Off Walls Off Pedestals

Lessons Continued: Hearing the Words, Seeing the Signs and Making the Choice Again and Again (Or Some Lessons under the Tree)

Posted in Inside Series by tsabri on March 31, 2010

The Round Invitation Card

In 2004, I was invited to participate in an exhibition titled Malaysian Art NOW / Seni Malaysia KINI at the Balai Seni Lukis Negara. The exhibition was curated by Valentine Willie. I made an on-site installation, continuing my Inside Series, and called it Lessons Continued: Hearing the Words, Seeing the Signs and Making the Choice Again and Again (Or Some Lessons under the Tree). The installation ‘occupied’ a large ‘almost empty and semi-darkened space’, saved for a table (which I borrowed from Yee I-Lann, but sadly it was lost after the dismantling of the exhibition. Poor I-Lann.), two chairs, a printed manuscript of ‘some kind of a poetry’, wall drawings, poetry on papers stuck to a wall and some netted wall parts.

Installation View 1

I was also excited to read an article by a young artist/writer, Hasmi Hashim, who criticized to whole exhibition as ‘tabloid styled’… Tidak ada tanda jelas akan setiap titik perubahan dalam perkembangan seni lukis nasional. Yang ‘lepas’, sangat tipis garisnya, perbezaannya, dengan yang ‘kini’. Kerana itu, pameran Malaysian Art Now, [Jun 26 – Ogos 31, di Balai Seni Lukis Negara (BSLN)] hanya persis dialektika pada tajuk utama talboid, a.k.a, koran nyamuk. Bunyi yang menggegar, tetapi, nyaris tidak ada apa-apa yang baru. Maksud saya, pandangan atau manifesto. (

Installation View 2

He went, saying something about my work… Yang lain lagi, masih terbelit dengan misterius akal-Tuhan, seperti yang terpapar dalam karya Tengku Sabri Ibrahim. Tajuknya, ‘Lessons Continued: Hearing the Words, Seeing the Sing ang Making the Choice Again and Again (or Some Lessons Under the Tree.)’ Sebuah ruang yang luas, seperti taman adanya, ada meja di satu sudut, dan benang-benang guni, yang, kita bisa menduga bagaimana semua itu, tersusun-tidak-tersusun secara sistematik, berinci, dan tidak berinci. Matematik dan tidak matematika, sifatnya. Dan, jelas dengan kabur, terus-terus-terus… tapi hendak ke mana itu semua? Saya kira, kita sudah meninggalkan jauh era “Mistikal-Realiti”, seperti yang gila-gila dibawa Sulaiman Esa lebih sepuluh tahun lalu.

Hasmi might be right_ where are we going?

Published here is that ‘printed manuscript of some kind of a poetry.’ It was written in Bahasa Melayu and English. The Bahasa Melayu version is to be found in the book, Tanpa Tajuk.

Some Lessons under the Tree

Lessons Continued: Hearing the Words, Seeing the Signs and Making the Choice Again and Again (or Some Lessons under the Tree)


A tree, or a plant, is a good reference for us as we ponder upon the meaning of life. A strong and steady tree, yet useful and exciting for us all.


A good tree comes from a good seed.

The seed, with enough water, sunlight and minerals, will give its shoot – growing in silence, but in a sure and lasting way.


The soil – the place of growth for the seed – needs to be fertile. And it needs to be constantly nourished by the gardener/planter.

The soil – the place to plant the seed has also to be in a suitable location.


A good tree is not easily uprooted.

A strong tree has roots firmly fixed.


Tree roots are seldom seen, being mostly hidden in the soil – moving, growing silently and continuously reaching deeper into the enriched and fertile soil.

Tree roots cannot usually be seen. Yet, those who are aware will know and understand what is in the soil beneath the tree.


  • chlorophyll
  • photosynthesis
  • oxygen
  • carbon dioxide
  • return to nature
  • greening of the earth
  • planter, planting, plant
  • roots, main root, root ends
  • what are storms, if the tree has many strong roots?


A good tree will surely have good stem _strong and stout.

A strong, stout stem is proof of the strength of its roots.

A strong stem, firm and stout to withstand challenges from the weather and environment.


The stem is covered with bark. It is structured in layers. The more it grows, the more it matures, and more layers will grow.

Unlike the roots, the stem is not covered with soil, and it can be seen.


  • How a tree stands firm when struck by lightning, because of the layered bark within its stem…


The branches of a good tree are also strong, rising forcefully upwards into the sky.

On the branches and twigs there are a few types of homes.


  • bee, bee hive, bee sting, honey
  • spider, spider web, trap
  • bird, baby bird, bird’s egg, bird’s nest
  • insects
  • squirrel
  • monkey, ape


A good tree brings fruit with every change of season (if it is a fruit tree).

The fruit of a good tree should be delicious, tasty and sweet.

A good fruit tastes delicious when we eat it. It is us who know if it delicious or not.


  • flower, pollination
  • busweet, sour, bitter
  • taste, tongue
  • heart/liver


The roots (in the ground) cannot be seen. How do we know that it is there if we cannot see it?

Listen! Yes, we listen.

Yes, listen to the roots creeping! Listen to it!

Listen carefully – listen to histories past: the lives and struggles of our fathers and ancestors, who had no doubts. That is our legacy, our roots. Listen! Then we will know and understand the roots.

Be a good listener!


Listening is important. It is a part of a learning process.

What we hear will be stored and processed.


  • ears, hearing, deaf, mute
  • hearing-aid
  • enters the right, exits the left
  • slim ears, hot ears
  • ear pus


What was heard need to be seen _ to proof what was earlier heard.


Sight. How is it possible to believe without an explanation? Without proof?

What we see will also be stored and processed.


  • pupil, tears, iris
  • eyes turned white, naughty eyes, eye signals, eye disease
  • spring, eye of the blade
  • cornea, sore eyes, blood shot, red eyes


Yet what can be understood as the mind is that it should not stop at listening and seeing. The heart also plays an important role to confirm or deny the truth.

Everything is decided in the heart.


  • Acheh is decorated with angsana flower, Going to Cik Siti’s home; The love is perfect, like a liver attached to the heart.
  • Water takes the shape of its boundaries, One voice through unity
  • Take care whilst on the road


A good tree gives shade – covering from the burning heat…

But take care when it rains, then a bolt of lightning may strike!


A place where good trees are planted can be called an orchard. Some say a farm (depending on the type of plants – vegetable farm, durian orchard. A plantation, if the crops are grown for profits).


A properly cultivated orchard or farm will produce – excellent and lucrative harvests.


We can feel peace and harmony while in the orchard. The chirping of birds, insects and rustling leaves can sooth the soul and the disheartened.

The orchard’s air is refreshing – clean.

Peaceful and calm.


A good orchard or farm can usually be found on higher ground (depending on the plant).

A lot of effort, time and tools are needed to build an orchard on the high ground.


An orchard or farm on the high ground will be first to receive sunlight and rainfall.


  • rain storm, drizzle
  • work hard, work together, cooperation
  • good results, prosperous, to the heart’s content, peace of heart


Finding good seeds, fertilizer, soil and location for the farm is the hard part. It takes a lot of initiative, creativity, physical ability and enthusiasm.


A good gardener is also one who can think.

A good gardener is a good listener, pays attention and has a good heart.


A good gardener is respected.


A good gardener can give useful guidance or lessons.

A good gardener understands the need for a practical system.

Such a gardener makes a fine example to others.


  • Accelerated Learning, Fun Learning, Action Learning
  • Intelligent Quotient, Emotional Quotient, Spiritual Quotient
  • Not A Day Without Education
  • A precious stone, even if it falls into a pit, will not lose its brilliance
  • Leave without being asked, appear without being called


Gardener – Human


Learn then teach.


Something of use.

Something of value.


There is no loss

There is no damage

There is no suffering


Hearing the WORDS

Seeing the SIGNS

Deciding on the CHOICE


…forever again.

Installation View 3

Audience 1

Audience 2


Have You Been to War, That You Could Easily Painted the War that Happened Thousands of Miles Away?

Posted in Other Works by tsabri on March 30, 2010

Sometime in 1999, I was invited by the Yayasan Kesenian Perak (YKP) ( to participate in an art exhibition with a theme of the Kosovo Conflict.

Kosovo 1

Image Kosovo 1 from

Refer; The term Kosovo War or Kosovo Conflict is used to describe two sequential and at times parallel armed conflicts in Kosovo: 1. Early 1998[1]–1999: War between Yugoslav police forces, Yugoslav paramilitaries and the Yugoslav military, and the Kosovo Albanian rebel guerillas. 2. 1999: 1999 NATO bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia between March 24 and June 10, 1999,[19] during which NATO attacked Yugoslavia, and Albanian militants continued battles with Yugoslav forces, amidst a massive displacement of population in Kosovo estimated to be close to 1 million people.

Kosovo 2

I turned down the invitation after a few days of difficulties in concluding on what I should do for such thematic exhibitions. I then wrote a letter to a Kosovo artist (or anybody in Kosovo)_ but the letter was never sent, as it was a letter that meant to be ‘something else’!

Image Kosovo 2 from and Kosovo 3 from I published here the letter in both Bahasa Melayu and English;

Surat untuk Saudara ku di Kosovo,

Saudara, mungkin aku kenal kamu. Ya, aku pernah dengar suara mu, membaca puisi-puisi patriotik di Pekan Seni Ipoh III di Ipoh, Perak pada tahun 1998. …mungkin kau sudah mati sekarang… bom memang memusnahkan, bukan saja di Kosovo, tetapi tentu di mana-mana pun.

Dan, bagaimana harus aku luahkan perasaan mu? Aku tidak pernah berperang _ yang bersenapang, berkereta kebal dan bom… Bagaimana harus aku melukis kamu dan kemudiannya memperagakannya untuk penonton melihat senapang, kereta kebal dan bom? Bagaimana harus aku?

Tsabri, seorang artis Malaysia. 1999

Kosovo 3

Letter to my Brother in Kosovo,

Brother, perhaps I knew you. Yes, I’ve heard your voice – reading the patriotic poems at the Pekan Seni Ipoh III, Ipoh, in 1998. …perhaps you are dead now… the bombs are deadly of course, not only in Kosovo, but everywhere else.

And, how could I express your feelings? I never experienced any war _ the ones with guns, tanks and bombs… How am I to draw you and later display it for people to witness the guns, tanks and bombs? How am I?

Tsabri, a Malaysian artist. 1999

Have you been to Kosovo?

The Letter

Rediscovering Our Own Malaysia 2: Jerteh – Jeli – Banding – Gerik – Baling (Part 4)

Posted in With Friends by tsabri on March 30, 2010

Shar Shalom Inn

We arrived Gerik at about 830 pm. Gerik, or sometimes spelled Grik, is also known as Rest Town because of its location next to the East-West Highway. After some search around town, we landed ourselves at Shar Shalom Inn. Refreshed and went to have dinner at the town’s eating square.

Gerik on

Asal – Usul Daerah Gerik Kira-kira seratus tahun dahulu, tempat sekarang yang dikenali sebagai gerik itu masih diliputi oleh hutan belantara dan masih terletak di bawah pemerintahan Raja Reman. Dalam tahun 1870 beberapa orang telah datang dari Patani mengikut Sungai Hangai lalu membuka hutan di Kuala Sungai tersebut untuk dijadikan kampung. Mereka diketuai oleh seorang tuan bernama Tok Ad(Tok Saad).

