‘Fair is foul and foul is fair…’

Fraidden Dewan, swimmer,2006

Andrew Sia, a senior writer from the Star newspaper, wrote about Victor Chin’s photographic exhibition, in the Statmag, Sunday 17 February (read more). He highlighted that in Victor’s show, ‘Traditional notions of beauty and ugliness are challenged and redefined in an unusual exhibition that invites viewers to look at things from different perspectives’.

In the review Victor said that in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the witches cry: ‘Fair is foul and foul is fair…’ and that tragic play urges us to look at the human condition with all its varieties and varied forms when confronting difficult questions such as: what is beauty and ugliness, right and wrong, justice and injustice.

To the many disabled persons, either born with anomalies or was maimed through accidents etc. the first question in their mind must be ‘How can this happen to me, this is not fair, this is foul’. There are really no good or a bad, right or wrong, answers to this acute inquiry. Each individual has to find their own perceptive solutions to this question for themselves. Many of them do not find agreeable answers but there are also many who find their way out through sports and other recreations and creative endeavors.

From Victor’s point of view, the question of what is beauty or ugliness is not the issue. What is at issue is our generosity of spirit. How often do we find ourselves over crediting beauty of one type or group and under crediting others which seemed alien to us? To him beauty or ugliness is more plentiful then we can imagine and what is more useful is a sense of big-heartedness.

In his eyes what is asymmetrical and out of proportions can be beautiful and eloquent in a photograph or a painting. This is not done by hiding the unpleasant and unsightly parts but instead seeing it as it is, straight in the face of disability- there is beauty in ugliness.

Meeting after ten years



Awang Goneng/Wan Hulaimi, author of recently launched Growing up in Trengganu , is one of Victor Chin’s few old friends. They have lost touch with each other for more then ten years. How this could have happen to their friendship puzzled both of them. However, last week they finally met when Hulaimi was in town to launch his book.

Victor invited Hulaimi to visit to his photographic exhibition In the Face of Disability currently at the KLPac until 29 February. Hulaimi later wrote in Victor’s visitor’s book, ‘Victor, I’m v. happy to see you progress from one neglected aspect of KL to its ‘neglected’ people, and you’ve taken in your embrace more then just KL people. Remember how we once tried to save ‘Court Hill’? Well done.’

Their meeting brings back a lot of fond memories of their early friendship and ‘activist undertakings’ in Kuala Lumpur (KL) in the late 1970s. One of their projects was a public campaign to stop the demolition of the first court building in the city, located in Court Hill, in the heart of KL, where the present Malayan Banking Headquarters is now standing. Obviously, and not surprisingly, their early efforts came to nothing.

Later, Hulaimi and his wife went off to London to work as correspondent for the local newspapers. In the 1980s and 1990s, Victor continued by using his paintings of old shophouses facades to crusade for a more humane conservation policy for old buildings in towns and cities. His drive at that time also did not add up to much against the continuing demolition of important inherited Malaysian historical architectural legacies, in the name of development.

There is a word in Growing up in Trengganu (page 233), kkenang’, that best describes the mood of their recent meeting in KL. ‘Kkenang‘ in Trengganuspeak can mean melancholy, lost, approval and includes remembering with rejoicing or reproach. But in this case it is not the latter. And they have both moved on in their own ways.

One of the many facets of the art of writing or photographing, is how sometimes the writer’s books or the artist’s visual statements; the beauty of their thoughts and constructions, might perhaps press the readers or viewers towards a greater concern for justice – ethical equality.

One of the many insights to the human conditions that Hulaimi writes about is ‘what we have lost in our deliberate acts of greed’ and Victor too shows what we have forgotten in our race to monopolies the few basic supply needs of human beings.

To ardent admirers of Awang Goneng this blog is not about Victor Chin claiming to have the same level of artistic talent or gift as the author. Far from it. It’s just about friendship.