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.
Heah Hock Heng passed away on 20 October, 10 days short of his 64 birthday. I first met Heah, in the 80’s, when I just joined the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS). He needed volunteers to help do a painting job at the MNS field centre in Cameron Highlands.
Apart from working as a painter I also ended up cutting chillies and onions etc. in the kitchen. Heah was both the project manager as well as the chef at that time. He was already renown then for his work in the field .
My painting was not up to standard and neither was my cutting skills. But that was the beginning of my long friendship with Heah and later with his wife Cheong Ann and some friends from the MNS days.
Heah (standing in the far right) making sure that the lunch for the party was in order, 2007, at KLPac.
Two years ago, I asked Heah and his friends to help cook a lunch for 100 persons. This was a party for a mixed disability group of friends at the KLPac. It was to celebrate the exhibition of photographs of the disabled athletes, which I had done.
Heah was one person who was always willing to help, when he can, no matter what it may be. He also had a distinguished career as a project manager for forest and environment related projects in Malaysia.
Heah with all his friends helping out at the KLPac lunch for the disabled friends, 2007.
But most of all, Heah will be remembered as a chef, for feeding thousands of MUS members ‘5 start hotel food’ deep in the Malaysian mountains.
Heah’s funeral will be on Saturday 24 October, 2pm, Trinity Methodist Church, Petaling Jaya.
The ability to understand someone else’s feelings as if they were one’s own is not something we do easily and often. It is demanding and thankless. Perhaps that may explain why most of us are mainly concerned with the needs our own self and those of our immediate family. How others feel is hardly our interest. How about considering some empathy?
My exhibition of photos Empathy at KLPac closed on the 8 March. This third collection of images of people with disability doing their own thing in sports and in work, was on display for 7 weeks. During that time there were several write ups about the exhibition and one of the portraits of Siti Aishah made it to the front page of the Sunday People in the NST’s Sunday Times.
This media coverage of the disabled group gave all those people in this small and fragile community a much needed visual profile which they seldom get. The Star newspaper’s writer Tan Karr Wei also wrote about the portraitures with understanding.
Then there was Elaine Lau from the Option of the Edge who also gave a voice to this often voiceless fellow citizens. Ng Suzhen from the Malay Mail was the first to put this story in her CyberSpot page. The Chinese press too especially the writer Chee Nyuk Yan from Nanyang Siang Pau gave this group a center spread in their Sunday edition and this was followed by Sin Chew Daily‘s reporter Ten Yien Hsia’s news of the event. I was also invited to talk about the exhibition on TV3’s Malaysia Hari Ini morning magazine show.
After all the effort of first going out to get the cooperation of all my disabled friends to allow me to photograph them, and then to mount and promote the visibility of the subject to a larger public, it had dawn on me that this project of promoting a little more empathy for others, has been all a group effort by everyone who has been involved. This is also a note of thanks to all of you. Now I am beginning to understand.
Dominic is ten and he is in standard four in a Chinese school in Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur. His mother, Lim Siew Chong, is blind due to a car accident when she was twenty-one, in Ipoh. A few years back, both of them moved to live in Brickfields where she could train as a masseur at the Malaysian Association of the Blind (MAB) and then later work as a blind masseur in that area. There is a small community of both the blind and the deaf in this part of the city.
Dominic and his mother are both members of the harmonica music group from the MAB. This group of seven part-time musicians was invited to perform at the Sunday lunch party organized by Victor Chin and his friends at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Center (KLPac) on the 24 February.
On that day, after lunch, Dominic together with about 20 people, young and old, some with disabilities, were invited by Nala Nantha, from the KLPac, to join her in an hour of theatre-based activities and games. The following day Nala contacted Victor and told him that she was impressed by Dominicâ€™s natural ability and focus during the session and said that she would like to offer a semester of free classes to Dominic.
When Victor contacted Dominicâ€™s mother and told her about Nalaâ€™s offer, she was not vary sure at first, but she agreed to come with Dominic to meet Nala the next Sunday at the KLPac. After the meeting and also getting a sense of the place and the activities at the KLPacÂ Siew Chong was a bit more assured. But she finally consented when Victor Chin and Nala assured her that Dominic will be safe and will be provided with transportation and food as well on the Sundays when he has classes.
After his first class Dominic said to Nala that he really enjoyed the session and also he was pleased to meet with many new friends outside his normal group of pals.