Tiada beberapa lama selepas itu, Raja Reman yang bernama Tuan Jagong, datang berburu gajah di Gunung Tujuh berhampiran dengan Kuala Kenderong. Mereka mendengar cerita bahawa tiada jauh dari situ ada kampung orang terletak di tengah-tengah hutan.

Ketika Raja Reman menghampiri kampung tersebut, baginda mendengar suatu bunyi yang pelik terbit daripada perdu serumpun gajah. Baginda memerintahkan supaya dipagar keliling perdu buluh itu dengan sasak dan menyuruh orang-orangnya menggali disitu untuk mengetahui apakah benda yang mengeluarkan bunyi yang ganjil itu.

Setelah habis digali hingga ke pangkal perdu buluh itu, maka kelihatanlah berpuluh-puluh ekor dekan (sejenis binatang rupanya seakan-akan tikus) sedang mengerit (memakan) umbi buluh. Oleh sebab umbi buluh itu sangat keras, maka terbitlah bunyi yang berkerit-kerit apabila digerit oleh dekan-dekan itu.

Raja Reman itu telah menamakan tempat itu Kampung Gerit. Sebutan Gerit itu telah di pakai beberapa lama tetapi orang-orangnya yang kemudian telah mengubah sebutan dan ejaan daripad Gerit kepada Grik, kemudiannya menjadi Gerik seperti yang digunakan sekarang.

We were in Gerik. The town slowly slept into the night. It was quite windy that night. The ‘Rediscovering Our Own Malaysia’ is actually an immature project, so to speak. The four of us are thinking developing the travels – be however they were, like this ‘Jerteh – Jeli – Banding – Gerik – Baling’ journey, which was quite a hurried journey in someways, documenting what we met on the way, as well as on the Internet – in a yet to be named project. As mentioned elsewhere, our archive is growing and perhaps at the year’s end we will make an assessment of what we have done and will be doing (on this discovering journeys across Peninsular Malaysia). The last 24 hours, on the NAZA Ria and the stops at Jerteh, Jeli and Banding, Naim and Nizam were documenting the visuals as well as did some interviews with the people we met on the roads and places. Hanafiah and Akhyar were talking endlessly in Javanese with Akhyar, whilst Roslan was always looking at his cellphone. And I was on the Internet whenever there were connections.

Gerik Morning 1

Gerik Morning 2

Gerik Morning 3

Gerik Morning 4 (The Drain)

The Hills Becoming Bare

Man Made Slopes

After the night at the Shar Shalom Inn, we started for the road towards Baling, Kedah at about 830 am. Kampongs. Forests. Small farms.

‘Hey, look. Is it illegal logging?’

‘They won’t be logging near the highway, that everybody can see them.’

‘Stop. Let’s stop. I want to take some photographs 0f the fallen trees. The soils are eroding…’

‘Let’s find a stall somewhere to have breakfast, we can meet and talk to the people.’

‘Yeah, I’m hungry already.’

‘Let’s take that left turn. What’s that? Kupang.’

We stopped at a place called Kupang.

Warung Wall 1

Warung Wall 2

‘Bang. Macamana tu Nasi Goreng Jantan? Mee Goreng Jantan? Apa tu?’

‘Nasi Goreng Jantan, Mee Goreng Jantan ada teloq.’

‘Tu dia… Nasi Goreng Jantan satu, Kopi O satu…’

We had our Nasi Goreng Jantan. There were a few men in the warung, in their 60s I supposed, having their coffees or teas. We gave our salams and soon conversations started. Then the topic went to a portrait of a man on the wall, a photocopied image, named as Tuan Guru Haji Yahya Toha.

Tuan Guru Haji Yahya Toha

At, we found:

Hj Yahya Toha dilahirkan di Kampong Pisang, Kupang Baling, Kedah pada tahun 1906M bersamaan 1326H. Daripada kalangan komuniti Patani yang berhijrah dan mendiami daerah seperti Baling, Pendang, Sik, Padang Terap di Kedah dan Grik serta Batu Kurau di Perak[perlu rujukan]. Beliau memperolehi pendidikan agama sejak kecil dan seterusnya meneruskan pengajian di Pondok Kemelong, Sik, Kedah. Dalam usia 18 tahun beliau melanjutkan pengajian ke Makkah dan menuntut ilmu dengan beberapa orang guru berasal dari Patani. Antaranya ialah Tuan Guru Haji Wan Daud, Tuan Guru Haji Yahya al-Ramani (berasal dari Reman, Selatan Thai), Tuan Guru Haji Noor al-Ramani (berasal dari Reman) serta Syeikh Mokhtar dan Syekh al-Ihya’ (berasal dari Indonesia). Setelah berada selama 12 tahun di Makkah beliau kembali ke tanah air pada tahun 1935 dalam usia 30 tahun. Keazamannya untuk membuka sebuah pusat pengajian pondok bermula dengan beliau mengajar al-Quran dan ilmu agama menggunakan kitab-kitab Arab di rumahnya pada waktu malam dan pagi jumaat. Sambutan yang menggalakkan menyebabkan sebuah pusat pengajian pondok dibuka kemudiannya dikenali sebagai Madrasah Al-Khairiah atau lebih dikenali sebgai Madrasah al-Khairiah Kampong Pisang atau Pondok Kampong Pisang. Madrasah tersebut kini dikenali sebagai Yayasan al-Khairiah yang kini mempunyai pelajar mencecah 3,000 orang. Tuan Guru Haji Yahya dianggap oleh penduduk daerah Baling dan orang yang mengenali beliau dari daerah-daerah lain sebagai wali yang mempunyai karamah terutama selepas beliau dan sepupunya Haji Ahmad Abdul Rahman mengepalai masyarakat Baling dan penduduk utara Perak memerangi komunis melalui peperangan jihad atau perang sabil. Beliau meninggal dunia pada pada hari Khamis Jun 1959 dengan meninggalkan tiga orang isteri dan 15 orang anak.

The Tuan Guru is respected by the people until today.

‘The Chinese were afraid of him…Tuan Guru have the karamah.‘ Said the Pak Cik, slurping his coffee (karamah or keramat is a Malay word of Arabic origins, literally means some mystical powers.

‘The Communists couldn’t have him killed. He used his serban to defend himself and others from the Communist bullets…’ Added another Pak Cik.

‘Those who went into his area, his house, with bad or evil intentions would found themselves surrounded by water, like the rivers…’ Said the first Pak Cik again.

‘He opened a sekolah pondok here, a kilometer up, now his son is looking after the school, now developed into Sekolah Menengah Agama (Arab) Yayasan Khairiah. You guys might want to stop at the school, just a kilometer ahead.’ Said the Nasi Goreng Jantan stall-keeper.

After breakfast, a heavy one, we proceeded to the school. Naim and Nizam went to interview the principal, who is the son of Tuan Guru Haji Yahya Toha. Hanafiah, Akhyar and Roslan were talking, and myself went scouting around the school – looking at classrooms an many more. The school also is also a boarding school, there are hostels for boys and girls. But at the time we were there _ it’s empty. The holidays.

Sekolah Menengah Agama (Arab) Yayasan Khairiah

Behind the School 1

Behind the School 2

‘Before, the karamah of Tuan Guru Haji Yahya made the school popular. Many came to study. But now_ I do not  possess such powers…We need another kind of karamah of course… another kind of karamah… and you know what is that?’ Asked Ustaz Haji Othman Haji Yahya Toha, the school’s principal who was also the son of Tuan Guru Haji Yahya Toha, during the interview with Naim and Nizam. ‘We need to have good results in the SPM and PMR exams! Thats the karamah of today! If we have that, more people will be coming!’

On meneruskan matlamat pengasas Madrasah Al-Khariah, Kampung Pisang, Kupang, Tuan Guru Haji Yahya Toha pada tahun 1938 bukan mudah seperti yang disangkakan. Sebaliknya sekolah yang kini dikenali sebagai Sekolah Menengah Agama (Arab) Yayasan Khariah terpaksa mengharungi onak duri atau ranjau sepanjang zaman sehinggalah kini terutamanya melalui zaman getir apabila Perdana Menteri waktu itu, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad mengiystiharkan penarikan balik bantuan perkapita terhadap Sekolah Agama Rakyat (SAR) yang dianggap menjadi sarang ektrimis Islam.

Pengetua sekolah berkenaan, Ustaz Haji Othman Haji Yahya Toha ketika ditemu bual Harakahdaily baru-baru ini tidak menafikan melalui zaman sukar di awal era melinium tetapi atas kesungguhan Lembaga Pengarah serta aktivis yang bersama-sama bertanggungjawab menegakkan sistem perdidikan berteraskan Islam maka ia dapat di atasi dengan sempurna. Untuk mengekang usaha memusnahkan haluan SAR, sekolah ini mampu melebarkan fungsi yang ada apabila berjaya mengorak langkah setapak lagi ekoran pembangunan sebuah bangunan yang dilengkapi masjid, dewan seminar, dewan terbuka, dewan makan, pusat Tahfiz dan 13 buah bilik untuk kemudahan musafir dengan kos RM2.5 juta.

“Insya Allah pada bulan Mei tahun depan (2009) bangunan baru yang menempatkan masjid, dewan seminar, dewan terbuka, pusat tahfiz dan bilik untuk kemudahan musafir akan siap sepenuhnya. Sekarang ini baru 60 peratus kerja-kerja dilaksanakan dengan perbelanjaan hampir RM1.2 juta, ” ujarnya yang nyata berjaya membaiki kedudukan sekolah daripada dicengkam Bantuan Kementerian Pendidikan. Sekolah yang diterokai dengan pengajian secara halaqah atau sistem pondok kini boleh dianggap berjaya menjadi satu-satunya SAR di negeri Kedah dapat membina komplek untuk pelbagai kegunaan.

Cuma pada tahun 1952 baru cara persekolahan diperkenalkan iaitu pelajar akan masuk seperti sekolah biasa cuma pengajianya dalam bahasa Arab manakala pelajar secara halaqah diteruskan selepas Zohor, Asar atau Maghrib. Pada tahun 1970 ditambah pula pelajaran akademik untuk memudahkan pelajar mengimbangkan dengan pelajar yang mengambil peperiksaan LCE ketika itu.

“Sekarang ini pelajaran akademik terus diajar di sini di samping pelajaran Arab,” katanya yang mengambil alih pengurusan dan pentadbiran sekolah pada tahun 1976 setelah beberapa tahun dikelolakan oleh menantu dan pelajar lama Tuan Guru Yahya Toha. Fokus utama sekolah ini adalah Arab cuma tambahan akademik disebabkan keperluan masa kini untuk seseorang itu mendapatkan pekerjaan.

Memandangkan kewujudan sekolah ini bukan berdasarkan keuntungan sebaliknya bagi mengembangkan syariah Islam, maka pihak lembaga tidak sekali-kali menerima pendekatan menyerahkan kepada Kementerian Pendidikan. Bila tiada penyerahan pastinya anak cucu pengasas dapat meneruskan usaha murni penubuhan demi menyelamatkan Islam daripada ditindas atau dipergunakan untuk menyekat kebangkitan gerakan Islam. “Walaupun kami tidak terlibat dengan penyerahan kepada Kementerian Pendidikan namun kami dapat bertahan dengan baik hasil sokongan orang ramai,” jelasnya lagi.

