‘Siapa Kita?’

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‘Siapa Kita?’ is a sub-project that I created under the umbrella project Visual Mapping Malaysia 1957-2007. Apart from collecting the images from other resources (e.g. Libraries, emergency Arkib Negara, generic Museums, page National News Agency, Galleries etc.) ‘Siapa Kita?’ also collaborate with the participants/audiences to gather object.

The objective of this project is to encourage Malaysian to think and visualize their identity from their point of view through visual images (using any media – digital, screen shots, graphic, painting etc.). The question ‘why this image represent my Malaysian Identity’ is important. The process of finding an object that symbolized Malaysia will be an interesting method to develope later in future.

The challenge is to identify aspects of Malaysian cultures that need to be maintained in order to ensure a meaningful future. The outcome of these processes might lead to confident identities, resilient and capable of sustaining cultural norms, meaning, values, and traditions.

Comm.Design Posgraduate

I realised that I didn’t have any visual images of our postgraduate members. Here it is, approved Miek, Yoko, Tania and Lizzie.
This images was taken last year when we’re busy withour Fashion City project. This is a normal situation in our room, all gather together and critiqs about wha ton the screen.

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Artefacts that links to our-past patrimony..

I wanted to know why…
One of my most interesting article at this time or perhaps I should put it like this ‘My best article of the week’ is called Modernity, drug Islam and Tradition: struggle for the heart and soul of Art and culture in Malaysia by Farish A. Noor published online by Nafas. Art Magazine. This article bring back my memories when I was doing my Bachelor of Fine Art honours Degree (BFA) in School of Arts, USM (Universiti Sains Malaysia). This is back in 1998. My major is in Graphic Communication or as known as Communication Design and my minor is in Theater Studies. I enjoyed theater performance as much as I enjoyed doing my design work.

I also took an extra class in theater. It is a traditional dance class. In this class, we have the opportunities to learn a small part of Mak Yong dance. What is Mak Yong? Mak Yong is an ancient dance-theatre form incorporating the elements of ritual, stylized dance and acting, vocal and instrumental music, story, song, formal as well as improvised spoken text. It is performed principally in the state of Kelantan, Malaysia. Many theories have been advanced to explain the genre’s origins, though it’s generally acknowledged that it’s deeply rooted in animism as well as shamanism. Today, Mak Yong is performed in three basic styles, as non-ritual theatre for entertainment, as ritual theatre associated with healing and done in combination with the shamanistic main puteri; and as urban commercial theatre.


Credit Image: Zainab Awang (Mek Nab)

I then learned that it will take years to master Mak Yong. Futher more, it is hard these days because no one want to learn Mak Yong. Therefore, there is no demand for Mak Yong apprentice. To cut this story short, Mak Yong, one of Malay heritage from past is slowly vanished from our modern life. Why? There are few reason that contribute to this cause. One of the reason I found is from discussion with my Mak Yong tutor, Che’ Mat and Prof. Ghouse, I then got to know that one of the reason Mak Yong is no longer wanted in this ‘new’ Malay generation is because there are many ritual practices in Mak Yong that relates with shamanism. This mean believing in good and evil spirits which is not accepted in Muslim religion.

My repond to this is only by asking why is this happening in Malaysia, ‘the truly Asia’ like how the tourism Malaysia promoted? How can we be truly Asia we’re cutting our past from our present? Why are we mixing our-past heritage and our religion? (I personally this is two different topic we’re talking about.) Why are we denying our cultural patrimony? Why should we undermine the shared cultural heritage in Malaysia and the people, whose the traditional culture are based on, and reflect to, the history of Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism?

This scenario happens with other Malaysian traditional arts and culture artifacts like Malay traditional woodcarving. Nik Rashidi is one of Malaysia woodcarving artist that experienced the same situation to keep woodcarving heritage alive. But it seem there is more and more conservative Islamist group began to voice out the rejection of the Malaysian historic past. As Farish A.Noor wrote in ‘Nafas Magazine (2004)’,  the rise of the political Islamic in Malaysia recently, contribute to the narrowing of Malay closed minded, confiousion on a thin line between the religion and the cultural heritage, cutting away Malaysian pre-Islamic past.

Qoute from Nik Rashidi expressing his thought and feeling about the scenario. “The politicians and the religious leaders keep telling us that we must be modern, and better muslims as well. But so often all they want to do is to destroy everything that is old and traditional, and to erase the past. How can we progress to the future if we don’t remeber what we were before? And how can we be proper Muslim today if we don’t remember our ancestors of the pre-Islamic past?…

We talked about our ‘Asean Value’ and our pride in our past. But where is this appreciation and how it is reflected? Businessman and the rich elite in the cities just want to buy woodcarving to decorate their masions and apartments, while the religious leaders tell is that our carvings are un-Islamic because we still depict images of the Hindu Gods, deities and natural sprits. But our tradition carvings are our only link to the past, with nature around us and the living elements that keeps our art alive: This is our Malay art, because it comes from the land and it breathes the history of our people. If we cut off our links to our ancestors, we would be like a ship without a compass; a people without history.” (Nafas, 2004)

Credit Image: © Photos: Spirit of Wood – The Art of Malay Woodcarving, by Farish Noor & Eddin Khoo, photos: David Lok.

