Off Walls Off Pedestals

Under Deconstruction 2012

Posted in Uncategorized by tsabri on February 2, 2012

Interlok & Interloking: Antara Mengukir Blok Marmar dan Sejarah

Posted in Uncategorized by tsabri on May 22, 2011

1 Interloking

Dua buah arca Henry Moore (Moore) muncul dalam ingatan apabila novel Interlok karya Abdullah Hussain (Abdullah) dibakar sekumpulan orang pada awal 2011 lalu. Arca-arca itu ialah Two Piece Sculpture No.10: Interlocking, berukuran panjang 91.4 cm dibuat dari gangsa pada tahun 1968; dan Interlocking Two Piece Sculpture, berukuran panjang 315 cm dibuat dari marmar putih di antara tahun 1968 – 1970. Ingatan ini muncul kerana tajuk-tajuk yang diberi berbetulan atau hampir sama, dan ini mengembangkan minat saya untuk memahami maksud perkataan interlock atau yang diMelayukan menjadi ‘interlok’ itu, serta kaitannya dengan novel Interlok.

Kenapa beberapa golongan dari kaum India itu marah benar dengan Interlok? Kenapa Interlok dijadikan sebuah teks kajian untuk pelajar-pelajar SPM? Kenapa dan bagaimana Abdullah menulis Interlok? Dan, saya juga terkenang bagaimana Moore menghasilkan ‘interloking’ pada kedua-dua arcanya itu. Walau berbeda saiz dan bahan, namun kedua-duanya membawa idea interloking yang boleh difahami sebagai suatu cantuman dua atau banyak bahagian yang mengukuhkan. Keadaan interloking yang mengukuhkan itu boleh diamati pada bentuk keseluruhan kedua-dua arca tersebut.

Saya juga teringat kepada dua autobiografi Abdullah, Terjebak dan Sebuah Perjalanan, apabila hal ini berbangkit. Kedua-dua autobiografi itu penuh dengan interloking Abdullah pada zaman mudanya dengan berbagai orang, cerita, peristiwa, tempat dan budaya dari awal hingga pertengahan abad ke20 – period yang kurang lebih sama dengan yang dijadikan sebagai latar masa Interlok. Saya menemui dua pengalaman menarik Abdullah dengan kaum India di dalam dua autibiografi ini. Interloking Abdullah dengan kaum India harus disebut di sini kerana yang tidak berpuas hati dengan Interlok sehingga terjadinya insiden pembakaran itu, adalah sebahagian besarnya dari kalangan mereka.

Di dalam Sebuah Perjalanan, Abdullah secara spesifik menyebut; Daripada persahabatan saya dengan orang-orang India di kedai gunting itulah maka saya mulai tertarik dengan negeri Kerala yang terletak di pesisir barat India. Sebab semua tukang gunting itu datang dari sana. Saya rakamkan kisah kawan-kawan saya itu di dalam Interlok. (1). Dan sebelum itu, dalam Terjebak, Abdullah menulis; …Seorang Tamil kawan baikku telah kasihan melihat aku dan kawan-kawan lain tidak makan, lalu diajaknya kami makan di sebuah kedai nasi Tamil yang masih di buka. Ia menyuruh kami berpakaian seperti orang India, agar taukeh kedai itu mau menjualkan nasinya kepada kami, kerana kalau diketahui kami bukan orang India maka ia enggan menerima kedatangan kami. (2)

Di dalam Interlok, Musa, Maniam dan Chin Huat dipertemukan oleh Abdullah supaya interloking berlaku. Masing-masing membawa cerita suka duka kehidupan zaman penjajahan di Asia pada awal hingga ke pertengahan abad ke20. Masing-masing meninggalkan tempat asal untuk berada di tanah semenanjung yang sudah banyak kali bertukar nama panggilannya ini; kecuali Musa yang digambarkan sebagai telah menetap di sini sebagai orang Melayu – tapi siapa tahu Musa juga asalnya dari tempat jauh, mungkin dari Sumatera, Jawa, Maluku atau Kemboja? Siapa tahu…

Moore sangat mengutamakan bahan untuk membuat arca. Dia hanya memilih yang terbaik samada dari kayu, batu atau marmar; dan begitu rapi sekali mengendalikan teknik tuangan gangsa. Dalam kerja mengukir, Moore biasanya bermula daripada sebuah blok kayu, batu atau marmar yang perlahan-lahan dibentuk kepada gubahan yang diingininya. Ini boleh dilihat pada Interlocking Two Piece Sculpture. Gambaran interloking itu sudah ada dalam fikirannya, dia hanya perlu membebaskan bentuk itu daripada blok marmar putih yang dipilihnya sahaja.