Menyentuh mengenai bekas pelajar di sini Ustaz Othman memberitahu, antaranya bekas Ahli Parlimen Padang Terap, Profesor Zawawi Haji Ahmad, bekas Pensyarah Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), Dr. Marzuki Haji Mahmud, bekas penceramah Tabung Haji, Ustaz Daud Che Ngah dan sebagainya.

After about 1 1/2 hours at the school, we started for Baling town, our final destination for this Rediscovering Our Own Malaysia 2. Baling.


On is a major town in the northern state of Kedah in Malaysia. It is also the name of a district in which Baling town is situated. It is south of Betong, the southernmost town in Thailand.

Origin of name: The name Baling can be traced to a series of events detailed in the story of Raja Bersiong (The Fanged King), a popular legend of Kedah, recorded in the Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa. Raja Bersiong was a ruthless vampire-like king with a taste for human blood who preyed on his subjects. His subjects finally rose against him and burned down the palace. When the fanged king fled his palace at the Old Kedah capital in Lembah Bujang, he fled to a place named Merbau and began removing his fangs by twisting them by hand. As a result of the twisting act, Merbau was renamed as Merbau Pulas where pulas in Malay means twisting.

After the king had successfully removed both his fangs, he threw them away to a faraway place. The place where he stand when he throw his fang is known as Baling which mean throw and the place believed to be the site where the fangs landed was named as Siong, which means fang in Malay, one of the village in Baling district.

History: Baling was also the site where the leaders of the Malay Races Liberation Army, the newly formed Malayan Government, and the British met in 1955 to try to end the Malayan Emergency. Tunku Abdul Rahman, a leader of the Malayan government, implored the Communists to give up their arms peacefully by promising that no retaliatory action would be taken against them. The MRLA leader Chin Peng expressed skepticism of a pardon promised by the leader of a nation that had yet to gain its independence (Malaya’s independence was gained in two years later in 1957). Chin Peng insisted that the Malayan government and the British endorse the MRLA as a legal Communist Party so that it could run in the forthcoming elections. This was denied, however, and thus no agreement was reached.

The CPM again surfaced when we looked into Baling. And on the same page, the school we just visited was mentioned;  … In Kampung Pisang, Kupang, there is a religious Islamic school, Sekolah Menengah Agama Yayasan Khairiah. Yayasan Khairiah is one of the biggest religious school in Baling. Now it has about 1 700 students coming from all over Malaysia.

Rundingan Baling 1955

Baling is historic, many events particularly those of politically related happened in Baling. There were the failed Rundingan Baling in 1955, the 1974 Baling Peasant Protest and Memali Massacre 1985.

Image of Rundingan Baling 1955, showing Rashid Maidin, Chin Peng and Chin Tien as representatives from the CPM is from

The 1974 Demonstration

The 1974 Baling Peasant Protest, was largely activated by students movements prostesting on social issues such as poverty and injustice, as well as the politics. Noted on;  Kebangkitan mahasiswa Malaysia 1971-1975 merujuk kepada aktiviti demonstrasi pelajar [[]] dan [[]] bermula dari 1971 hingga 1975. Menteri Pelajaran ketika itu ialah Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad dan Perdana Menteri Malaysia ialah Tun Abdul Razak Hussein.

Kerajaan Malaysia memperkenalkan pelbagai dasar bagi mengekang Peristiwa 13 Mei. Rukunegara diperkenalkan pada 1971. Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia dibina di Bandar Baru Bangi. Dasar Kebudayaan Kebangsaan digubal bagi menyatukan semua kaum. Dasar Ekonomi Baru dilaksanakan pada 1970 bagi mewujudkan keseimbangan ekonomi . Parti pembangkang seperti PAS dan Gerakan setuju digabungkan dalam parti kerajaan yang dkenali sebagai Barisan Nasional. Suara rakyat marhaen tidak lagi disuarakan oleh pemimpin politik, tetapi disuarakan oleh pemimpin mahasiawa. Kebangkitan mahasiswa dipelopori oleh mahasiswa Universiti Malaya di Bangsar dan Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) di Shah Alam . Mahasiswa semakin meradang apabila Akta Universiti dan Kolej Universiti digubal untuk mengekang mahasiswa dengan niat agar pelajar belajar sahaja di bilik kuliah.

Sudut pidato: Ketika itu sudut pidato diadakan dan pemimpin mahasiswa boleh berucap lantang dan lancang mengkritik dasar-dasar yang dikira mengabaikan rakyat miskin seperti di Baling. Laporan media melaporkan terdapat penoreh getah di Baling yang mati akibat miskin melarat atau makan ubi kayu sahaja. Harga getah jatuh teruk dan penduduk kesempitan wang. Wartawan Utusan Melayu, Zainuddin Maidin pergi menyiasat, mendapati kematian di Baling itu tidak benar. Penduduk Baling sendiri pengadakan demonstrasi di hadapan Menteri Perusahaan Utama, Datuk Musa Hitam. Pengganas komunis turut percaya dengan berita itu dan mereka keluar pada 1974 . Pensyarah Universiti Malaya, Zainal Abidin Wahid turut mendapat berita kematian tersebut.

Ustaz Ibrahim Libya

Memali 1985

Another incident happened in Baling in 1985, at Kampong Memali Memali Massacre was a major incident that occurred in the remote village of Memali, Baling in the Malaysian state of Kedah on 19 November 1985. A team of 200 policemen under orders from the Acting Prime Minister and Home Minister Musa Hitam laid siege to kampung (village) houses in Memali, near Baling in Kedah. The houses were occupied by an Islamic sect of about 400 people led by Ibrahim Mahmud a.k.a. Ibrahim Libya.

Background The Memali Incident followed severely strained relationships between UMNO and PAS, the two major political parties in Malaysia. Some PAS leaders had concluded that UMNO members were apostate. In 1981, Hadi Awang, a senior PAS politician made claims that to resist UMNO and the UMNO led government that does not practice Islamic Hudud law is a Jihad, and that those who died in the struggle are al-shahid. Pursuant to Hadi’s claims, there was a serious rift in the Malay Muslim community. In Besut, Terengganu for example, communities were split to the extent that communal prayers were done separately for UMNO and for PAS congregations. [1] [2]

Ibrahim Mahmud Ibrahim was a local religious teacher who had received part of his education at the University of Tripoli in Libya, hence his nickname Ibrahim Libya. The police wanted to arrest Ibrahim Mahmud under the Internal Security Act, for creating discord and disharmony, but he refused to give himself up. Ibrahim was also accused of harbouring two brothers, Yusof Che Mit and Ramli Che Mit, who were fugitives. Revered by the village folks, who called him Ustaz Ibrahim, they vowed to defend him to the death.

Ibrahim attended Sekolah Rendah Kebangsaan Weng in Baling before furthering his studies in Islamic studies at Sekolah Agama Ittifaqiah, Kg Carok Putih, Weng and later Pondok Al-Khariah, Pokok Sena, Seberang Perai. Ibrahim Mahmud attended the University of Tripoli in Libya. He had also studied in India and at Al-Azhar University in Cairo.

Upon his return, he worked as a preacher with Pusat Islam. He appeared on television to lectures on topics of Islam. Allegedly, Ibrahim was involved in the 1974 Baling Demonstrations along with Anwar Ibrahim. Ibrahim Mahmud’s politics drifted towards those of PAS. His close association with PAS worried the government of Dr. Mahathir Mohamad. In 1978, Ibrahim contested the elections for the seat of Bayu-Baling as a PAS candidate. Ibrahim polled 5,081 votes as opposed to the Barisan Nasional candidate who polled 6,169 votes. In 1982, Ibrahim again contested for the same seat but lost by 100 votes.

Pusat Islam looked into his teachings and thereafter banned him from lecturing in the media or to give lectures in mosques and suraus throughout the nation. Pusat Islam also started making allegations of ‘deviationist acts’ against him. Ibrahim was called a fanatic who challenged the integrity of the Government.[1].

Death Toll The police action left 14 civilians and 4 policemen dead. The villagers were armed with a few hunting rifles and spears and other rudimentary weapons. The police used heavy vehicles. At the height of the assault, some villagers, men and women, came out in the open in a state of frenzy and hysteria. In an announcement in the media, Acting Prime Minister Musa Hitam (Dr. Mahathir Mohamad was away on a visit to China), who was also Home Affairs Minister announced that 14 ‘criminals’ had been killed in Kampung Memali in clashes with security forces.

Arrests Police detained 159 people, including women and children. Thirty-six persons involved in the incident were arrested under the Internal Security Act on January 1986 but later released in June.

Both illustrations, Ustaz Ibrahim Libya and Memali1985 were from

The sun was high.We roamed Baling town, Naim, Nizam and Basyir were with cameras and videos. Roslan took a break to visit his uncle who is living at the nearby housing area.  Akhyar was looking for toys to bring back his small children. A somewhat retarded teenager was asking me about Kuala Lumpur.

Soon as Roslan was back from his uncle’s, we took the road. Found a roadside laksa stall and helped ourselves with laksa, pisang goreng and air kelapa muda. It was hot! 35 degrees Celsius! Then, at about 2 pm we slowly found our way to Kuala Lumpur. Another discovery or rediscovery…

Rediscovering Our Own Malaysia 2: Jerteh – Jeli – Banding – Gerik – Baling (Part 3)

Posted in With Friends by tsabri on March 29, 2010

Jeli was still hot when we left. Now it’s the East-West Highway and we were climbing. Small kampongs. Forests. And more forests. Passing Batu Melintang, the ‘mystical mountain’ Gunung Reng… mystical?

Tapak Gunung Reng ini asalnya sebuah Kampung bernama Kampung Tala yang dibuka oleh Tok Tadoh keturunan Pulang Hari dari Jawa kira-kira 1,400 tahun dahulu. Kononnya, Ketua Kampung Tala telah mengadakan kenduri besar-besaran tujuh hari tujuh malam, cukup dengan berbagai jenis permainan.

Setelah sampai hari ketujuh semua jenis permainan telah dilangsungkan. Untuk upacara penutup, mereka telah bermesyuarat dan bersetuju untuk menyediakan pertandingan memperlaga anjing dan kucing di atas bumbung rumah.

Pada waktu Zohor kedua-dua binatang ini dilagakan di atas bumbung rumah, semasa binatang itu sedang berlaga, berlaku ribut dan taufan berserta hujan yang sangat lebat. Dalam keadaan ribut taufan, seorang perempuan tua bersama dengan seorang cucunya berlari ke kampung yang berhampiran bernama Kampung Gantung untuk mengangkut padi yang dijemur. Setelah selesai memunggah padi yang dijemur, ribut taufan berserta hujan pun berhenti.

Perempuan tua tersebut pergi semula ke Kampung Tala, alangkah terperanjatnya apabila perempuan itu melihat Kampung tala telah ditutup oleh sebuah gunung yang besar dengan melenyapkan Kampung Tala sama sekali.

Gunung yang menutupi Kampung Tala itu dikatakan asalnya terletak di hulu Sungai Reng, kira-kira tiga hari dua malam perjalanan iaitu di sempadan Kelantan/Perak.