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Differences between “Assam Laksa” and “Curry Laksa”

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I saw this ad from The Edge, therapist Melbourne yesterday. I liked the layout, search I found it relaxing and very personal. Perhap thats the whole idea of this ad, buy information pills to get upclose and personal about Malaysia. But there is a small correction on the text. (you can see this on the correction layout I did). Being Malaysian, I know the different between Assam Laksa and Curry Laksa. These is two different dish. Below is the explaination of these two dishes.

Assam Laksa, one of the Malay‘s famous dish, originally came from the northern site of Malaysia, Kedah, Perlis and “Pulau Pinang”Penang. Assam laksa is a sour fish-based soup. Asam (or asam jawa) is the Malay word for tamarind, which is commonly used to give the stock its sour flavor. It is also common to use “asam keping” also known as “asam gelugor”, dried slices of tamarind fruit, for added sourness. Modern Malay spelling is asam, though the spelling assam is still frequently used.

The main ingredients for assam laksa include shredded fish, normally “kembung fish” or mackerel, and finely sliced vegetables including cucumber, onions, red chillis, pineapple, lettuce, common mint, “daun kesom” (Vietnamese mint or laksa mint) and pink bunga kantan (ginger buds). Assam laksa is normally served with either thick rice noodles or thin rice noodles (vermicelli). And topped off with “petis udang” or “hae ko” or “otak udang as the Northen people of Malaysia would said”, is a thick sweet prawn paste. Variants of Assam Laksa is “Penang Laksa” (slightly different from normal Assam Laksa, usually with the garnish of pineapple pieces), and “Laksa Campur” (same Assam Laksa but garnish with “sambal’ cooked chilies prawn and calamari).

Curry Laksa, which in many places referred as ‘laksa’ is a is a coconut-based curry soup with vermicelli or yellow wheat noodle. The main ingredients for most versions of curry laksa include tofu puffs, fish sticks, shrimp and cockles. Laksa is commonly served with a spoonful of sambal chilli paste and is traditionally garnished with Vietnamese coriander, or laksa leaf, which is known in Malay as “daun kesum”. This is usually known as “Curry mee” in Penang rather than curry laksa, due to the different kind of noodles used (yellow mee or bee hoon (vermicelli), as opposed to the thick white laksa noodles). The name “Curry laksa” is more commonly used in Singapore. Variants of curry laksa included Laksa Lemak also known as Nyonya Laksa, Katong Laksa (variants of Laksa Lemak from Singapore) and Laksam (a speciality of the East Coast Malaysian state, Kelantan.

Although this two dishes is a soup base noodle, personally for me, it is still a huge different when it comes to the taste.

View the ad Assam Laksa or
Penang Laksa
Curry Laksa
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Identity, politics and the consumer cultures.

Happy New Year to all, health hoping this year thing will get better, like every new year. I was away for a short holiday spending Christmas and New Year with family. Droved around Victoria and New South Wales. We did small town, beaches, back to nature, national park, rainforest and good food. We had wonderful time. Holidays is great, everybody needs a break I guess.

As for now I’m back to research and work. Nothing much thought in holidays about research, very mild and relaxing. I thought would be better off enjoying my short holidays and come back fresh to continue my 2007 research. My website www.malaysianidentity.com went well, I would say, although it is only little not even a year, but through the website I meet virtually many people. That is the power of technology. Some of them I even meet up in real world, but sadly some of them still we meet in the virtual life.

I dont know how long this site will go on, I guess I should keep it, although it is not very easy to maintain it, but we’ll see. We still open for discussion and any new ideas about related topic. Also my abstract for conferences has been accepted. Great, now more work to do 😉

I started my new year slow and steady, I hope to see things clearly and fresh after my holidays. I also hope to improve many things in life and my research. I need to set few goals and achivement for 2007. Let hope there will be less war in this year too, and more people will be concern about environment and real thing.

I also have few topics that i find interesting to dig this year. Topic like authenticity…in the globalisation world. As many people now is very much interested in ‘real thing’ as they call it.

Question:

How do you deliver the authenticity to a mass market?

I’ve been discussing, this web
chatting, ailment interviewing and reading lots of thing about the issues of identity. Until now the issues of identity still ambiguous. Why identity need to be interpret as one? Why must there be a single identity? After few months discussing about issues of Malaysian identity in the virtual round table these are my conclusion.

Identity represent certain group of people, malady
an image or history supporting the group. Identity in Oxford English Dictionary is define as ‘the fact of being who or what a person or thing is’.

My definition and understanding of identity might be different to my mother or my grandmother definition of identity. Identity changed, transform and evolved through time and generation. There are many reasons of the changes of identity. It can be education, technologies, government laws, political, religions and belief, tradition and lifestyle. It can change because of the new era of globalization and free market. Further more, it can also be, because of the freedom to choose.

