Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I Need a Camera!!

El Maestro

If you ever decide to shoot me for whatever oddball reason this is where you can find me most often, the bench at the entrance of the Muzium Tuanku Fauziah, USM in Penang. But what good would it do you when I am dead and gone other than put an end to one more boring blogger and wanna be artist.
I received an email from an Indonesian friend who is from Bandung in answer to my call for assistance when I get there. The kid is one of those students who was at the Jerejak resort and SPA doing his practical in Hoteland Motel industry. Most of these Indonesian students were very friendly and polite and it was pleasant to work with them. I had become their "Uncle' and my art was an attraction to them who themselves can draw. However it is unfortunate that this kid is now in Banda Aceh instead, however i hope he can hook me up with any of his buddies when I get to Yogyakarta or Bandung so that i can get settled and learn the ropes as soon as i arrive. It would be great if someone can act as my guide which means I could travel off the beaten path and do more exploration into the villages instead of just visiting the tourist areas.

I am still looking for a decent camera which is pretty crucial for the trip as it would help me capture more wider ranges of images instead of just depending on sketching and drawings. It is ideal to capture all that I can in my sketchbook when I travell, however this can be very limitng as it is time consuming and alot would be wasted especially sights and scenes that i cannot stop to do any work of art from like an open landscape. Or the view like this one of Penang from a Helicopter!

The Penang City Hall or better known among locals as the Esplanade and among even the more locals than locals, as Padang Kota Lama. That tall phallic structure in the background is the Kompleks Tun Abdul Razak or better known as KOMTAR, the heart of the city of Georgetown. In the old days this area is known as Simpang Enam (Six Junctions), with a roundabout where all the six roads meet. Among the most well known landmarks in this area in the old days before KOMTAR was the Craven A (named after a cigarette brand), a 24 hours reastaurant that boasted some of the best local dishes. There was also Kassim Nasi Kandar on the Jelutong road corner that was 'The Nasi kandar' place in sixties and seventies, not anymore.
In the early sixties, seventies and even eighties this whole simpang enam are was alive and it was fun just to stand and watch the traffic especially the 'Tram' Busses and double deckers. The Chinese were Chinese, The Malays were Malays and the Indians and Mamaks were what they were and no one questioned about who they were and as Mahatma Ghandi said, "They know who they were". Today, Ha! just about everyone is worried about loosing their identities or gaining a new one so much so that the very fun of standing and watching the busses and traffic go by is a nightmare as Malays, Indians and Chinese alike strive to become more than who they are at heart or by nature. Friendly happy drivers have become chauvinistic, egotistical maniac who make it their 'Jihad' to out drive the other guy especially if he or she is not of one's own ethnic origin. Helliluyah!!

These colonial reminders are not for us Penangites to marvel at their great architectural and longlasting beauty and now are they for us to identify ourselves with their inherited culture but it is for us to have made it possible if we were united in our course despite our differences. They should be reminders of what we collectively can achieve is our dreams and aspirations transcends our ethnic and cultural heritage. These colonial era landmarks were made possible simply because we had a common taskmaster, the British, under whose leadership we rallied to produce a common heritage. The british did not build mosques or temples or even churches but mostly administerative buildings that served the common people regardless their ethnic origins. If there is anything worthwhile to keep of the colonial era it this sense of unity that we should preserve so that we can still marvel at the traffic passing by without fear of getting knocked over by a Chinese, Indian or Malay for mere racial egoistic tendencies and intolerence.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

My Friend A.Rashid Razak

One of Rashid's Pastel Potrait paintings.

I am at the Malay Art Gallery run by my friend A.Rashid who is in my mind one of the best potrait painter on this Island of Penang. The Gallery is annexed to the Masjid Kapitan Kling and was at one time used to be the main entrance to the mosque located on Chulia street in the area where one finds Jewellers and money changers, and the famous Nasi Kandar restaurants are located.