Tempat asal gunung ini telah menjadi kolam. Daripada nama sungai ini maka gunung ini dinamakan Gunung Reng. Gunung Reng mempunyai gua-gua yang bercorak bilik-bilik seperti Gua Bedak, Gua Payong, Gua Kaca, Gua Rimau dan Gua Batak. Melalui pintu besar Gunung Reng ini ialah Gua Payong, boleh masuk melalui lorong dalam gua ke bilik-bilik serta ke anjung sehingga ke puncak Gunung Reng. ( (Image of Gunung Reng from

And a note on

Gunung Reng is a mountain linked to the legendary Puteri Saadong. According to the folklore, Puteri Saadong, dismayed the preoccupation the villagers’ preoccupation with cat and dog fighting, hurled a large boulder down Reng Mountain onto the village centre. Only one soul from the village survived the incident, whilst the others perished under the path of the rolling boulder.

Research in and around Reng Mountain has unearthed evidence that the mountain was once inhabited. Today, the limestone caves of Reng mountain has become a tourist attraction.

Highlands 1

Highlands 2

Highlands 3

We drove past a group of Orang Asli, four of them and one of them only wore underpants! But none of us managed to capture them! _ there were turns and climbs the NAZA Ria went. There were quite many vehicles on the highway… ah, the festive season. And soon we felt the cool and refreshing air of the highlands…

East West

The 1050M Marker

The Wikipedia at–West_Highway_(Malaysia) noted:

East–West Highway (Malaysia)

East-West Highway, Federal Route (Malay: Lebuhraya Timur-Barat) is a highway constructed by Malaysian Public Works Department (JKR) to shorten the journey from Kota Bharu, Kelantan to northwestern towns and cities of Malaysia such as Alor Star and Penang. Before East-West Highway was built, the journey from Alor Star to Kota Bharu may reach over 1,000 km (– miles), but the highway shortens the distance by about several hundred kilometers. The highway includes Lake Temenggor Bridge which crosses Temenggor Lake, a hydroelectric dam. The East-West Highway is one of the more scenic routes in Peninsular Malaysia, due to its hilly nature. There are even places where road signs are put up to warn motorists of elephants crossing the road.


The East-West Highway was built in the 1967 as a defence-related highway. In the early stages, there was military presence in every kilometre. The road was built to cut off the Communist Party of Malaya from the safe havens in Thailand. During construction, the highway was sabotaged by the Communist terrorists during the Communist insurgency from 1967 to 1980. Many of workers were killed and the buildozers was seriously damaged. The East-West Highway was put under strict security control by Malaysian army when the highway was opened. Motorists were allowed to use the highway at daytime only due to security reasons. The military control of the highway was lifted after the insurgency war was ended in 1989.

The Malaysian Public Works Department (JKR) monument was erected in Pulau Banding near the Lake Temenggor Bridge on 1982 to commemorates those who died during construction of the East-West Highway and lake bridge.

Further surfing landed us at


Stamp 1

With the opening of the East-West Highway to traffic on 1st July 1982, another milestone in the history of road communication in Peninsular Malaysia was achieved. The construction of the Highway was one of the largest projects undertaken by the Public Works Department and its completion adds to the large mileage of roads in the country providing necessary access to new areas and the infrastructure for development works. The construction of the main Highway was carried out by Public Works Department workers; while the bridges and some of the ancillary works were carried out through contractors.

Stamp 2

With the attainment of independence in 1957, the ferry services along a number of roads in the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia were replaced with bridges and this reduced travel time. However, road communication between the East Coast and West Coast was through Kuantan. The distance between Kota Bharu and Penang was 1037 km. Due to poor road communication, the vast hinterland in Kelantan and Terengganu with economic potential, was not developed. Thus a road to link the East and West Coasts in the North was found necessary.

Stamp 3

In October 1969, the Public Works Department was instructed to commence work on the Highway with immediate effect. In early 1970, work started, simultaneously from Jeli and Gerik even before any detailed design or investigations were carried out. Existing earth moving machines from the various states were initially deployed until new machines for the project were purchased. It was only in early 1973 that the full complement of machines and staff were available for the project to proceed.

Two Base Camps were constructed, one at the Gerik end and the other at the Jeli end. The whole construction staff and their families were housed at these camps. A pilot track was constructed to gain access to the forward areas. This was followed by jungle clearing work by the main earthworks teams. As work progressed and travel time between the work site and Base camp increased, forward camps were set up to house the workers.

There are 5 major bridges along the Highway. Two of the bridges including the longest, the Sungei Perak Reservoir Bridge, span arms of the lake formed by the Temenggor Dam Project. The bridges were designed by ENEX (of New Zealand) under the Colombo Plan Aid. Construction of 3 of the bridges were undertaken by a foreign contractor while a joint venture between 2 local firms undertook the construction of the remaining 2 bridges. In addition to the above, there are about 280 culverts constructed mainly by departmental workers.

Constructing the Highway was never plain sailing for the Public Works Department. There were many constraints, which slowed down progress. Some 27.5 million cu meter of earth was required to be cut to construct the Highway, of this over 3.8 million cu meter was rock, which required drilling and blasting operations for its removal. Hill cuts of over 60m and valleys over 100m deep, which required filling was found at many locations. The intensity of the monsoon rains especially in the forward areas reduced time available for construction to 10 months in a year. The East-West Highway is located close to the Malaysian-Thailand border and is situated in a Security Area. As a result several measures had to be taken and procedures adopted to ensure the safety of the workers and the machines. These too contributed to some delay. The 116 km long Highway, which links the East Coast at Jeli, Kelantan with the West Coast at Gerik, Perak cost $396 million. Other details of the project are as follows:

Major Bridges Span

1. Sungei Rui Bridge 256m

2. Sungei Perak Reservoir Bridge 880m

3. Sungei Perak Causeway Bridge 640m

4. Upper Sungei Pergau Bridge 159m

5. Lower Sungei Pergau Bridge 158m

Road Design Criteria

Design speed 72 km/hr

Maximum Gradient 7%

Pavement Width 7.2m

Shoulder Width 2.3m

Traveling along the Highway is an exhilarating experience. As one enters the Highway, the Central Mountain Range through which the Highway traverses comes into view in the distant. Traveling along the gentle curves one climbs higher and sees on either side the primary jungle rich with timber. As one proceeds on, the jungle gives way to the huge man-made Temenggor Lake at Banding. Halfway along the Highway the elevation of the road is over 1,100m above sea level and the weather cool and pleasant.

With the completion of the East-West Highway the previous distance between Kota Bharu and Butterworth (through Kuantan) of 1037 km is reduced to 363 km with considerable savings in travel time. The completion of the Highway will reduce transport costs and with this the State of Kelantan can expect its tempo of development to be heightened, new towns and industrial areas will be developed. The Highway will provide the access for the extraction of timber from the jungles along the road and help boost tourism among Malaysians as well as foreigners.

The successful completion of the East-West Highway is the result of the sacrifice of workers who had to carry out their jobs under difficult and trying conditions. The public Works Department wishes to record its deep appreciation to them and to the Security Forces who have all made some personal sacrifices for the development and prosperity of the country.

It is interesting to note that the Wikipedia quoted the highway is related to the terrors of the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) whilst the blog, stampsofmalaysia, though offered interesting historical facts, didn’t even mentioned CPM except the sentences which I underlined and made them bold in both references above – situated in a Security Area & the Security Forces.

… And The Communist Party of Malaya (CPM); (

Communism was first introduced into South-East Asia by Dutch radicals, and given impetus by the rise of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). In 1922 the CCP opened an clandestine office in Singapore which sowed the seed for the South Seas Communist Party (or Nanyang Communist Party). This party was mainly active in the Dutch East Indies and French Indo-China [1] In Singapore its work centred on the trades unions. After their 1925 uprising failed, many Indonesian Communists took refuge in Singapore, and engaged in political work there under the auspices of the Third Communist International. [2]

In April 1930 the South Seas Communist Party was dissolved and was replaced by the Communist Party of Malaya. [3] While its primary responsibility was Malaya and Singapore, the party was also active in Thailand and the Dutch East Indies, which did not then have their own Communist parties.

Chin Peng

Abdullah C.D

Suriani Abdullah

Rashid Maidin

According to,

CPM was founded by Yuen Ai Guo (later he changed his name to Ho Chi Ming the father of modern Vietname) a North Vietnamese in Singapore in 1935. After the formation of CPM he went back to Vietnam and left his assistant called Loi Tek to be in charge of the CPM. Loi Tek became the Secretary-General of CPM… During the war Loi Tek, the Secretary-General of CPM, was a double agent. In order to consolidate his control of the CPM Loi Tek informed the Japanese on the upcoming meeting of top senior Communists in Batu Cave near Kuala Lumpur on 31 August-1 September 1942. During the meeting the Japanese surrounded the cave. Chin Peng and Loi Tek were present in the meeting. The Japanese killed almost all the senior executive officers (most of them were Hakkas) of the CPM. Chin Peng, Loi Tek and a few other communists escaped.

After the war, many senior members of the CPM suspected that Loi Tek betrayed the Batu Cave Conference to the Japanese. The Central Committee planned to meet on 6 March 1947. Loi Tek did not turn up in the meeting because he had already disappeared with the CPM’s fund. The disappearance of Loi Tek gave the CPM a great blow. Later the CPM Central Committee elected Chin Peng as the new Secretary-General of CPM…

Abu Samah

Kamaruzzaman Teh

Shamsiah Fakeh

And notes from The Communist guerrilla force, with a strength of about 500, continued to subsist on either side of the Thailand border. Meanwhile Chin Peng and other cadre in China had limited contact with the jungle bases. From 1969 they launched a radio station in Hunan called “Suara Revolusi Malaya” (Voice of the Malayan Revolution), broadcasting to supporters in Malaysia and Singapore. This was shut down in 1981 at the request of Deng Xiao Ping.[41]

Also in 1969, in response to the intensification of the Vietnam War and the Cultural Revolution in China, the party stepped armed struggle. In 1970, however, the bases in Thailand were convulsed by the trials and executions of supposed spies. Two breakaway factions formed which condemned the purge. Chin Peng subsequently denied involvement and rehabilitated his accused comrades.[42]

In 1989 the CPM finally laid down its arms On December 2 at the town of Had Yai in Southern Thailand, Chin Peng, Rashid Maidin, and Abdullah C. D. met with representatives of the Malaysian and Thailand governments. Separate peace agreements were signed between the CPM and both governments.

I noted the CPM here, as the East-West Highway and the interiors of Kelantan, Perak, Kedah, (and Southern Thailand) were all the areas where CPM had operated. Most of the CPM members illustrated here have wrote their autobiographies, except for Kamaruzzaman Teh’s, which was a biography. Photographs of Chin Peng and some of the CPM’s 10th Regiment leaders illustrated here were from, except for Shamsiah Fakeh’s, which was from

At the Jetty

It was getting dark. The time was about 715 pm. Jungles. The coolness of the highlands…We arrived Temenggor Lake. A the jetty to Pulau Banding, there were cars and people… The noted;

History: Temengor Lake is the second largest manmade reservoir in Peninsular Malaysia built along the East-West Highway. Banding Island now owned by Emkay Berhad is a mountainous island surrounded by Temengor Lake. The deepest part of the lake is about the height of a 75-storey building. Banding Island is linked to the mainland by the bridge over Temengor Lake. Banding Island is the entry point to the natural heritage Belum-Temengor Rainforest Complex. The entire ensemble includes water bodies and virgin tropical rainforests dating back some 130 million years ago. Banding Island, in the wilderness of the mighty Titiwangsa Range, opened up when the East-West Highway was built between 1970 and 1982. It took 12 years to build the 214km road through the mountainous terrains crossing Perak and Kelantan. The area was infiltrated with communists during the Emergency period from 1948 to 1960. The insurgency continued to stall the project after the emergency. A memorial was erected at a spot where three of Public Works Department workers died and many more were hurt or maimed in communist attacks on Aug 27, 1974. It was at this same spot that 63 bulldozers were bombed by the communists in May 1974.