And it doesn’t have to be a single identity. It can be multi identity in any country, or places or person. Identity changes, evolved and transform through time and situations!
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Chinese Praying Place, Penang

Kampung Permatang Pasir, Malays House, Kedah, Malaysia
I’ve been out of Melbourne for a short holidays in the desert. Was a good break after a log break I had in Christmas. I think I had enough break for now. I will write soon about the trip in short text and lots of pictures of the desert.

Meanwhile I also been actively reading things about consumers culture. Authors like Celia Lury, information pills
Anthony Gidden and Simmons open up some argument related to my research about identity. Giddens introduces me to the understanding between emancipatory politics to life politics.

Anthony Giddens (sociologist) has located the significance of the nation of identity in contemporary society in relation to a movement away from emancipatory politics to life politics. Emancipatory politics in its various forms is seen by Giddens to have concerned with releasing people from the constraints of traditional social positions of class, gender, race and age, by breaking down hierarchies. Clearly, the consumer culture is seen by some as an important process in this breakdown, or at least in the refiguring of these hierarchies, through the resources it offers for more flexible relationship between the individual and the self-identity.

Life politics, in contrast to emancipatory politics, is said to be a politics of self-determination. The protests, campaigns, strikes and rallies associated with emancipatory politics were attempt to reveal the invasion of the people’s everyday lives by social and political forces of domination and exploitation. Life politics is said to work at the different level. It concerns a reflexive relation to the self in which the individual is less concerned with protesting about the actions of others than with taking controls of the shape of his or her own life through the negotiation of self-identity.

The life politics ‘is a politics of self-actualization in a reflexivity links itself and body systems of global scope. As it becomes possible for individual to construct personal identities in a reflexively organized environment, so identity has become a social issues, a topic for public debate, and a site of political change.” Giddens, Anthony (1991:214).

Critical Mass Birthday Ride

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I’ve heard about this the two years ago but haven’t had a chance to join the ride. But fortunately this year, find I finally made it. The Critical Mass Birthday Ride. Briefly about Critical Mass. Qoute from Critical Mass (CM) Flyer. In 1995, noun Melbourne cyclists came together for the first critical Mass ride. Since then, the famous CM ‘Party on Wheels’ has been a famous monthly part of the cycling scene. And this November is the 11 years of CM ride. CM boosts the pleasure by creating a car-free, bike-filled space on the road.

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There is about 500 riders join the CM this month and it seems like it’s the biggest ever. We meet in front of State Library on Swanston St and La Trobe St at 5:30 pm, last Friday 24 Nov. I can see many different people with different style of bike. They dress up for the birthday ride. We started to ride from Latrobe then to Exhibition up to Collins. Then we ride down to Queens St and cross the bridge and ride in front of Crown Casino. Then we ride through Yarra River and back to the city. Well, I had so much fun with the friendly riders.

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A Performance of Wayang Kulit: Ramayana

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Last weekend I went to The Consulate General, medstore Republic of Indonesia in Melbourne for a performance of ‘Wayang Kulit: Ramayana’ Shadow play show. It was great. I never seen a ‘Wayang Kulit’ from Java before, obesity this is the first time. I’ve seen one from Malaysia, originally shadow play is from Indonesia, but it’s part of Malaysian now because we have many Indonesian or Javanese who migrated from Indonesia long time ago.

I’m not so sure if the new generation do appreciate ‘Wayang Kulit’ as much as before. It’s less popular compare to going to cinema, shopping or just hanging around in Starbuck or shopping complex. These are the things that I guess ‘the young’ generation’ loves to do. My first wayang kulit show was in Penang. I’ve heard and read about it, but never had any chance to see it live. It is when the theater group in the universiti, I was studying (USM) organized to bring the ‘Tok Dalang’, the man who act behind the screen to perform ‘wayang Kulit’. That show was great! I couldn’t understand what he said because he speak mixture of Malay and Java language.

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Gamelan performance by PERMAI

In this ‘Wayang Kulit’ show, the Tok Dalang speak Javanese. I don’t understand at all what he said, as I can only speak Malay and Indonesia. I do understand the gesture, like when it’s funny or it’s seious. But that’s it. Before the show start, he describe about the story line for the ‘wayang Kulit’ and has been translated by a translater to English. The story is about the journey of Ramayana. A mystical story of Ramayana. There is six character in the show, which is Ramayana, his bestfriend, his wife, two of his bodyguard ( which act as a clown or joker ) and the monster.The begining of the story, Ramayana and his bodyguard started their journey to explore the world and left his wife in his kingdom guarded by his bestfriend. Then the monster kidnaped his wife and he with the help of his friend, fight to get his wife back. In between the scene regularly, there is few scene where the two bodyguard ( also act as a joker or clown ) talks about normal day life, issues happening around the world and many more. This scene is consider as ‘the real’ scene in Wayang Kulit. And the whole Ramayana scene is the ‘imagination and myth’ scene to add in flavour.

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The whole show lasted for two hour. The Tok Dalang name is Ki Soemardi. The show also been accompanied by Permai (Friendship between the peoples of Australia and Indonesia) with Gamelan (traditional music instrument originally from Indonesia). The Indonesian Consulate are very kind to provide us some food and drinks for that night, which is so good. We had ‘Nasi Goreng dengan ayam goreng’ with dessert ‘Pulut Hitam’.

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