At the age of sixteen Rashid was set to become a national soccer player and upon the final team selection his father talked him out of it as a waste of time. Later forcefully inspired by his own father who was also an artist himself Rashid has been an artist most of his life. His father later had a change of heart after being convinced by a friend that rashid would fare better as a customs officer than an artist Rashid was talked out of becoming an artist by his father and forced to join the Malaysian customs services. Not happy with corruption praticed by the rank and files of the Custom department where he was at, Rashid quit the services and returned to his art where he had a gallery in Kuala Lumpur where he later made the acquaintance of Dr. Kriss Hougen a social anthropologist doing a research paper on traditional healers as an alternative treatment progame. Later the Universtiy Sains Malaysia offered Dr. Hougen to do reasearch work for them and Rahid joined in the project. He was later involved in drug and prostitution research program for the Universit Sains Malaysia at one time where he was assigned to do a survey of the local drug scene. According to him this was a very rewarding experience for him having met many drug users and prostitutes and got to know their lives quite personally. He even managed to help a few to turn a new leaf with the help of support groups he became acquainted with in his line of work.

I have come to know Rashid for the past four years now and and our friendship has grown through our mutual appreciation of Art as well as eachother's talents. Rashid has often been the one encuraging me to become a full time artist like himself especially when time were hard for me financially however when I reflect upon his struggles throughout the years to get where he is today it gives me the courage to take the plunge. Rashid has a great propensity for learing through books and whatever other medias that comes his way in order that it will help to imrove his potrrait painting. Now with the availability of the internt and its vasy resources for art related information Rashid is often glued to the screen visiting various sites where potrait artpainting is found.

In his younger days Rashid was a member of the Malay Artist guild know an Anak Alam which was spear headed by the famous malaysian Artist Latiff Mohideen. The Anak Alam residence was at Taman Burung area in Kuala Lumpur. Among those artist who frequented the place was Zulkifli Dahlan, Mustafa Hj. Ibrahim, Yusoff Osman, Mariam and later to joined by the likes of Yusof Gajah and the late Rahime whose works were put on show a few months ago at the USM Muzium Gallery Tuanku Fauziah as a commemoration show.

Of late Rashid has produced a few large pieces for the Univerity of the Malay Rulers of the state of Kedah and Perlis where they fetched quite a handsome price that has eased his financial commitments. His talent as a potrait artist is ever improving and one can see the development from day to day or painting to painting. His dedication and perseverence has paid off handsomely as his name has become known among art collectors and local artists and patrons of the arts.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Too Many Rivers to Cross...

These sketches of Insects are now the collection of The Penang State Gallery.

I have been tossing around all possibillities about my trip to Indonesia, the whereabouts, the how and the when would be the most suitable way to go about it. In the meantime i also have a few other domestic issues to resolve here before i can make the final decission and most importantly with regards to my two children. Although leaving them behind would not be much of a thing to worry about , however their residency status with the government will need to be looked into as my son will soon finish school and thus his permit to stay in this country based on his student visas will come to an end in a month or so. This nagging pain with their citizenship staus has haunted me for years now surfacing whenever I least expect and making me run in circles trying to fiond the most viable solution. I have been taking this in strides so far as it is a consequence of my own doing that is for registering my children at birth in the US with the Malaysian Embassy there. I take it as my punishment but years of it is becoming quite tiresome to say the least.
I am a Malaysian born and it seems like as far as the Home Ministry is concern I have no rights much less privillages as a citizen. Ienvy the Indonesians and the Bangladeshis who showed me their 'Red' cards and Blue cards even after being here for a few years, how the hell do they do it?
My immitation of Katsushika Hokusai

