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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.