Off Walls Off Pedestals

A Donkey in My Office, There is!

Posted in Uncategorized by tsabri on May 20, 2010

There is a donkey in my office at the university. Some people call a donkey, an ass. Donkeys are used until today for transportation and to carry heavy burdens especially in remote areas of some countries. They are however cannot be easily found in Malaysia for they are not traditionally used neither for transportation nor for carrying heavy burdens. Malaysia farmers also didn’t use donkeys to plough their fields.

Across world cultures, if I may say so and correct me if I’m wrong, donkeys are usually associated with ‘stupidity and stubbornness’; thus people with low-intelligence, slow learners or even retarded persons are stereotyped as ‘donkeys’ – stupid as donkeys, good for nothing except for ‘transportation and to carry heavy burdens.

One morning walking around the studio, I found a donkey. Yes, a donkey – not to be confused with a ‘studio-donkey’ used for drawing whilst sitting down – yes, in some ways it’s like sitting down on a donkey while drawing on the long bench-like studio-furniture, a studio-donkey. Pictured on left is a sample of a studio-donkey used for drawing or painting. But I found not a studio-donkey; they didn’t used studio-donkeys here. I found a toy plastic donkey! It was in the studio big refuse box. It was not damaged or broken, a perfect plastic-cast donkey. Well, it was in the refuse box. I took it to wash and brought it back to my office, on my table. (Image from

Whenever a student comes consulting without anything but excuses and ‘ideas in the head’, my donkey will starts his hee-haws and hee-haws!

Allah says in the Al-Quran stated in 62:5, translated from Arabic by Sahih International ( as thus: The example of those who were entrusted with the Torah and then did not take it on is like that of a donkey who carries volumes [of books]. Wretched is the example of the people who deny the signs of Allah. And Allah does not guide the wrongdoing people.

My Office Donkey

The Donkey Trying to Read a Blog


That Morning My Elephant Came Back without Tusks and Blind, He Was!

Posted in Uncategorized by tsabri on May 17, 2010

I grew up in my father’s studio-workshop. There were many things inside – his tools, machineries, bits and pieces of various exotic tropical woods, bits and pieces of elephants’ tusks, bits and pieces of buffaloes’ horns, and bits and pieces… bits and pieces…

A mid1990s Drawing on Father Sleeping

On a journey through the northern Banjaran Titiwangsa last February, I had a chance to visit the studio-workshop: I was alone. My youngest brother, who stays at the place, was not around. The studio-workshop was no more like what it used to be; the floods took many things away, so as a number of Father’s anak murid, also took many things away – his tools, his unfinished keris hilts and blades, so told my youngest brother. It was now almost empty and became a store of sorts.

I took the stairs to the first floor. The used to be ‘studio-workshop’ is a two storey wooden building, now somewhat looks old and sad, built adjacent to the main-house. The upstairs was for storing the many things: bits and pieces… bits and pieces. I found something that instantly brought me back to my younger days: my toy! My elephant’s head toy made by Father, from bits and pieces of a buffalo’s horn! It measured some 12 cm. I remembered the elephant had a pair of tusks made from real bits and pieces of tusks_ now gone. I remembered the elephant had a pair of eyes made with bits and pieces of tusks inlaid with bits and pieces of horns_ now gone.

Dumbo the Jumbo, or perhaps Jumbo the Dumbo, came to me without his magnificent tusks and blind, he was too.

The Blind & Tusk-less

The Blind Jumbo

Jumbo's Head 1

Jumbo's Head 2

Dumbo the Jumbo

Jumbo the Dumbo

… If It’s True What’s Said; then… My Life and Soul are for You!

Posted in My Artist-Friends by tsabri on May 16, 2010

Zulkifli Yusoff calls me Tengku.

It reminded me of my grandmother, Tok Nik Moh, who would instructed my aunt to personally attended me whenever I dropped and spent a few days with them in Kampong Pauh, Kota Bharu, many years ago. She would be asking me to bersiram, sembahyang, santap and then she would ba’ri me, telling tales of our Great Grandma who ruled hundreds of years ago in the now and elsewhere lands. She would be telling how thunders roared and lightning flashed during the births of our ancestors who ruled…

Zulkifli Yusoff (Zulkifli) was one of the best students that the Department of Fine Art, Faculty of Art & Design, Universiti Teknologi MARA, has ever produced. Zulkifli, this friend of mine, has proven that determination, hard work, generosity, and all_ are all ingredients for success. He believes in himself, total. He believes in his art, total… and as like many said, would later be_ one of the best artists Malaysia has ever produced.

Since his ITM days as an art student in the 1980s, Zulkifli has already ventured into international art scenes: winning art awards, exhibiting in international and widely acclaim art exhibitions and programs. … and surely and steadily, his art progresses as his education is: from a best student he became a lecturer – teaching, developing curriculums, motivates his students. Zulkifli Yusoff is both a great artist and an art teacher.