I was told when I was working as a Health and Safety Manager at the Petronas Site in Kerteh and Gebeng by my foreign workers how easy it was for them to be issued these cards through their connections. My children whose father is a Malaysian and them born born in the United States of all places is having a tough time getting through! AAh, this is but an old song now and all I can do is keep barking at the moon and hope to Allah that He will one day open a door for my children to acquire some form of identification card just in case they are arrested for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, Na'Uzubillah!
The Final decission i have come to accepting as far as leaving for Indonesia is conecern to to go to Bali and hang around Bali for the duration of my stay instead of wandering aroung from place to place just collecting mileage. My primary goal is to cature the scene in one form of meadium or another of the place and for this I will need to stay put intead of spend time travelling on the road given that I do not have much time to play with. I find it necessary to try to immerse into the culture and its environment in order to capture the essence of what an artist would need to express himself of the culture and bali is no doubt a challenge for the artist. It is the Mecca for the Arts as artist from all over the globe has fopund their way there at one time or another. I need to go there because I had a feeling for the place eversince I learned of its existance. It is like a calling for me since childhood but I have had no opportunity till now!
Althoug I am sponsored for the trip my budget will still be limiting for me to disregard the cost of transportaton and lodgings so I have been busy asking around about these issues from those who had been there. So far I have had pertinent informations thay has eased my mind somewhat but I have yet to learn more just to be safe and comfortable in alowing me a smooth flow in attepmting to do my art journey through Bali. It must again part of growing old that I am more concern now about these matters although Bali it seems is a relatively safe place to visit and i have visited worse places in my life but then I really did not care what happened to me back then when I was alone foot and fancy free. Burning the bridges behind me was the the practice I had taken upon myself for every decission i made whenever I was on the road and often enough i had found myself not looking back that which I had left behind me. Relationships severed, my often times meagre belongings given up or given away and carrying with me whatever i could afford to cary I had left on many occasions embarking upon a journey of no return.
But as the saying goes," man proposes and Allah disposes', sometimes fate would have it that one does return to the source of one's beginnings, one's original home, the place that it all started from. I am here in my hometown reflecting where I have beeen and the life i have led while the train that i had chosen to board is still running knowing that even this station is not a permanent place for me to make my final stop. I will disembark this train only when I am laid to rest in the ground along some old track and the train will proceed on without metowards its unknown destination, one passenger less. As for me I will perhaps embark upon another journey towards yet another destination and in my case the journey towards the Lord of Power. All the wealth of knowledge and experiences that i had accumulated the good and the not so good, the rights and the not so right, all dropped off locked in the baggage compartment of the ongoing train while i am liberated from my wordly bagagge. Vedanta! The end of all knowledge and experiences, the annihilation of all concepts and preconceptions, the end of life as it is.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The 2nd. Journey to The Land of Pancasila

Presenting a Piece of my work to The National Art Gallery

The final arrangements will soon be done that would set me on yet another trip to Indonesia and this time it will solely for the purpose of an artistic adventure of sketching and painting and writing. My sponsor is not too keen on letting his name be mentioned here however surfice to say I am greatfully indebted to his charitable heart and confidence in my abilities to deliver what I had hoped to deliver through the works I will produce while on this trip. It is yet another opportunity of a lifetime for one who is a gypsy by nature and loves to wander the length and breath of this God's beautiful earth and meeting and sharing thoughts and ideas while embarked on yet another journey to find out. I hope to share my trip again through entering the blog as much as i can of my daily progress and take as many pictures as i can afford to while visiting exciting places.
(At the Oppening of my Solo Exhibition at the Penang State Art Gallery.)

My first trip to Indonesia was not well planned and although I got to travel all the way from Medan, Sumatra to Padang across the vast mountain ranges in a car escorted by two tough Indons, Ribut and Selamat, I was not able to do much sketching perhaps my mind was with my wife and children who had departed for the US where my wife was being admitted for medical treatment and my children had to stay with their grandmother who later had to reject them and sent them back to Malaysia. It was not the best of times for me while I was travelling in Indonesia then and there even crossed my mind that I was going to burn my passport and identification card and remain in Indonesia a fugitive by choice. But that was then and now the scenario is alot more positive and my mind has at last found its grounding through mostly the help of others who has laid their believe and trust in what i have set to accomplish in this life as an artist.
I look forward to this trip and God willing will do my best to make it well worth every dime and penny that my friend is willing to invest to make this trip a memorable one. My children are okey with the arrangenment and are old enough that I do not have to worry about their wellbeing and my health is at its best for the undertaking so it looks like all systems go! Insha'Allah!!

(My Dad was an Artist)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Trip to The Immigratiom Dept.

I have drank from the Dragon's Mouth! Notice the curious snakelike or dragolike flash of light over my head!!