Jika Moore memulakan arca-arcanya dari blok-blok kayu, batu atau marmar, Abdullah juga boleh dikatakan berbuat demikian. Dia memulakan Interlok dari sebuah blok sejarah yang berlatarbelakangkan period tertentu di tanah semenanjung ini. Dari blok sejarah yang dialaminya sendiri itu dikeluarkan Musa, Maniam, Chin Huat dan lain-lain sehinggalah ditamatkannya dengan peristiwa kemerdekaan Persekutuan Tanah Melayu pada tahun 1957.

Namun, blok yang diukir menjadi Interlok itu adalah dari blok yang sudah tersedia dari sebuah peraduan mengarang novel anjuran Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) idea Allahyarham Tun Abdul Razak (Tun Razak), ketika itu Timbalan Perdana Menteri Malaysia. Peraduan mengarang novel itu adalah sempena sambutan sepuluh tahun Malaysia merdeka pada tahun 1967. Peraduan mengarang novel itu juga memberikan blok-blok sejarah untuk diukir oleh Arena Wati menjadi Sandera, Aziz Jahpin menjadi Pulanglah Perantau, dan Kathijah Hashim menjadi Merpati Putih Terbang Lagi. Kita mungkin tidak akan dapat membaca Interlok jika DBP tidak menganjurkan peraduan itu!

2 Membedakan Kesenimanan?

Har har har. Tidak. Saya tidak bermaksud untuk membedakan kesenimanan Abdullah dengan Moore. Masing-masing mempunyai cara dan pendekatan yang tersendiri, apalagi Abdullah seorang novelis dan Moore pula dikenali sebagai seorang pengarca – dan tentu saja apreasi ke atas bentuk novel dan arca memerlukan pendekatan yang lebih komprehensif di antara keduanya. Saya cuma ingin menyusuri maksud interlok atau interloking – yang akhirnya membuat segolongan kaum India di Malaysia membantah, marah dan membakar Interlok. Moore dan arca-arcanya hanya hadir sebagai ‘pengukuh’ kepada maksud perkataan ‘interlok’ dan ‘interloking’ sahaja. Perhatikan apa yang dicatat oleh Moore;

Pebbles and rocks show Nature’s ways of working stone. Smooth, sea worn pebbles show the wearing away, rubbed treatment of stone and principles of asymmetry. Rocks show the hacked, hewn treatment of stone, and have a jagged nervous block rhythm. Bones have marvelous structural strength and hard tenseness of form, subtle transition of one shape into the next and great variety in section. Trees (tree trunks) show principles of growth and strength of joints, with easy passing of one section into the next… Shells show nature’s hard but hollow form (metal sculpture) and have a wonderful completeness of single shape.  (3)

Pemerhatian Moore terhadap alam sekeliling sangat tajam. Dia melihat batu-batan, tulang, kayu dan cengkerang; lalu belajar dari semua itu. Dia meng’interlok’kan unsur semulajadi dari objek-objek itu menjadi gubahan-gubahan arcanya. Hal ini juga berlaku kepada Abdullah dan semua pengkarya lain biarpun dalam keadaan dan konteks yang berbeda.

Latar kehidupan Abdullah penuh dengan interloking: dia hidup sebagai kanak-kanak dalam latar yang berbaurkan unsur animisme, Tuk Lang saya dan beberapa orang lain yang pernah mengikutinya ke laut telah pernah melihat hantu itu yang dipanggil naik ke atas perahu oleh datuk saya. (4), internasionalisme di Asia Tenggara awal abad ke20 ketika zaman remaja, Saya juga suka menonton filem-filem adventure seperti filem King Kong. Pertama kali filem King Kong itu datang ke Alor Setar para penonton menyerbu sahaja masuk ke dalam panggung tanpa membeli tiket lagi… (5), dan antikolonialisme Asia Tenggara di pertengahan abad ke20 ketika awal dewasanya, Sebagai seorang anak muda yang sedang berkobar-kobar dengan semangat kebangsaan, maka saya telah bercakap tentang sifat-sifat perjuangan dan sendi kekuatan sesuatu bangsa dalam mencapai kemajuan, dengan memetik ucapan pemimpin India yang terkenal Lal Ripat Rai… (6), yang akhirnya di dalam Interlok, diterjemahkan serba sedikit melalui watak Seman, Balakrisnan dan Yew Seng dan beberapa orang lain.