‘Let’s find a place to stop for the night. Have a good rest. We have been on the road for over twenty hours…’

‘Let’s go to Gerik. It’s about some 40 km up. The chalets and rooms here are fully occupied anyway…’

‘Drive carefully.’

Naim took the wheels. Jungles. More jungles. Cars’ front=lights. The climbs_up, down, left, right, turns and turns. Dark. More jungles. A page from BERNAMA,,

Lelaki Dilapor Hilang Di Lebuh Raya Timur Barat

IPOH, 5 Nov (Bernama) — Seorang lelaki dilapor hilang di kawasan hutan Lebuh Raya Timur-Barat, berhampiran Gerik selepas dikatakan membuang air di tepi lebuh raya itu Rabu malam.

Kejadian dilapor berlaku pada kira-kira pukul 10 malam di Km82 Lebuhraya Timur-Barat, kira-kira 180 kilometer dari sini.

Ketua Polis Daerah Gerik Supt Mahad Nor Abdullah berkata lelaki yang dilapor hilang itu dikenali sebagai N.Thalagaratnam, 48, berasal dari Lahat, Ipoh.

Beliau berkata lelaki itu bersama seorang lagi rakannya dikatakan dalam perjalanan dari Ipoh ke Jeli, Kelantan apabila dia meminta rakannya memberhentikan kereta di tepi jalan kerana ingin membuang air besar.

Rakannya M. Manibalan, 47, yang menunggu dalam kereta mengesyaki sesuatu apabila Thalagaratnam tidak muncul selama sejam, katanya ketika dihubungi di sini hari ini.

Mahad berkata Manibalan menunggu rakannya itu sehingga pukul 7.30 pagi sebelum membuat laporan polis di Balai Polis Gerik.

Sehubungan itu, polis dengan bantuan Jabatan Bomba dan Penyelamat serta Rela melancarkan operasi mencari dan sehingga petang ini lelaki itu belum ditemui, katanya.

Beliau berkata kawasan lelaki itu dilapor hilang adalah hutan tebal yang berbukit dan curam serta mempunyai banyak binatang buas.

Sementara itu, Manibalan ketika dihubungi berkata beliau dan rakannya dalam perjalanan ke Jeli untuk membeli bekalan barangan perniagaan mereka dan semasa dalam perjalanan, Thalagaratnam memintanya memberhentikan kereta kerana dia sakit perut.

”Saya berhenti di tepi jalan lebuh raya. Saya hanya tunggu dalam kereta dan dia bergegas keluar mencari tempat untuk buang air besar…selepas itu saya tunggu agak lama tetapi dia tidak datang balik ke kereta,” katanya.

Manibalan berkata ketika itu hujan renyai dan beliau takut untuk keluar mencari rakannya itu kerana kawasan berkenaan gelap dan bimbang terdapat binatang buas.

”Saya tunggu dalam kereta hingga pukul 7.30 pagi sebelum berpatah balik ke Gerik untuk membuat laporan polis. Saya bimbang dia tergelincir jatuh ke dalam hutan kerana tepi jalan itu sangat curam,” katanya.


We arrived Gerik about 40 minutes later.

The Curtain: From Mixed-Media to Multimedia

Posted in Mastura's Works by tsabri on March 26, 2010

In 2008, Mastura was invited to join the Srikandi: Sentuhan Seni Jiwa Wanita art exhibition, organized by the Faculty of Art & Design, Universiti Teknologi MARA (FAD, UiTM) Melaka at the Balai Seni Lukis Melaka. The exhibition was held from 29th March through 29th May. Liza Marziana Mohd Noh, a lecturer at the faculty coordinated the curatorial team. Mastura also gave an artist-talk at the exhibition, talking about her experiences as an artist.

Mastura exhibited her multimedia installation, The Curtain, which was earlier exhibited at the inaugural Research-Creation Exhibition of the Faculty of Creative Multimedia, Multimedia University, Cyberjaya in 2007. The Curtain was also one of the early multimedia works by Mastura. The making and exhibiting processes of The Curtain were actually documented for research by Mastura for her graduate studies. She also exhibited some of earlier paintings for the exhibition.

Following is a piece of writing by Mastura introducing The Curtain. It was originally published in the exhibition’s catalogue, published by the FAD, UiTM Melaka, on page 51.


The Curtain is a title of a multimedia installation-art, first exhibited at the Research-Creation Exhibition, Faculty of Creative Multimedia (FCM), Multimedia University, Cyberjaya, 17th – 25th August 2007. It was here reconstructed again to participate this Srikandi exhibition.


This writing accompanies The Curtain as supplementary appreciation notes. It discusses the background of how the idea developed through my artistic career, and some notes on The Curtain as an art form.


The idea originates back in mid-1980s when I first started my painting series, the Interior Series. I was studying the interiors of traditional Malay architecture for my compositions, together with the use of floral motifs in the traditional Malay decorative arts particularly the textiles. The arts and cultural activities in 1970s and 1980s Malaysia were much aspired by the questions of identity and continuity of heritage and as such, that many artists started to look back at traditional art forms and their roots for inspirations and ideas.

I was also looking at the 15th – 18th centuries Persian and Mughal miniatures, and the Arabesque patterns as references for the Islamic Art forms, which also became significant as a contemporary style in the 1980s and early 1990s Malaysian art-scene, Binding all these together is perhaps the contemporary expression of art and experimental attitude which was largely referred to the American Abstract Expressionism.

A Computer Drawing

The Interior Series is simply compositions of reconstructed interior spaces filled up with textiles motifs. It was largely a body a mixed-media paintings, done on canvases and carved wooden panels. Human figures were absent from the compositions except for appropriate households and other objects to suggest humans’ presence.

Narratives became a concern in the 1990s when I started to portray family scenes in the paintings. Growing up my children made me referred to the traditional Malay family values – the lullabies, the folktales_ the love, the care, the hope_ and these are all weaved through the compositions’ elements, images and techniques.

Some Appreciation Notes

Sketch 1: The Curtain

Sketch 2: The Curtain

As mentioned, The Curtain developed from a variety of backgrounds, It was a continuance from my earlier painting series_ the images and patterns, as well as the meaning and values, stayed consistent with the experimental and explorative attitudes. The children are now away in a boarding school_ my personal self is developing into emotions of yearnings, worries and hopes, and the responsibility to provide them good education for the future.

The Curtain also marked my first use of multimedia as an art tool or medium. Towards 2000s I was using the computer to research and manage my studies, and office works, My tutorship at FCM encouraged me to take a closer look at the possibilities and excitement what multimedia can offers an art medium. I took to research on the process of making and exhibiting an art project using multimedia as my postgraduate study. It is a challenge for me as I am so used to traditional art mediums like paintings, drawings or sculptures.

The Curtain, in formal appreciation, illustrated my repetitive concern with harmony in all of my works, The harmony of colors and textures of The Curtain echoed this concern as were also represented in the three late 1990s paintings exhibited in this exhibition. It is the principle that binds the visual, audio and motion elements into a from of ‘pleasure’ or esthetics.


A Doll in front of a Monitor

Installation Detail

A Video Still

Photograph 1: Manipulated

Photograph 2: Manipulated

The Studio: A Short Unexpected Tale

Posted in Other Works by tsabri on March 25, 2010

I wrote a story, titled ‘The Studio’, in 1993. It was ‘published’ in the November 1995 edition of Tanpa Tajuk (irregular self-published journal). I published it here again.

The Studio

‘The very first thing an artist should look into is his studio, his working place. It is something personal, you live and breathe in it.’ Said Father, puffing his pipe.

We climbed the steps, trudging hastily behind the monk in the saffron robe. That monk – his steps were certain, showing no signs of weariness despite his old age. I heaved. It’s very tiring. The steps, they were steep and were inclining in a spiraled direction. I stopped to catch some breaths – so did my companion. I looked upwards, a part of the sky on the left was hidden by some kinds of shrubs and bushes and long grasses. We were standing against a sort of a cliff wall. To the right was the open sea. The waters were gray and wavy.

I looked forward. The monk was standing, looking at us calmly. Without a word he waved, asking us to continue climbing. Climbing.

We finally arrived. Oh, what a climb. The monk produced a bunch of keys from underneath his robe, approached the big rusty iron-gate with a big brass padlock. I thought one needed not a key to go in, the gate was so rusty that it would crumble if you just gave a small push.

We were at the back entrance. The monk said it’s the only to get here since the front entrance was eroded away by the sea some years ago. We walked into an orchard, many fruit trees stood half dead amidst tall grasses and bushes. A big mansion came in sight as we took a left turn. Wow… it was big. Bigger than what I imagined when my companion first told me about the place. And it was good too – the walls were constructed from cut stones. It looked ancient enough that a mysterious feeling suddenly emerged. The waves were rolling. And the sound of the wind too… ah, they were screaming.

The monk left us after showing the place. He also told about some broken doors and leaks. Two temple boys would be dispatched tomorrow to mend things, cleaning and whatever necessary. All gardening and carpentry tools could be found in the storeroom. He left me the bunch of keys.

We walked to the front verandah. Found a pair of deck chairs, and sat facing towards the sea. The waves were crushing below. I gave a deep sigh and said, ‘this is good, man. Real good. Wonderful. Many thanks for your help. I like it very much…’

‘Ah… the climb was tiring…’

‘Indeed… it was very tiring… exhausting. Hey, what are you doing tomorrow?’

‘I will be helping my uncle gathering his coconuts, but I could always asked him for a leave, and perhaps also could asked him to come and help.’

‘No… we shouldn’t disturb him.’

‘Not to worry… he knew you. He knew about you coming, to live and work here. He also likes to draw in his leisure times.’

‘Is he? Well, we could asked him, but do not trouble him if he’s busy… you look so tired man.’

‘So are you.’

‘Get some rest then.’

Sounds of the broken waves. Screams of the afternoon winds. Beatings of the heart. Father…

‘Comfortable studios are very important to artists. You surely can work better, faster. In peace. Works done or produced in such studios could reflect who you are – your discipline, your thoughts, you, everything will be much more easier with the arranged tools and furniture and materials… you could save a lot of your time… maintain your studio well. All we want is to be able to work with comfort.’ Father exhaled the smoke. His pipe, his handmade pipe, was wonderful.

‘I cannot work. No studio. Got neither studio nor suitable place even for drawings, ‘he put the mug down and stared absently into space, before continued,’ I got to get out. Got to get out of this damn place…but where?’

Terrifying screams awaked me. The screams, they really raised hairs. The youth, my companion, woke up too. It was dark. Not a star, a light, was visible. The waves kept banging. The winds kept on screaming… with occasional howls. It was cold_ I searched for my jacket.

‘It’s quarter past ten. God! We have been sleeping for hours… ho… its cold,’ the youth was for his jacket too. I stood and walked forward. The wind was salty. I could smell salt.

