August 30th, 2011
No 17, Jalan Hang Jebat, Malacca. This is one of my watercolours done in the 1990, from a collection of 64 paintings of the facades of early shophouses in Penang, Malacca, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. These watercolours were my way of contributing to the documentation and conservation of our architectural heritage.
As the legend goes, Malacca was founded by Parameswara, the fugitive with his group fleeing from Singapore, about 500 years ago. Later he went on to establish the first Malacca Sultanate in the 15th century.
At that time Malacca was a natural port that sheltered the sailors from the north-east and south-west monsoons in this region. The monsoons were one of the keys to the success of Malacca as a trading port in the early sailing years. The winds brought the Arabs, Indians and then the Europeans from the West and the Javanese, Bugis and Chinese from the East.
As years went by, due to its increasing strategic and commercial importance, Malacca became a battle ground as the colonial world powers and the local warlords fought to control it.
But despite all the wars and violence in the waters of the Malacca Straits, many of the early sailors, traders, pirates, warriors and labourers of various races established their new homes in Malacca.
May 14th, 2011
The area and community of Tasik Chini was what attracted a group of Asian Public Intellectuals (API) to gather there this year. This group of about 30, with two members each from Indonesia, Japan, Philippines and Thailand with the remaining number from Malaysia, was there as part of their regional project based on the common element — water.
Tasik Chini was their last stop. Since 2008, this group has visited the Kali Code River in Yogyakarta; Biwako Lake, the largest lake in Japan; the Tapee river in the Khiriwong community in south Thailand and the Batanes islands north of the Philippines.
Hezri Adnan was the leader of this site visit. He is an academic at UKM and also a visiting Fellow at The Australian National University. He said, “We are here to develop networking and collaboration within the API fellows in response to regional environmental challenges. The gathering here is to learn, document and promote local community knowledge and how they come to terms with the degradation of their traditional habitat — the water, lakes, forest and their communal life. We hope to learn from the indigenous Jakuns and then later frame an Asian perspective to mitigate these common and urgent environment issues.”
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.
October 21st, 2010
Dinner time at the Agathians Shelter home in Petaling Jaya
Do you generally feel that real kindness might not exist (with all the endless wars and human injustices around us, here and elsewhere )? Or, do you simply believe human beings to be naturally kind?
Have you also wondered why there are so many kids without parents and homes in our towns and cities? Furthermore, what are your reflections on this essential yet eternal and complex question, “How shall one live?”
One of the many places, where you can reflect on the above issues, is at the Agathians Shelter, in Petaling Jaya, a home for the displaced young people.
October 5th, 2010
A Penan family home, in the forest near Bario, Sarawak.
The Penan is one of the 200 (more or less) riverine and hill-dwelling indigenous Dayak people of Borneo; the third largest island in the world. About three quarters of the island is Indonesia’s Kalimantan; Malaysia’s Sarawak (biggest state) and Sabah occupy almost a quarter; with Brunei just about one per cent of Borneo’s land area.
Each ethnic subgroup has its own dialect, customs, laws, territory and culture. These Austronesian speaking peoples must have migrated here more than 20,000 years ago when the Southeast Asian landmass was not yet under water as it is today. As the sea rose, some Dayaks became seafarers too.