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A chance to see another world

December 10th, 2010

The Orang Asli’s customs and way of doing things may seem “strange” and often given the derogatory label “primitive or uncivilized” by many even today.

This is simply because many of us are not familiar with their cultures. The Orang Asli too, in return, would look at city folks and wonder why we go about doing things the way we do.

However, if we were to take the effort to get to know some Orang Asli, as friends and fellow citizens, we might perhaps see that their way makes perfectly good sense in terms of their own culture and environment.

There are three main tribal groups found in peninsular Malaysia – Negrito, Senoi, and Aboriginal Malay. They are divided into 18 sub-ethnic groups all with their own languages and customs.

Their communities of about 148,000 people make up about five per cent of the total population in Malaysia (compared this to the sizable 17 per cent of the Indigenous population of Sabah and Sarawak).  Most of them prefer to live in the forested areas but many younger ones are making their way into the cities.

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Hua Hin, Pattaya and Phuket are three major seaside towns in Thailand. Pattaya and Phuket are by far more popular with visitors who enjoy more than just the beaches and sun but also can’t do without the nightlife of the go-go bars, which the Thais do so well.

However, there are a growing number of both Thais and foreigners who prefer a quieter tropical seaside atmosphere, especially the elite and those of retirement age, and they choose to be in Hua Hin.

This fishing village was abandoned about 250 years ago during the fall of the Ayutthaya period and in 1845 it gradually came back to life. This may be because it’s near to Bangkok, just 281 kilometres south. The scenic location and its climate are ideal for Bangkokians to get away for the summer from heat in the city.

By the 1920s, the elites descended into this province. A specially built gingerbread style railway station was built to welcome the Thai royalties. The Thai King, Rama VI, in 1923, was the first King to build what is now known as “the longest golden teak palace in the world” the Maruekhathaiyawan Palace, on stilts, by the sea not far from Hua Hin.

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The Langkawi art group meeting at their regular home for inspiration and aspiration.

Langkawi island is not as well-known for its artistic and cultural heritage as the Indonesian island of Bali. It also has a long way to go to catch up with the tourist industry of Phuket which is a little to the north of the Andaman sea. But what these three islands have in common is their 550 million-year-old geological heritage, their surrounding seas and unique tropical landscape and weather.

However, neither Bali nor Phuket (so far) have been awarded the geopark status by Unesco. Langkawi was given the world geopark award in 2007. With joint research between LESTARI of UKM and LADA, the island’s ecotourism concept fulfilled all the international requirements of a geopark.

Artists from all over the world have been making  their way to South-East Asia, especially Bali, for over 60 years and many never left. One of the most famous early European artists, Walter Spies (1895-1942) was living and working in Ubud, Bali, from the 1930s till his death in 1942. He and his artistic friends helped put Bali artists and art in the Western art market.

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The last tiger show

May 10th, 2010

Hu-Kun, artist from China,’Taming the Tiger’, ink painting

The tiger, now an endangered species of wild life, mainly due to increasing number of poachers and deforestation, is found only in a few natural habitats. We are fortunate that in the Malayan jungle, in the 1950s (though they were already being hunted then), there were about 3,000  of these magnificent creatures.

Now it’s estimated that only 500 are alive (WWF sources).

Our nation’s emblems, crest and coat-of-arms, proudly carry the signs of the tiger. We also put the “tiger” in our car petrol tank. Many drink the “tiger” beer. And the Malayan Banking logo also uses the tiger as a symbol of strength and national pride.

In India, there are only 1,200-1,500 White Bengal tigers around. The Siberian tiger is down to 350-450 in the whole of Russia. Thailand and Vietnam have about 1,000 Indo-Chinese tigers. Sumatra has between 400 to 500 of their Sumatran creatures. The tigers in China are almost extinct except for those kept in their zoos.

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Tan Hon Yin in his studio/house in Penang

Tang Hon Yin, 67, was a geography teacher and later a State Education Director, in Penang for more the 30 years.  After school hours, his artistic passion was painting but now he does it whenever he likes. He is currently the chairman of the Penang Art Gallery.

For many years he has been producing paintings with Nature as the main subject. His first solo exhibition “Water Margin” was in 1983 in Penang. The collection was later shown in Kuala Lumpur in 1986. His latest series “Silk Road” was shown in 2008 in Melbourne, Australia.

Though he didn’t go to art school but through his many trips abroad, on his own initiative, he adopted two artistic parents, the American artists Mark Rothko and Richard Diebenkom. They were his main inspirations. Tang admired the two artists for their use of colours and shapes and compositions.

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