Suddenly terrifying screams again, but they were louder. I turned and looked at the youth. Scents of roses and other sweeties suddenly could be smelled. They gradually became thicker that I smelled salt no more. More screams with additional feminine seductive voices and noises. Voluptuous female figures were floating and flying and diving in the air! And they were circling us! Fright then began to develop fast! I saw the youth was trembling. Were they ghosts?

I heard more noises and… with a big explosion everything started to recede and clear.

‘One need a well-arranged studio to work in comfort. Never if its not complete… you can always slowly complete it,’ Father said as he put his pipe down onto the rack.

‘Pengarca atau Arcawan?’ (An Early 1990s Autobiographical Piece Written in the Form of A Story-Monologue)

Posted in Other Works by tsabri on March 25, 2010

I wrote a piece of writing, which I called ‘story-monologue’, about my own self sometime in 1992. The autobiographical piece was written in Bahasa Melayu and parts of it have been rewritten in other forms, like to suit the Tanpa Tajuk: Cerita-cerita Seni Rupa. ( I published here the writing, Pengarca Atau Arcawan?, in it’s original form. It is yet to be translated.


Beberapa garis ditempatkan, atau tepatnya dipaksakan, ke hujung permukaan gubahan lalu memberi sedikit ruang kepada rupa organik berwarna merah tua itu untuk bernafas – sedikit lega. Kesan bunyi palitan berus bergema, berhenti seketika dan membiarkan jerit-pekik warna-warna yang tertindih atau bertindihan itu untuk menjadi diam – berbunyi dan bergema kembali – lalu melantun jauh ke hujung pendengaran.

Aku melukis gelisah. Aku melukis resah. Entah – aku sendiri kurang pasti dengan apa yang aku lukis ini (sekurang-kurangnya untuk ketika ini). Tapi yang pasti – gubahan harus bagus, biar mata senang melihat.

Entah apa yang aku lukis ini?

Semuanya senyap. Garis, titik dan yang lainnya diam. Pekik pedih dan ketawa ria sudah lama berhenti. Berhenti.

Orang itu adalah seorang artis. Umum mungkin terkeliru, menganggapnya sebagai seorang penyanyi rok (rambutnya panjang) atau pelakon filem kerana kata ‘artis’ itu. Kata ‘artis’ sering saja dikaitkan dengan pekerja-pekerja dunia hiburan – seperti yang dididik oleh akhbar-akhbar dan majalah popular tempatan. Tapi dia bukan seorang penyanyi, pelawak, pengacara atau pelakon filem, dia adalah seorang pengarca.

Orang itu adalah seorang pengarca – seseorang yang membuat arca. Arca pula adalah salah satu jenis bentuk seni rupa moden yang umumnya bersifat 3 dimensi. Kalau dalam bahasa Inggeris, arca disebut sebagai ‘sculpture’. Ada juga penulis seni tempatan yang memanggil seseorang yang membuat arca itu sebagai ‘arcawan’, akhiran ‘wan’ seperti dalam perkataan ‘sasterawan’, ‘angkasawan’ atai ‘cendikiawan’ – tapi bukan pula ‘cendawan’.

Orang itu adalah seorang pengarca. Pernah juga jirannya menegur: apakah dia membuat ‘patung’ apabila jiran itu melihat banyak bentuk-bentuk 3 dimensi di tempat kerja atau studio yang sempit itu. Jika dalam Bahasa Indonesia, memang arca itu dipanggil ‘patung’ dan pembuatnya dipanggil ‘pematung’.

Orang itu adalah seorang pengarca. Ada ketikanya dia terasa janggal apabila ditanya orang tentang kerjanya. Sememangnya masyarakat banyak belum mengenali siapa itu pengarca dan apa yang dibuatnya. Apa gunanya arca? Kalau jadi pelukis, mungkin mudah difahami orang – itu pun ramai yang beranggapan yang pelukis itu semestinya pandai melukis potret dan lanskap yang lebih dikenali sebagai ‘gambar pemandangan’. Pelukis juga sering dikatkan dengan pembuatan papan iklan, nombor plet kenderaan atau pelan rumah.

Orang itu adalah seorang pengarca, Dia membelai-belai janggutnya_ memandang kosong ke arah cawan kopi. Berusia 36 tahun sekarang dan sudah membuat arca kurang lebih sebelas tahun. Lulusan Diploma Seni Lukis & Seni Reka dari Institut Teknologi MARA, dalam bidang Seni Halus dengan pengkhususan Seni Arca. Sekarang diploma itu sudah dinaikkan taraf dan dipanggil Sarjana Muda Seni Lukis & Seni Reka (Seni Halus).

Pengarca mencapai sebatang pensil. Dia melihat hujung mata pensil. Masih elok, belum tumpul. Dia meletakkan mata pensil itu dipermukaan kertas_ lalu jadilah satu titik, kemudian ditariknya pensil itu ke kanan_ maka jadilah satu garisan.

Pengarca sudah beberapa kali menyertai pameran seni rupa, baik yang khusus untuk seni arca sahaja atau yang dicampur-campur dengan bentuk-bentuk lain – lukisan, catan, cetakan atau fotografi. Di antara pameran-pameran yang disertainya, ada juga yang diadakan di luar Malaysia.

Orang itu adalah seorang pengarca. Seorang artis. Seorang yang terlibat dengan bidang kesenian – menghasilkan arca sebagai karya seni. Dia meluahkan sedikit sebanyak pandangan dan pendapatnya mengenai hal-hal tertentu mengikut pengetahuan dan pengalaman yang ada padanya. Dia kadang-kadang menyentuh soal-soal kemasyarakatan atau kemanusiaan dalam karya-karyanya. Mungkin selain daripada panggilan ‘artis’, pengarca juga boleh dipanggil sebagai ‘aktivisi’ budaya. Mungkin.

Orang itu adalah seorang pengarca. Banyak sudah arca-arcanya dibeli oleh pengumpul seni atau dipanggil ‘kolektor seni’ – menjadi himpunan atau koleksi umum mahupun persendirian. Ada di antara karyanya diberi penghargaan dan mendapat pula puji-pujian. Dan ada juga yang dihentam, dikutuk dan direndah-rendah orang (malangnya sering pula oleh orang-orang yang mengaku tahu tentang seni rupa atau seni arca sendiri!)

Pengarca bangun dari meja kerjanya. Berjalan menghampiri tingkap kaca. Beberapa gugus daun menggeliat di bawah matahari pagi.

Orang itu adalah seorang pengarca. Ketika dia tidak mengarca, atau tidak membuat arca, dan melukis, pengarca akan membaca. Dia seorang pembaca yang gigih. Dia juga mempunyai sebuah perpustakaan peribadi yang kecil. Judul-judul bidang falsafah, kesenian dan kesusateraan banyak sekali dikumpulkannya. Pengarca juga ada cuba-cuba menulis. Dia suka sekali menulis sajak, adakalanya dia cuba menulis esei_ tetapi tidak pula dihantar kemana-mana penerbitan.

Pengarca tidaklah semata-mata hidup dari hasil jualan arca. Dia sedang berusaha keras. Tidak ada orang, kolektor seni, yang membeli arca setiap hari – setiap minggu – setiap bulan. Dia terpaksa bekerja sambilan – menjadi pengajar yang digelar ‘pensyarah sambilan’ di sebuah kolej seni persendirian. Dia mengajar dua hari, enam jam sehari, seminggu. Dengan itu, tidaklah dia kesempitan sangat. Pengarca memang mempunyai masalah kewangan, Dia bukan dari keluarga yang kaya-raya. Pernah dia kehabisan wang dan terpaksa meminjam untuk meneruskan hidup. Namun, pengarca tidak pula merungut dan tidak pula bersusah-payah mencari kerja, mengambil upah, membuat kerja-kerja grafik atau seni reka seperti rekaan logo, ilustrasi atau projek-projek lain. Dia bukan pembuat kerja mengambil komisyen itu ini. Tidak ada istilah ‘freelance job’ dalam hidupnya. Tidak pernah.

Beberapa gugus daun menggeliat di bawah metahari pagi. Udara lembap terasa mejamah muka. Pengarca kembali ke meja kerja, Dikeluarkan sebatang rokok.

Orang itu adalah seorang pengarca. Tidak ramai sebenarnya yang memilih kerjaya sebagai pengarca di Malaysia pada ketika ini. Malah yang memilih untuk menjadi pelukis (painter) pun tidaklah ramai. Kerjaya dalam bidang seni halus di Malaysia agak ‘baru’ dan menjadi sesuatu yang agak ‘asing’ kepada masyarakat umum.

Pengarca melalui pendidikan seni yang kurikulumnya banyak dipengaruhi oleh kesenian Barat. Buku-buku rujukan, karya-karya dan falsafah seni yang dipelajari rata-ratanya adalah didatangkan dari Barat (namun pengarca tidak pula mengatakan yang Barat itu tidak baik: baik atau tidak baik itu banyak sekali bergantung kepada perhitungan sendiri). Kesenian tradisional dalam bentuk seni rupa tidak banyak dipelajari baik dari segi amali atau teori. Jika adapun, rujukan hanyalah untuk mencari motif-motif atau ragam hias yang sesuai untuk dimanipulasikan/digunakan. Tidak lebih dari itu. Pengarca maklum yang guru-gurunya semasa di ITM dulu tidak ramai yang mengetahui seni tradisional tempatan secara mendalam. Tidak banyak kajian yang dilakukan. Motif-motif tradisional selalunya digabung atau diolah mengikut gaya persembahan seni Barat.

Pengarca menghembus asap rokok. Dia bangun semula dan bergerak menghampiri tingkap kaca lagi. Hawa terasa panas dan lembap. Angin tidak pula bertiup. Seekor rama-rama terbang di celah daun-daun.

Orang itu adalah seorang pengarca. Sering dia terpaksa menggaru kepala apabila ditanya orang tentang kerja-kerjanya. Dia cuba memberitahu – tapi banyak pula yang terpaksa dijelaskan – dan itupun ramai yang masih tidak faham-faham.

  • Bagaimana dengan bisnes?
  • Bisnes?
  • Yalah, apa yang abang buat tu…
  • O… biasa saja la. Tak ada apa-apa yang…err yang…tidak ada apa-apa yang luar biasa.
  • Abang harus lebih professional. Mesti cekap. Mungkin abang kekurangan modal. Tapi, saya rasa itu bukan masalah besar – abang boleh buat loan, atau cari financier yang betul-betul percayakan abang. Abang kena buktikan kemampuan yang ada. Kita tidak boleh duduk saja. Kena rangka strategi. Marketing strategy. Tentu abang ada contact luar negara. Apa lagi bang? Boleh ekspot apa…

Pengarca cuba memberitahu, tapi banyak pula yang terpaksa dijelaskan – dan itupun ramai yang masih tidak faham-faham.

  • Apa yang engkau buat ni? Aku tidak pernah tengok benda seperti ni seumur hidup aku. Orang mati kena tembak pun pernah aku tengok, tapi tidak benda ni. Apa ni? Malam tadi abang bermimpi benda-benda ini, apa ni? Arca? …ya, arca. Mungkin petang semalam aku tertengok benda-benda ni untuk pertama kali…kau tahu, benda-benda ini, apa tu? Arca… arca, ya… bunyi macam dalca saja… arca-arca ini semuanya membesar. Besar – aku jadi kecil sekali. Kerdil. Tiba-tiba semuanya bergerak, mengejar aku. Aku ketakutan… lari. Kecut sekali. Kakak kau naik hairan – jarang sekali aku mengigau.