Malaysia, as most of you well know, is a multi-racial, multi-religious and multi-cultural country. It is a meeting place of the great cultures of the great countries of Asia – of India, China and the Malay-Polynesian region of Asia. Also in comparatively recent history, Malaysia has been the subject of cultural impacts and influences by countries of the Middle East and by European countries. Therefore Malaysia can be truly said to be the melting-pot of the cultures of the great world.  (7).

Abdullah boleh dikatakan menerima blok sejarah untuk menulis Interlok secara langsung. Multi-racial, multi-religious dan multi-cultural menjadi latar Interlok walau cuma watak-watak dari kaum Melayu, Cina dan India sahaja ditonjolkan sebagai mewakili kaum-kaum utama.

3 Belanga yang Menggelegak

Karya-karya interloking Moore jelas dan terancang. Idea dan estetika interloking berada di dalam arca-arca itu. Novel Interlok pula membawa idea interloking yang begitu mengkagumkan – yang berlaku di antara watak, persekitaran atau tempat, apa lagi yang dilatari dengan sejarah atau sesuatu peristiwa. Sebagai pembaca, kita bebas pula menghubungkan atau membuat interloking baru dengan pengalaman-pengalaman lain. Abdullah benar-benar menjadikan pengalaman hidupnya sebagai rujukan besar untuk menulis Interlok. Abdullah memang pandai bercerita.

Illustrasi kulit depan Interlok edisi khas Sasterawan Negara, DBP, 1996, adalah sebuah catan bertajuk Ayah dan Angkasawan, karya Allahyarham Ibrahim Hussein, seorang artis terkenal Malaysia yang juga adik kepada Abdullah. Saya fikir interloking yang ada pada Interlok itu terus berkembang melalui Ayah dan Angkasawan pula! Keadaan interloking yang menarik ini tidak perlulah ‘dibakar’ kerana saja sebahagian dari kita gagal memahaminya lalu menjadi marah. Belajarlah semula dan sedarlah bahawa interloking itu tidak membosankan malah mampu pula mencambahkan idea-idea baru!

Rujukan:

1.     Abdullah Hussain. (1984). Sebuah Perjalanan. Kuala Lumpur: DBP. Halaman 346.

2.     Abdullah Hussain. (1977). Terjebak. Kuala Lumpur: Penerbitan Pustaka Antara. Halaman 1 – 2.

3.     Moore, H. in Mitchinson, D. & Stallabras, J. (1992). Henry Moore. S. A: Ediciones Poligrafa

4.     Abdullah Hussain. (1984). Sebuah Perjalanan. Kuala Lumpur: DBP. Halaman 15.

5.     Abdullah Hussain. (1984). Sebuah Perjalanan. Kuala Lumpur: DBP. Halaman 126.

6.     Abdullah Hussain. (1984). Sebuah Perjalanan. Kuala Lumpur: DBP. Halaman 218.

7.     A. Karim Haji Abdullah. (Ed.) (1987). Pemikiran Tun Razak tentang Bahasa, Sastera dan Budaya. Kuala Lumpur:                  Dewan Persuratan Melayu Pahang. Halaman 76.

A Long Time Ago: Curatorial Interferences whilst Collaborating on an Installation

Posted in Uncategorized by tsabri on February 22, 2011

Untitled Self-Portrait | 2000s

These notes were written sometime in early 2000s when working on a collaborative installation work. I collaborated with a Chinese artist-friend. Our collaboration went well but was soured with interferences by the exhibition’s curators that I nearly went mad with anger and frustrations!

I choose not to name my collaborator, the exhibition and the curators.

Note One: Entry Points

I do not know him, the artist-friend, until last November when I rejoined the college for a part-time teaching job. At the time, I was thinking about a proposal for an installation work. It was not progressing very well. I was disturbed by the place. I was disturbed by the shape, atmosphere and space of the place. The place is important. I need to see the place. I need to feel the place. But as always, the place is ahead in time. As I experienced more the attitudes and ways of doing my installations, I found that I cannot easily figure my works before I see and feel the place.

The place is a stage for my works. The stage plays my works in three frames of time: before, during and after the exhibition. It starts when I arrive at the place with the materials. It develops during the exhibition period. It ends when I left with the materials. The place than is remembered.

I abandoned the initial proposal. I was, at the same time, busy adapting to the new working environment. I learned that this artist-friend  is also into installation-art, though we haven’t really sit down for discussions yet.

