August 1st, 2012
Jalan Sultan, (detail) watercolour by Victor Chin
Jalan Sultan is one of the early streets of Kuala Lumpur. In the 1900s most of the buildings were mainly shophouses, whether single- or double-story. This confluence of the Klang and Gombak Rivers which we now know as Kuala Lumpur soon became the commercial centre of the then-Malaya which was under British rule.
The largest group of residents were the Chinese from China followed by the Indians from India. These groups of workers worked in the tin mines and later, the rubber estates. Many of these migrant workers later set up homes here.
The local Malays were mainly happy in their kampongs but soon many of them became civil servants in the colonial government offices in the towns. Lumpur is like many of the other Malaysian towns, built mainly on the wealth of the tin and rubber industries which were mostly owned by the European companies, the Sultans and a few local Chinese at one time. Most of the streets in the old business district were built between the two World Wars (1915 and 1945) when Malaya was the world’s largest producer of tin and rubber.
July 31st, 2012
The fishing village along the Sasaran River.
Sasaran is one of the many small Chinese fishing villages by the river in the northern tip of Selangor. It’s about 10 km south from the biggest fishing village, Kuala Selangor.
Many of these traditional fishing communities are hardworking and frugal. Their lives are often limited to their surrounding villages. Most of these families are self-sufficient and their homes well-equipped with modern fittings.
Often, in many of these rural areas, there is air of the place being frozen in time, with no progressive social, political and industrial developments for a long time.
The exception is in Sasaran. This is the only fishing village in the whole country that has created an international arts festival.
March 31st, 2011
Old ACS boys band playing at the centenary dinner.
During the British colonial times, over a hundred years ago, in Melaka, there were already five Christian missionary schools. But of course, an early metropolitan port like Melaka would have many other forms of schooling for the early trading communities like the Chinese, Indians, etc. as well.
These five early schools are still in Melaka today. Three of them are Catholic schools: St. Francis Institution, Sacred Hearts Canossa Convent and Infant Jesus Convent, the other two are Protestant schools: Methodist Girls School and Anglo Chinese School.
The European Catholics and the Protestants were at war with each other, for many years, and this was reflected through their race to gain colonial power over as much territory as it was possible. In the 19th & 20th century, their rivalry was in South Asia, China, Japan and South- East Asia. Religious battles are still with us today, everywhere (that would be another story).
On Saturday 5 March, the Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Methodist Melaka formerly known as the Anglo Chinese School celebrated its centenary. The school started in 1910.
January 13th, 2011
Tan Choon Ghee was one of the few Malaysian painters who had an eye and empathy for the common people (especially Penangites) and their multi- cultural daily street life. His highly-developed aesthetic sense could turn ordinary life at a street corner in his hometown of George Town into an exquisite watercolour, sketch, ink or oil painting.
Sadly, Choon Ghee, one of the true artistic sons of Malaysia, died at 80, on December 28, 2010 in Penang. However, many remember him and some of us would like to thank him for the inspiration from all the artworks he left behind (in private or public collections).
He painted for well over 30 years and during that time, he made frequent painting trips to European cities like Venice, London and Amsterdam. His artworks will continue to attract those who value the skill of draftsmanship, composition, shapes, lines and colours in an artist’s personal touch.
December 22nd, 2010
Speaking out for peace, justice and liberty can be a dangerous thing. Just speaking out against oppression of the authorities can mean jail, banishment or even death but this has not discouraged many individuals from doing so.
In 1948, on December 10, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to promote the universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms. There are now 192 member states in the United Nations. All member states have to comply with the declaration but many countries continue to violate it.
The Nobel Peace award this December is a reminder of the importance of the 62-year-old document on human rights. This year it was awarded to Liu Xiaobo from China but he was not able to receive the honour personally.
He is serving a 12-year prison sentence in a Chinese prison. His crime is freedom of expression. He spoke out for a more open and democratic form of government for the Chinese people. China, of course, is an economic giant today but there are many voices of dissent there.
Last Saturday, December 11, for the third consecutive year, The Annexe Gallery in Kuala Lumpur had an awards ceremony for the Annexe Heroes Freedom of Expression Awards 2010.
This is also another commemoration of the existence of the Human Rights declaration. It was a modest event compared to the internationally renowned Nobel award ceremony. But it was just as significant.