Off Walls Off Pedestals

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…

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