Pengarca cuba memberitahu, tapi banyak pula yang terpaksa dijelaskan – dan itupun ramai yang masih tidak faham-faham.

  • Wah, lama betul kita tidak bertemu. Ada tujuh lapan tahun begitu? Hah, apa kabar kau? Buat apa sekarang? Tak main gitar lagi ke?
  • Aku baik-baik saja. Aku… aku jadi artis sekarang ni. Ya… artis.
  • Artis? Kah! Kah!! Kah!!! Bolehkah kau menyanyi? Aku tahulah kau boleh main gitar, tapi menyanyi? Apatah lagi berlakon? Kau seorang pemalu, kan? Artis? Bila masa kau rakam album ni? Tak pernah dengar pun? Keluar album solo ke bersama grup? Kau ada grup sendiri ke?

Pengarca cuba memberitahu, tapi banyak pula yang terpaksa dijelaskan – dan itupun ramai yang masih tidak faham-faham.

Pengarca kembali semula ke meja.

  • ‘Apa pandangan saudara dengan pendapat yang mengatakan Islam melarang kita membuat rupa bentuk manusia, bentuk arca?’

Islam melarang? Islam tidak melarang membuat arca. Islam melarang, malah melaknat, pembuatan berhala yang disembah, dipuja. Pengarca tahu dia tidak membuat berhala. Konteks masa dan budaya bebeza sama sekali. Kalau disbanding-samakan dengan zaman Arab jahiliah (zaman orang bodoh) dengan zaman orang cerdik, sekarang (betul kah?), tentu sekali penilaian kita akan menjadi aneh, malah lucu. Di zaman Arab jahiliah, ‘arca’ berkemungkinan besar adalah ‘berhala’ – yang disembah dipuja. Orang ramai menyembah Al Atta, Al Uzza, Al Manah dan lain-lainnya – yang dijelmakan melalui bentuk-bentuk 3 dimensi; kita panggil patung. Patung-patung ini lambang kekuasaan dan kesaktian atau tuhan-tuhan yang dipercayai mereka (Arab jahiliah). Mereka tidak menganggap bentuk-bentuk 3 dimensi itu sebagai satu bentuk seni rupa sebagaimana yang kita anggapi hari ini. Mereka malah menganggap bentuk-bentuk itu melebihi dari bentuk seni – itu bentuk-bentuk tuhan sembahan mereka. Arca yang dihasilkan hari ini tidak mempunyai tujuan keagamaan, kecuali bentuk-bentuk yang sudah diinstitusikan sebagai bentuk agama seperti dalam kepercayaan agama Kristian, Hindu, Buddha atau kepercayaan peribumi. Arca hari ini dihasilkan untuk tujuan-tujuan ekspresi atau estetika.

Pengarca kembali berdiri, memandang keluar tingkap. Beberapa gugus daun menggeliat di bawah metahari pagi. Udara lembap terasa menjamah muka.


The Handwritten Story-Monologue

Walking Down the Roads Where I Have Been & The Birth of ‘Tanpa Tajuk’: A Mind Installation

Posted in Other Works by tsabri on March 24, 2010

I developed an interest in words and sentences as ideas for making art in the mid 1990s. At the time, I was heavily disturbed by the questions of identity, or in another way, how should I appropriated(or should I?) my traditional Malay esthetics in the modern Western forms: What I was doing with the traditional Malay forms on the forms that looked like the Henry Moore’s and Constantin Brancusi’s (Teleng Series), as well as Alberto Giacometti’s (Gunung Daik Series)? I was also pursuing my graduate studies then, and the academic readings (and other readings, of course) and the discourses made me critical on myself as an artist. I was studying Art & Design Education, and chose to do a Research by Practice study for my final dissertation.

The Olivetti Tropical

I have been a writer since my younger days. I like to read stories and felt that I too can write. I took notes. I bought a typewriter – and I wrote/typed millions of words and sentences in the forms of letters, stories, essays and poetry, of which were useless and useful but now many were lost; but they were the words and sentences. Mastura bought me a computer then – I wrote/typed again millions of words and sentences in the many forms, of which were useless and useful, and which were composed into an irregular self-published journal I called Tanpa Tajuk.

I typed words and sentences using the Adobe PageMaker, made simple computer drawings or photocopied original sketches, and print them out… page by page, arranged and stapled them. Then I would be around exhibitions’ opening receptions (especially at the then near KTM’s Balai Seni Lukis Negara) with some 20 copies of Tanpa Tajuk, catching up with friends and asked them to give me RM2 or RM4 for a copy. On certain occasions, I invited friends to illustrate Tanpa Tajuk front covers, like what was on the ‘Edisi Prapenerbitan 2 / November 1995’ as illustrated down below. It was from a drawing done by Ahmad Shukri Elias.

The Epson LQ-1010

The words and sentences I wrote were laden with endless and layer-less meanings, though to me they were perhaps personal interpretations and assessments of what were happening and how I was responding. They, the words and sentences, offer endless and layer-less meanings and should be able to attract some concerns from audience that experience the words and sentences portrayed (or simply, the words and sentences are manifestations or images from events experienced by me, as the artist, and the other person, as the audience).

I developed the understanding aforementioned, concerning words and sentences though there’s nothing new here, into what I called a mind-installation. A mind-installation lives in an imaginary space. It is in ambiguity and there existed lots of subjectivities. Meditations on mind-installation brought me to John Dewey’s ideas on art as experience. I read John Dewey and started also to develop interests in other disciplines such as education and cultural anthropology (apart from literature and esthetics).

The previous week, I surfed John Dewey and found as quoted here from his theory of art, John Dewey emphasizes the importance of continuity within the art object. In this regard, Dewey seems to be insisting that organic unity is the essence of all aesthetic experiences. According to Dewey, a work of art is an experience in which meanings or values “are expressed, or shown, rather than stated or said” (Bernstein, 1966, p. 156). As such, art stimulates an experience which can be said to be “qualitative” in nature (Pepper, 1939, p. 375). Dewey considers art to be a very special kind of experience, or consummatory experience. A consummatory experience can be defined as one which is both fulfilling and satisfying. In his 1934 book Art as Experience, Dewey claims: “Such an experience is a whole and carries with it its own individualizing quality and self-sufficiency” (p. 35). Bernstein relates the consummatory experience to art by describing consummations as “the direct aesthetic enjoyment of immediate qualities” (1966, p. 151). Dewey claims that such experiences are “intrinsically worthwhile” (“Art as Experience,” 1934, p. 37). Rockefeller takes this perspective a step further by stating: “Such consummatory experiences are what make life worthwhile” (1991, p. 396).

Following published are three mind-installations that I used for Tanpa Tajuk front covers.

  1. Tanpa Tajuk. Jurnal Seni Rupa Kontemporari / Januari 1998 / Edaran Terhad / Untuk kawan-kawan sahaja / RM4.00
  2. Tanpa Tajuk. Jurnal Seni Rupa Kontemporari / Awal Julai 1998 / Edaran Terhad / Untuk kawan-kawan sahaja / Nombor 2 (1998) / RM2.00
  3. Tanpa Tajuk. Jurnal Seni Rupa Kontemporari / Julai 1998 / Edaran Terhad / Untuk kawan-kawan sahaja / Nombor 3 (1998) RM2.00


21,000 buah loceng. Angin timur laut. Pantai Air Tawar. Teriakan vokalis kumpulan rok Led Zeppelin. Masin Laut China Selatan di Pantai Batu Buruk. Satu hari di tahun 1975. Kad-kad biru melayang. 25 orang pengakap laut. Teknik mulut ke mulut. Sebuah kabin di puncak Bukit Chendering. Karikatur unta menunggang Anwar Sadat. Sepasang but di hutan Bukit Payong. Kertas-kertas menjadi kuning. Satu hari di tahun 1975. Filem Dracula di dewan sekolah. Hujan dan angin akhir tahun di Pantai Timur Semenanjung. Helang laut melayari angin. Air mata seorang puteri. Botol-botol Magnolia di tepi tingkap kaca. Permainan solo Ritchie Blackmore. Seorang kawan yang kehilangan akal. Sebuah bangsal di dalam hutan Bukit Mok Mek. Bekas-bekas buluh tersusun rapi. Sekeping ukiran kayu gaya Melayu. Rumput-rumput hijau di bawah pohon. Sebentuk cincin hilang tiba-tiba.




inside me inside you

inside us

love and hatred

harmony and chaos

organized and disorganized

silent and noisy

static and kinetic

physical and illusion

light and dark

courage and fear


confident and alert and nervous


all of them

them all

they are as old old old as humans

they are as they are they are they are as humans

they are as new new new as humans

as humans as us

as us as humans

they came they stayed they went

they went they stayed they came

we are they they are we

us are they they are us

January 1988 Edition

Early July 1998 Edition

July 1988 Edition

November 1995 Edition

The Promotional Brochure

Later, I thought of making Tanpa Tajuk into a proper publication, something like a monthly, and published by an established publisher. I talked about it to Juhari Muhammad Said (Joe) and he wanted to participate/collaborate by suggesting that we might go and talked to Baha Zain, a known poet and essayist, who also owns a publication house, Pustaka Cipta. We went talking to Baha Zain and he advised us to set up an editorial team. He asked his sons, Joe and Dhojie to participate, looking at perhaps the marketing and such matters of the publication. We operated independently under the name of Jambatan Baru, but nothing official was registered.

The first issue of the now ‘properly managed’ Tanpa Tajuk was well received, I would say. There was a launching of Tanpa Tajuk by the Seniman Negara Syed Ahmad Jamal, as well as an open exhibition also called Tanpa Tajuk, held at the Galeri Shah Alam. Eventually I got bored with the whole thing – waiting for responses and articles from correspondents and writers, negotiations on the graphics and illustrations, and the sales and the marketing and the editorial meetings… and of course the money to get things going! Dhojie tried a hand at asking TH Koid Foundation to partly finance Tanpa Tajuk. TH Koid Foundation has published an art magazine called Art Corridor. The second issue of the ‘properly managed’ Tanpa Tajuk then was financed by the foundation. I was becoming restless with Tanpa Tajuk being partly ‘composed’ by other people and started to revisit my own words and sentences. I played stubborn with the ‘properly managed’ Tanpa Tajuk and eventually it came to its end. Poor ‘properly managed’ Tanpa Tajuk!

Tanpa Tajuk, the book

The words and sentences kept appearing on my computer’s screen. A few years back, a friend, Riza Nordin, established a publishing house called the Tinta Publishers ( He asked me if I have anything to publish and I gave him the notes and writings that I have been quietly compiling. Riza proposed for a book, we sat down to work on the words and sentences, and finally came Tanpa Tajuk: Cerita-cerita Seni Rupa in 2009.

What Is Expression, Expressive, Expressionist(s) and Expressionism? (or How I Bought a Book that Niranjan Rajah Wanted)

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

I wrote a note and titled it, ‘Expression, Expressive, Expressionist and Expressionism’, in 2001 when Niranjan Rajah (Ranjan) included me in his 2001’s Bara Hati Bahang Jiwa: Expression & Expressionism in Malaysia. I supposed it was one of an exciting if not important exhibition that Ranjan curated in the early 2000s at the Balai Seni Lukis Negara, apart from his E-ART ASEAN ONLINE and Electronic Art with Hasnul Jamal Saidon. It was exciting as he succeeded to gather most Malaysian artists (and their works) of the 1980s, working with ‘expressionistic’ styles. And it was a well-curated exhibition.

