MMU (Multimedia University), Cyberjaya, showcasing multimedia creative works by the faculty members. It was inaugurated in 2007, in conjunction with the FCM 10th Anniversary, and the second was staged last year, 2009. I wrote the curatorial notes and help organized things for both exhibitions as well as a participant.
In the 2009 exhibition, I collaborated with Mastura on a multimedia installation work. Below are our statement and some photographs of the work.
ON SITTING DOWN TO READ SULALATUS SALATIN OR THE MALAY ANNALS AGAIN
A multimedia installation by
T Sabri Ibrahim & Mastura A Rahman
Sometime in August 2009, we agreed to collaborate on making a multimedia installation for the FCM’s Research Creation 2 Exhibition. We have collaborated on two art projects; first was an on-site installation using natural materials in an art exchange program with several Japanese and Malaysian artists in Hulu Langat, Selangor in 2002, and the second was a situational sculpture in the Contemporary Art in School Project, organized by the Rumah Air Panas Artists Group and the Sekolah Menengah Stella Maris, Kuala Lumpur in 2008 (T Sabri. 2009).
At the time, we were reading some classical Malay literary works to understand the cultural life of the classical Malays better. We have been referring to the classical or traditional Malay arts for our artworks, either as subject-matters derived or compositional settings, since we started practicing art in the 1980s. T Sabri is known for his derivations of the keris’s hilts, the Malay dagger, and other forms into modern sculptures; and Mastura, for her paintings of traditional Malay house interiors and the use of decorative traditional textile designs (Piyadasa. 1998 & Muliyadi. 2007). Our artistic styles developed during the times which the Malaysian art and cultural scenes were lively with themes of ‘identity consciousness’, ‘cultural heritage’ or ‘questions of identity.’ Artists started to look back into their historical or cultural roots – searching for signs, symbols or stories to be reorganized into contemporary artworks; or simply for inspiration and motivation to create their artworks. We explored conceptual forms and installation art in the 1990s, and started using computers by late 1990s incorporating them in our installations, video making and creating small experimental multimedia works. Though the development in new forms, we continue to use the traditional Malay art images as central concerns or parts in our artworks.
We selected Sulalatus Salatin or in Malay, Sejarah Melayu, or in English, The Malay Annals, as our reference text for its standing as an important text on the culture, social and politics of the classical Malays. Sulalatus Salatin was said to be written during the Melaka Malay Sultanate around 15th or 16th century, and was later edited and rewrote by Tun Seri Lanang in 1612 upon a commission from a Malay ruler of the Old Johor, Sultan Abdullah Ma’ayah Syah ibni Sultan Ala Jalla Abdul Jalil Syah. It was meant to chronicle the genealogical and historical pasts of the Malays, especially that of from the Melaka Malay Sultanate until its fall to the Portuguese in 1511 and aftermaths.
Sulalatus Salatin existed in several versions, which include 1) W.G Shellabear, 1896, 2) Abdullah Munsyi, undated, and 3) Winstedt, 1938. There is a version, called Raffles Malay 18 Version, kept at the Royal Asiatic Society, London; and another called Sulalatus al-Salatin Code Or.1704 at Leiden University, in the Netherlands (A Samad Ahmad. 1979). And there is an 1821 English translation by John Leyden, with an introduction by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles. For this collaborated work, we will be using Sulalatus Salatin, edited by A Samad Ahmad who was known for his contributions in researching and editing classical and traditional Malay literature. A Samad Ahmad researched and edited Sulalatus Salatin from a handwritten Jawi manuscript in the collection of Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, Kuala Lumpur.
On Sitting Down to Read Sulalatus Salatin or the Malay Annals Again is somewhat autobiographical, in which we presented our past images and documented our Sulalatus Salatin readings; as well as expressions of our interpretations on Sulalatus Salatin using several different media.
We started by reflecting on what we have heard, read or experienced about Sulalatus Salatin since our childhood whilst reading the text at our own paces. Everything came naturally as we started to remember the characters and stories from the classical Malay world (DBP. 1960 & 1963): Hang Tuah and Hang Jebat, and how they fight in the keris duel, the strong man Badang who got his strength from a monster’s vomits, the founding of Singapura (today Singapore), Singapura being attacked by swordfishes, and the founding as well as the fall of Melaka. We also remembered these characters and episodes being acted out in the 1960s black and white Malay films. All these are to be found in the Sulalatus Salatin that we now read.
Then we skimmed through the book, collecting all names of people and places according to their appearance in the book’s chapters or parts. The names collected illustrated influences from many parts of the Malay Archipelago, India, Arab, Thailand and China. After that we listed the names into a word processor, we identified significant events that occurred in the presence of the listed names or at the places mentioned, then we matched the selected events with elements from the traditional Malay Art images that we usually used in our previous works, then we recorded some audios to enhance the collected and created visuals, and finally we edited them into a PowerPoint presentation format for viewing.
We do not intend On Sitting Down to Read Sulalatus Salatin or the Malay Annals Again to be elaborately presented. We wanted it to be a simple screen presentation where audience can read through the texts and view the simple animated motifs or images of the traditional Malay arts.
_________ (1960). Cherita2 Tanah Melayu (Stories of the Malay Peninsular). Kuala Lumpur: Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka.
_________ (1963). Dewan English Reader Book Eleven. Kuala Lumpur: Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka.
A SAMAD AHMAD. (1979). Sulalatus Salatin. Kuala Lumpur: Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka.
MULIIADI MAHAMOOD. (2007). Modern Malaysian Art: From the Pioneering Era to the Pluralist Era 1930s – 1990s. Kuala Lumpur: Utusan Publications & Distributors.
REDZA PIYADASA. (1998). Rupa Malaysia: A Decade of Art 1987 – 1997. Kuala Lumpur: National Art Gallery
T SABRI IBRAHIM. (2009). Tanpa Tajuk: Cerita-cerita Seni Rupa (Untitled: The Visual Arts Stories). Kuala Lumpur: Tinta Publishers.