The saga continues with the trip to the immigration to get application forms for my two children who are still Americans. The next step is again gathering all the peretinant papers and getting duplicates made any errors or missing papers would meant crossing the Penang Bridge back and forth as the Immigration Department is now located across the channel and no more in Georgetown Weld Quay area where it used to be. This also meants that it would automatically cost you RM7 for the bridge everytime you return, but it has to be done like it or not befroe the date is due i need to have my kids registered in one form or another so they can have some form of legitimate indentification papers.
This process of getting my children their proper IDs has been dragging on like an everlasting nightmare so much so that i dread going to the IM.Dept. or the Registration Department. Everytime the school calls me to enquire about my children's citizenship status I get an ulcer, my mind goes into a depressive mode, my creative impulses take a dive into the unknown, unretreiveable. if I had been adrug addict I would have given myself a lethal shot! But... hey you just have to grit your teeth and bite the bullet, go for it and bust your balls even if it takes ten or twenty trips facing the same tombstone faces whose sense of mercy is just above that of a computer in their carrying out of their duties. I have been at it for going on ten years now and hell if i die toaday who the hell is going to take on for my children with their mother unavailable and their Grandmother too old to do much in America. My Malaysian family and friends as they themselves would tell you "faham, faham saja-lahh!" Who do i turn to that I have not already?
( I have worn the Devil's own Mask)

The echos of my eldest brother's words rings loudly in my ears everytime i dwell into these predicaments I am in, "You have brought it upon yourself, dont't blame anyone for what you are going through!" Thank you Sir! Scrap one person who one might approach for help with all his so called connections in and around the state on Terengganu, what can he have done if he had wanted to? But I am the hot- headed brother who needs to be taught a lesson, Me! for crying out loud! But why do you punish my children who respect if not loved you as their uncles? For the past month of Ramadan my children faithfully fasted believing themselves to be Muslims like their father and like their father they may not be perfect Muslims but the fact that they were will to observe the fasting spirit means simply that they have accepted the fact that they are Muslims, not Christians, not Jewish or Buddhist but, Muslims and as such they deserve a little sympathy from their fellow Muslim Uncles and Aunties in their plights to the right to live in this country even as a Permanent resident. My intention of bringin them home with me at the cost of loosing their mother through a terminal illness was to introduce and convert them all three to Islam and this I had accomplish. What are your excuses for not caring about their fate or their sensitivity towards how you treat them? and YOU CALL YOURSELVES GOOD MUSLIMS, FORGET ME, i DONT ASK NOR NEED YOUR SYMPATHIES, but hey, my children has done you no wrong and they are converts who has lost their mother perhaps permanently for crying out loud, what does it says in the Holy Book about situations like this?

The only reason I am appealing to my brothers is because it is said that I cannot severe the blood relationship between us without incurring the wrath of the AlMIghty and so damn if I do and damn if I dont! To say that I have lost my respect for my two remaining siblings would not be totally incorrect but to say that I am ungrateful for all that they had done or given me in the past is not true and let this writing be the testimony to my standing where my realtionship to my two remaining older brothers are concern. I sicerely wish I had not been readopted at the age of twelve after I was being raised by my Uncle in Penang, this was the turning point in my life that had led me to become so bitter at times that I dont even know where to hide my feelings. I left my home and my country out of sheer frusteration carrying with me all the dark family secrets of some of which I am too ashame to even mention to myself and my rivalry with my twin brother has been like a cancerous tumor in my heart ever eating away at my own sanity while I admire his life of hypocracy in wealth and religion. I am the demon who had left my faith and embraced other religions in the effort to learn and understand myself who I am, why I am the way I am. I would have made a great and heartless assasin if I had been in any given situation or ideology to stand up for as there is enough anger in me to commit heineous crimes against my fellow man! But I have chosen the cowards road towards salvation, the way of the Buddha and the Boddhisatvas. I took the Vows of the Boddhisatvas to uphold Love and Compassion towards all santient beings and lead them towards salvation and i write and record my journey for the world to witness so that I do not lie to myself and my endeavors. I do not deny my strength and my weaknesses, such that before i die I will at least let it be known to my children who their father was and where he went wrong and he did right.
Wheeww!! That took a load off my chest and it has been sitting in there causing so much pain all these years only the AlMighty has knowledge of it for every night I sit up in my bed and ask Him for His forgivenss, for His compassion and Infinite Mercy. I know deep in my heart I have been a sinner more so than most man care to admit to himself and this is my way of confessing to the Universe that i cherish and all its inhabitants whose life i had been fortunate enough to share in this short span of my life. The Moaning and groaning of the Cheeseburger Buddha has been set in motion to arrive at this final hurdle in my journey of unravelling and untanggling my psycho-emotional state on mind while questing for the perfection in being human. I may have fell short but the journey is not over yet and the Fat lady has not sang the Blues. The show must go on and ther is much yet to unravel, more layers yet to be peeled before the final cut, Insha'Allah!!