Eventually, another friend and I came to interview a well-known Malaysian artist, art historian and critic. He talked about Southeast Asia and the need to have an identity. We need to be resourceful and ever prepared for challenges. He was talking about a rich and dynamic continent. I played the interview tape to my artist-friend. We talked over it for a while.

One day, the artist-friend brought me a fax from a gallery. Both of us were invited for a joint-exhibition with foreign artists. We thought of collaborating on a project instead of working individually as separate participants.

Working together, as a group or as a community, is always practiced throughout our traditional and contemporary cultures. It was exciting. We were anxious with the results. We were new to each other. There were still a lot to be known, understood and negotiated. We came from different religious, ancestral and cultural backgrounds, but yet today we agreed to work together, side-by-side, experiencing dreams and talks of, hopefully, a promising future. The differences were actually becoming much easier when we reflected our past philosophical, historical and cultural developments.

We are now Malaysians, or in a larger context, we are Southeast Asians.

The proposed work – the design was uncertain. It would have to depend on the place, the location to be exact. It depended on the availability of the proposed and found materials. It also depended on the time given to start making before the exhibition’s opening. The design evolved and developed everyday.

We were thinking about an interior piece. A room. An area in a large gallery. Stairways. Or odd locations. We were to place fax machines…

Note Two: Untitled

Why were the curators kept talking, or rather complaining, about our collaboration? Why were they worried about the partnership, the collaboration? I was older than my artist-friend, and I would be dominating him? My friend would be lost? I began to feel oddities, anxious, by the curators’ concerns.

Obviously we had not really discussed our intention, the shape of the work to become, our hopes, our plans. Anyway, our encounter and the decision to collaborate were still very new then. We knew each other only a few months ago. The decision to collaborate was made about a month ago. Every thing were new and sudden. Like, in the late 19th and early 20th century, when a Chinese immigrant first met a native Malay. The atmosphere must be filled with prejudice and curiosity. But this friend and myself were Malaysians living in early 21st century. Why they were not happy with us, these curators?

Note Three: Ah, Who Cares?

I felt like going to the installation. The day was the third day of the exhibition. I haven’t see the exhibition in full. I absented myself from yesterday’s exhibition talk. I didn’t know about my friend, but when we saw each other yesterday he knew that I was somewhat frustrated. Indeed! I was frustrated. I was angry.

As I ascended the stairways… I wondered what’s globalization means. I wondered what were multimedia, electronic, new media and art meant. We were talking about the opening up and the breaking down of boundaries … oh yes, I was also thinking about neo-colonialism … Every single event, be it personal or collective, could lead onto other new things or interpretations. It’s all depended on one’s own intention, contexts, and experiences.

We’d asked for a microphone, the PA system, weeks ago or at least a month ago. Over the phone, my friend must have mentioned it. We talked about it every time we met the curators. I remembered it was also written, in fact with a small drawing of a microphone and speakers, in our flow of documents to the curators. A microphone and two speakers. I wondered whether the foreigners bought their own G3s and TVs and …

I missed the installation. Felt like going then. I wanted to feel the installation flowed with its audiences.

After a week, the anxieties and frustrations began to disappear. What’s the point of thinking otherwise?


UNDER DECONSTRUCTION / SEDANG DIDEKONSTRUK

Posted in Uncategorized by tsabri on August 23, 2010

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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  http://www.madisonartshop.com/)

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 (http://www.islamhouse.com/) 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

Happy Birthdays

Posted in Uncategorized by tsabri on April 5, 2010

End March & Early April are celebration times in the family – birthdays. This year, 2010, its my 49th birthday, 47th for Mastura, 21st for Iskhandar and 17th for Intan. Mastura painted a painting, as illustrated on the left, for Iskhandar’s 11th birthday in 1999, in Taman Sri Andalas, Klang, Selangor. The painting now decorates one of our walls. It is one of the Mastura’s that we keep for our private collection.

Title: Gubahan Kecil Hijau untuk Iskhandar / Small Green Composition for Iskhandar

Dimension: 57 cm x 57 cm

Materials: Mixed Media on Canvas

We also wish our friends happy birthdays for those celebrating during these times of the year; especially to Shook, Hanafiah and Kasran – May God Bless You All

My Father, Tengku Ibrahim Wook, the Master Craftsman

Posted in Uncategorized by tsabri on February 20, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hello World!

Posted in Uncategorized by tsabri on January 9, 2010
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