“Grandma, do thunders roar and lightning flashes when I was born?”

“My beloved child! Why the worry?” She gave a very sweet smile.

“Do they, Grandma?”

She gave another smile and said, “I don’t really remember… perhaps there’s a little! Why my son?”

“If I am king I like to bestow awards to my friends!”

“Good, very good of you my grandson… and may I know? Who will you bestow first? What’s the award for?”

“For my friend who can draw and teach drawing well!”

Stories with my grandmother were perhaps foreshadows for Zulkifli; not that I am now king and what more King!, but tributes to his contributions as both an artist and art teacher. There was a familiar metaphor that Zulkifli used to work with in mid and late 1990s: a bridge. There was a bridge made of wax-rods to be later cast into lead, or, there was a bridge constructed with iron rods and plates, or, there was a bridge constructed from wooden sticks and wrapped with canvas-strips, or, there was a bridge made for Tun Mamat in the meminang Tuan Puteri Gunung Ledang. – and all these bridges brought Zulkifli to what he is doing now: Negara Ku. Indeed, if I was King in the Never-land stories of my grand mother’s ba’ri , I would gladly bestowed Zulkifli with the title Seniman Negara.

Kalau roboh Kota Melaka, Papan di Jawa saya dirikan; Kalau sungguh bagai dikata (If it’s true what’s said), Badan dan nyawa saya serahkan (My life and soul are for you!).

* all illustrations in the post are from Zulkifli Yusoff’s Facebook’s photo albums.

Damn You Progress! Progress, Damn You!

Posted in My Artist-Friends by tsabri on May 11, 2010

John Heiser, sometimes we call him, Yahya, is an American friend of ours. Sometime in 1986, Nagesh brought John to our ITM studio and introduced him as a friend whom he got to know in Klang. John married a Port Klang girl and was visiting his in-laws. We, eventually, became close friends as John is also into paintings, drawings, wood-prints and sculptures. He also writes poetry. I remembered a poem, Damn You Progress!, which he read to me – perhaps in a train-ride from Klang to Kuala Lumpur or elsewhere. John stayed and worked in Klang sometime in early 1990s. He staged a one-man exhibition at the then 10 Kia Peng Gallery, Kuala Lumpur. He exhibited mixed-media paintings, wood prints, sculptures and his poems.( *further notes needed. Illustrated is an image of a mono-print by John titled as ‘Self Portrait’, 1984, from John’s Album on his Facebook.)

Impressed with the poem and it’s title, Damn You Progress, I wrote a few lines of ‘poem-notes’ using the same title or the idea of ‘damning progress’. Mine, which is here published, was trying to capture John’s impressions on digitalization as well as what he wanted to do. I have not John’s poem, it would be exciting to hear him reading Damn You Progress again. John currently resides in Milwaukee, USA.

Damn You Progress! Progress, Damn You!

… last night, the Indians were busy on tv, they were driving the Yanks to the oceans. Pocahontas was queen – sitting on her titanium throne; looking from the gilded window: braves were riding rainbows, changing holographs of sitting-bulls and black-clouds.

The line jammed.

A meteorite storm in space … the broken satellites and other junks were disturbed again.

(John. He enrolled his children to a school without computers. He wanted to dig his own well. Damn you progress!)

… the punks left at three after their tired eyes blinked fluorescence and neons after their FAQs were left unanswered by the Nerd who had gone fishing of which was his favorite before dawn activity which he missed since his hardware store went bankrupt because the line was always jammed. The line jammed. The line jammed.

23 terabytes before was a dream. The Tower fell, crushing onto idiots celebrating national days, ah there – 109 were given out-patient treatment; 33 were warded, badly injured and 18 crushed to death.

… the fonts changed; like in someone’s else poem.

(John must be angry with progress. He talked about buying a land. Remote. Green. Hilly. Cool. He talked about planting. Breeding. Goats. Cows. Freshwater fish. Prawns. He wanted to dig a well_ John)

Damn You Progress!

End August 1995

Inside Poems

Damn You Progress!: Edited Piece 1995

An Appendix to Rediscovering Our Own Malaysia 2

Posted in With Friends by tsabri on May 4, 2010

The Jerteh – Jeli – Banding – Baling route left yet another impression that there are always matters (and things) for us to rediscover, to reconsider, to relearn – to better understand the making of a much more meaningful cultured life.

Billboard of Everything

25,000 e-Books Announced

The Mosque, Again

A Roman Pillar; There

The Astaka Playground

Dried Fish

Rubber Trees

Coconut Tress

The Great Grandma's Curse

Home Sweet Home

Hard Surfaces

Roadside Green

Elephants Ahead!

Morning Refuse

Highland Ferns

Boar's Path

I Saw Rubbish

Armored Post

Inside the Armored Post

More Rubbish; I Saw

Another Heap; Yes, It Was

The Earth & The Sky

Yes. Its the Baby

The Memorial

Near the Memorial

Another Heap

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