I knew Ranjan sometime in 1989 through Ahmad Shukri Elias (Shook). Shook was operating an art class and a gallery, called the Kiara Art Gallery, with his wife, Rositah, in Taman Tun Dr. Ismail, Kuala Lumpur. Ranjan was living in the area and eventually came to know Shook. If I’m not mistaken, at the time, Ranjan was studying law and was thinking into the arts. He wrote a short essay for Pameran Motivasi‘s catalogue, which Kiara Art Gallery organized in 1988 at the Balai Seni, Menara Maybank, Kuala Lumpur, showcasing some 24 of ITM’s fine art graduates.

The essay that Ranjan wrote, dated November 1988, was without a title (or was it there but misprinted?) He began the essay as thus; Beginning with Neo-Classicism and Romanticism, two streams flow through to the art of the present day – the Rationalist-Formalist current and the Subjective-Expressionist current. These flow alongside each other, crossing, merging, separating once more – from Realism and Impressionism to the many branches of Late and Post-Modernism. And he continued; …the practice of Modern Art outside of Europe is a symptom of the political, economic and cultural dominance of the Western civilization. When western genius blends it’s own with other cultures new Western forms are created – the fusion of appropriated African sculptural elements with developments from Cezanne, gave us Cubism. It is, however, tremendously difficult to create valid Modern works in non-western contexts, as our artists are students of this tradition and not its originators… (Pameran Motivasi Catalogue, 1988, Kuala Lumpur: Kiara Art Gallery, unpaginated)

One day after lunch, me, Ranjan, Shook and someone else I couldn’t remember, went into a bookshop somewhere near Kiara Art Gallery. We browsed through the books in the arts section, I discovered an interesting book, which came in two volumes, “Primitivism” in 20th Century Art, edited by William Rubin and published by the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1984. I believed that the book would be important references for the things we were doing, and I was looking at primitive sculptures for my new works, the Warga Gunung Daik, then _ I bought the book.

‘Hey man, you have bought the book that I wanted! Really… I have been thinking to buy the book. It’s a good book, you know_ good for you! Ha. Ha…’ Ranjan said as we walked back to the gallery. Later that day, Ranjan invited us to his house. He showed us his paper-tape construction. It was quite huge_ a wall piece with some dark colors.

Following is the note that I wrote:

  • I was curious when the curator included me (read: my works) in the exhibition. Am I an expressionist? This reminded me of German Expressionism, especially the paintings and woodcuts of Kirchner, Heckel and Die Brucke, Kandinsky and the Blau Reiter, and others that were discovered in the ITM studios and the art history classes of the 1980s. They brought along the sadness, sufferings, revolts, anger as well as confusions through the fast, sharp and bold brushstrokes.
  • The works of A Latiff Mohideen, especially the Pago-Pago series, were fascinating and somehow inspired us students. How Latiff painted the Southeast Asian’s nature and images with his expressionistic style became topics of discussions. We also looked at the works of the Indonesian’s maestro, Affandi, who painted in his own style of expressionism (?)
  • Towards end 1980s, the style of American Abstract-Expressionism became popular with the works of Yusof Ghani. And my friends, especially Riaz, Shukri (Shook), Suhaimi and Hanafiah, were painting quietly in our own expressionistic styles – me too was digging into the expressive quality of the tribal and primitive sculptures. I was also producing some charcoal and ink drawings then.
  • Sometime in mid 1990s, I began to move into installations, experimental pieces and conceptual forms. I would say, if it were from the form (of fast, sharp and bold strokes), then my works could not be expressive forms (?)
  • Form? What could be seen? What’s the definition of ‘Expression, Expressive, Expressionist(s) and Expressionism’? Anger, vengeance, the shouts, hard, sharp? Fire?
  • Was not my father as expressive as Kirchner?

And, after almost a decade, Mohd Nasir Baharuddin responded to Bara Hati Bahang Jiwa: Expression & Expressionism in Malaysia in his blog:

Note: Niranjan’s photo was from

Addendum: A 1993 poem that I wrote about ‘expression, expressive, expressionist(s) and expressionism’. Following;

…sajak tiada bertajuk / …a poem without title

Mulut terbuka… luas… / The mouth opens… wide…

Sedang mata tertutup… rapat dan awas / And the eyes. Closed… tight and alert…

Dan tenaga, cemas dan senyap, berkumpul dan bersedia / And the energy, tense and silent, gathered and ready…

Tiba-tiba, akulah api! / Suddenly, I’m fire!

April 1993

Primitivism in 20th Century Art: Volume 1

The Pameran Motivasi Catalogue's Cover

At The Sculptors’ Forum (… the Sculptures of Raja Shahriman Were Dancing – Celebrating the 1st Decade of the 21st Century)

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

On a Saturday, 21st November 2009, I was invited to speak at an event simply called a ‘Forum with Sculptors’, organized as a ‘sidetrack event’ to Raja Shahriman’s one-person exhibition, Rhythm of the 21st Century, at the Galeri Petronas in KLCC (

The discussion was titled as ‘Seni Arca dari Kacamata Sosial, Budaya & Agama’ or literally in English, Sculpture from the Social, Culture and Religious Perspectives, conducted in Bahasa Melayu, moderated by artist-curator Nur Hanem Khairuddin ( and beside me, paneled by sculptor, Mad Anuar Ismail; a journalist, Fathi Aris Omar; a Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia’s lecturer on Islamic Law, Muhammad Najib; and R Shahriman himself.


When Nur Hanem spoke to me earlier, I felt that the topic was somehow thought by, if not chosen by, R Shahriman. I felt that the topic was a bit wide though, and I heard elsewhere that R Shahriman did have these questions of either human portrayal in works of art are permitted or otherwise by the teachings of Islam. I made some surfing and discovered to confirm that it was so, and I guessed the given title referred to the matters that disturbed him.

Following are notes that I prepared for the discussion:


Tajuk Perbincangan

  • Tajuk: agak luas/tidak jelas (?) – dari kacamata sosial, budaya & agama masyarakat Melayu? Atau Malaysia?
  • Kenapa dengan Seni Arca? Apa masalah dengan Seni Arca?

…Seni Arca

  • satu jenis/bentuk seni rupa yang biasanya bersifat 3D.

  • Pendidikan seni (formal) Malaysia dirujuk kpd tradisi pendidikan seni Barat/Moden.

  • Istilah ‘Arca’ adalah agak baru dalam perbendaharaan kata Bahasa Melayu – sering menimbulkan salah-faham. Sering dikaitkan dengan ‘patung’ atau ‘berhala’ oleh orang Melayu/Islam yang tiada pengetahuan tentang Seni Rupa Moden.

  • Bentuk 3D Seni Rupa Tradisional Melayu jarang sekali disebut sebagai ‘arca’ kerana persekitaran yang berbeda dgn Seni Rupa Moden, tetapi telah dikenalkan sebagai ‘kraft’ atau ‘kraftangan’ yang hari ini dilebihkan nilai komersialnya menjadi barangan kraft untuk cenderahati.

  • Seni Arca, sebagai bentuk moden, sedang berubah kepada bentuk-bentuk baru seperti instalasi, objek-jumpa, atau gabungan bersama dgn bentuk-bentuk lain.

…Sosial, Budaya & Agama

  • SOSIAL – hal berkaitan dgn masyarakat: pengertian, penggunaan dan perkembangan istilah sering tersasar; tiada pedoman jelas.

  • BUDAYA –  hal berkaitan dgn akal & budi: salah sangka bila cuba mengaitkan benda/perkara ‘baru/asing’ dgn pengalaman sendiri yang berlainan latarbelakang – akibat secara melulu atau berat sebelah.

  • (U)AGAMA – hal berkaitan dgn  kepercayaan / sistem kehidupan: pandangan menjadi jumud bila agama hanya ditumpukan kpd soal halal-haram, pahala-dosa, syurga-neraka tetapi tidak kpd sistem kehidupan secara keseluruhan.

Following notes were my concerns for R Shahriman’s sculptures – they were not entirely discussed at the forum. They were notes for a possible essay on R Shahriman and his sculptures. A friend, Nasir Baharuddin, also discussed this on his blog. Refer:


  • Tajuk: KILLING TOOLS (senjata-senjata yang membunuh) / DANCING WARRIORS (pahlawan-pahlawan menari) / API, BAYANGAN & KEMENYAN / SEMANGAT BESI / GERAK TEMPUR / RHYTHM OF 21ST CENTURY – Antara lain (tak ikut kronologi)
  • Asosiasi Makna atau Gambaran (pengertian) Yang Boleh Dikaitkan (signs, signified, signifier, symbols, codes etc.): bentuk rujukan dari seni tradisional/klasik Melayu; kepahlawanan, keperwiraan, dunia persilatan, senjata hebat, kesaktian, Baginda Ali, Syaykh Abdul Qadir Jelani, keramat, tangkal, bomoh, dukun, jampi mantera, api, kemenyan, bayang2, tok guru silat.
  • Apa Reaksi Audien? : apa audien kita (msykt kita) dapat memahami dengan sepatutnya? Apa audien kita begitu apresiatif? bagaimana audien kita melibatkan pengalaman mereka bila menikmati karya R Shariman? Apa reaksi mereka terhadap perkara-perkara yang ditonjolkan – mistik? Apa kesan kepada ‘pembudayaan’ minda dan cara berfikir audien?
  • Bentuk: 3D – arca berdiri bebas (free standing sculpture); Arca Moden dgn gaya Surrealistik & Ekspresif (20th Century Modern Sculptures): Alberto Giacometti, David Smith dll.
  • Bahan Besi: kemahiran tinggi / PANDAI BESI; gambaran dari kepakaran atau pertukangan tradisional melayu (senjata spt keris, lembing, parang dll.); menjadi salah satu tanda tentang kehebatan seseorang yg sering disulami dgn kisah2 berkaitan mistik atau kerohanian.

Kaitan semua ini dengan karya2 R Shahriman (Monolog / Dilema / Persoalan R Shahriman?):

  • Sosial: Pendidikan seni formal (terutamanya di ITM) akhir 1980an & awal 1990an: kesan atau gelombang akhir (?) ‘penggalian unsur2 tradisional/peribumi’ dan ‘Seni Islam’? Pengislaman ilmu2?

  • Budaya: Pengalaman atau latarbelakang budaya tradisional (Melayu) yg dikatakan berunsur kerohanian – persilatan, sufistik, mistik? & pengalaman kontemporari: surrealisme / ekspresionisme / modernisme.

  • Agama: Penggambaran figura Manusia & Haiwan bersalahan dengan ajaran Islam? Apa masyarakat kini (atau masa depan) akan ‘memberhalakan’ arca?

I was proud with the audiences’ turn-up and participation. Audience, especially the Moslems, were interested particularly on the human portrayal issues, and these were explained by Ustaz Muhammad Najib by stressing that the niat or intention is more to be observed, and of course a Moslem has to observe adab or ethics in whatever he or she is doing.

One of the R Shahriman's figures

Both images of R Shahriman and one of his sculptures are from

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