Monday, October 13, 2008

'Moi Soup' for Breakfast

(OOO! She likes my Prints!)

Moi soup is actually rice gruel sprinkled with shredded chicken meat and some 'ikan bilis' or fried herrings, usually a sprinkle of red pepper and shredded pickled cabbage is also added and all these makse up a steamy bowl of Moi Soup. The Japanese has Miso soup for breakfast and this is too is quite a healthy breakfast just like Moi Soup which starts off the day by tyaking it easy on your stomach linings as opposed to when you go for a hefty plate of fried rice or fried Koa Teow, or a plate of Nasi Lemak basked with hot spicy Ikan Bilis paste. This would be like burning away a part of sromach linnings juast like puorinf down liquid Draino down the sink or toilet bowl. However these are a few of Malaysians' typical breakfast of champions whic includes Nasi lemak the favorite among Malays, Nasi kandar, everyone's favorite in Penang, Nasi Goreng or Mee, Beehoon and Koa Teow Goreng, Roti Canai bathed with excessive amount of Dal curry. In the East Coast Nasi Dagang replaces nasi Lemak but the spicy effect of the curry is equally toxic to the stomach, how we fill our tanks with all these assorted dishes and not have ulcers at an early age is a miracle of life itself.
Most westerners would envy us our choices fro this first meal of the day whch incidentaly usually is all washed down with a tall glass of 'Teh Tarik' or a cup of Nescafe half filled with condensed milk. It is sacrileage, the things we ingest so early in the morning before our stmoach even had a chance to recuperate from last night's bombardment of 'roti nan with cheese and Tandoori Chicken at the El Kapitan's! But we Malaysians have ceveloped by sheer necessity cast -iron stomachs from our early age, from the day our mothers decided that we were ready for her specialty, curry kepala ikan or the infamous fish head curry and from that day onwrds we became suckered into cravings for 'Alagappa's Spice' products of various contoction, Beaf curry powder, chicken curry powder, mutton curry powder, dalca, kurma' fish curry powders and what would we do without these? Through out our gormet history our taste buds has been influenced or even corrupted by the various combinations of curry powders handed down for generations and seasoned to our taste today.
Whether Malays, Chinese or Indians or the various other denominations that makes up this nation, we all are guilty of subjecting our stomachs to the torture of poor choice of breakfast and we love it! We walk around with hearburns and indigestion the rest of the morning but we will have it no other ways. The Breakfast of Champions for Malaysians, Dont LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT!

Monday, October 06, 2008

Hari Raya Came and Went

There was no 'Balek Kampung' for me this year and so Hari Raya Aidil Fitri was spent in George Town, Penang visiting relatives and friends. The fasting month came to an end and i must say i did fast the whole month at least where food and drinks are concern however spiritually i had my doubts as to the purity of my fasting, but this i know the AlMighty knows well enough and will take into consideration accordingly as he is 'Oft-forgiving and Most mercifull and Allah I doubt is too overly concern over the minor trangressions of His servants. But one tries the best that is expected without being overly zealous so much so that one becomes swollen with pride over one's religious standings.
I fully realize that I have alot of making up to do where fasting is concern as i had never fasted for all those years spent overseas much less pray five times a day, but had Allah wanted me to be born a practicing Muslim He would not have allowed me my journey in life as it had been. I do not regret my past life and experiences for better or for worse but i have come to understand better my position spiritually in this life and know when i am a hypocrate or when I am genuine in my worship of my Maker. I now feel more than i ever did His Being, His Prescence and His Infinite Compassion towards those who seek to be home again after wandering lost l0oking for that which Is. I consider my self having entered Islam again through the back door and am seeking the acceptance of my fellow true believers in the practice of getting closer to that which we seek. I had never been a true Muslim all those years i was travelling in the West but i knew i was converted to Islam at the age of twelve and this made me a Muslim by conversion and Islam had always been that I ultimately seek to understand. Not merely the tenets and the rules and regulations, not just the historical and the words of the Prophet and the Holy Koran but the Islam that sits in the center of my heart. The Islam that is the original Devine Spark that is the Essence of Allah, I want to go home to this and not to Heaven or Hell but the the source that I came from.
Yesterday I stood in the Muslim cemetary at Dato'Kramat Road the cemetery where my Grandfather and Grandmother and all my aunties and Uncles are buried and where my second eldest brother was laid to rest two or three weeks ago. I was there to lay to rest my Auntie who had died at 3.30 am yesterday morning. She was unpligged from her life support equipments at the Lam Wah EE Hospital after she suffered a massive stroke and the doctor in charge saw no sense in prologing her suffering. As I held her face in my hands and called out to her to surrender or submit to Allah the pain and suffering I could feel the tension in her head like it was ready to explode! Her eyes were totally dilated but i could still senese the fear of not being able to breath. I stayed with her for quite a long time tryin my damdest to give her some comfort by my touching her and my voice in the effort to reach her but I was unsuccessful for she was struggling for her life breath for breath gasping and gaging. I was moved by the sight and the xperience of the whole event watching this woman who is two years older than me tortured till death claims her two and half hours latter after she was unplugged.
Life is Suffering, the Buddha is said to have said, Impermanence, old age and death is part and parcel of that which is called life. All that breath must taste death and death comes whenever and wherever regardless of one's condition or status in life and more often than not one is never ready for it even if one dare to claim that one is free from the fear of death. We spent most of our life living with death at the back of our mind tucked away in the farthest corner of our mental closset, we most of us live in denila of death till death knocks on our door. Islam insist that we live in preparation for our final destination after death, the life of the hereafter, where Allah will raise all of the sons of Adam back to their conciousness on Judgement Day. Death in the physical sense is merely a transition from one state to another for the soul when the physical body is claimed back by the veryy earth that it was created from. For the Buddhist the soul that survives the physical death goes into a transmigration stage where it will finally be reborn according to its Karmic state. Incarnation according to Buddhism is the spiritual evolution of the souls towards attaining to a state of being human again withtout anymore stains or blemishes from the physical world of existance, enlightened and becoming Light after going through countless transmigration of Birth, Death and Re-Birth. A liberated Soul is a soul that has freed itself from the chains and bonds of this Mayavic world or plane we live in due to our ignorance of it being an Illusion accepting whatever we experience as beith 'Real'. The Buddha aspired to be liberated from this Illusive world through various mens of realizations and awakennings including that of realizing the state death and dieing. Buddhism thus had developped various practices towards making man come to a full realization and complete awareness at the time of his death so that when it happens he is fully awaken and thus not afraid or confused.
In this modern day and age most of us will most probably die in a state of totally be under the influence of drugs and pain killers. Our mind or whatever is left of it at the approach of death most probably will be so sedated that our response to death would almost be mechanically drug oriented, we die in a state of being stone or high. Whatever happens after is as good as irrelevant to even dwell upon as there is not a shred of evidence that can testify that our soul can survive somewhere else after the body has seized to function. The atheist and non believers or free thinkers would say 'We told you so' and they may be right! But to the religious and sprituallly inclined, death is only the beginning of an even greater journey for the souls of the departed. Death is merely a shedding of skin from one form to another, one plane to another from one state of conciousness to another and this realization is what makes man different from other creatures. Without this realization man can do and get away with murder for he is held accountable to no one or any laws that can hold his acctions right or wrong accountable if he escapes this life through death by old age alone. Faith in the believe that ther is a life in the hereafter or in the event called karmic retribution as in the Buddhist believe is what has held most generations of civilization from self annihillation. It may be in the guise of the fear of the unknown that man checks himself from becoming a whole lot worse than the animals although there many instances he has already, however the majority or mankind still maintian that the soul will survive and will answer for what it had been in this physical realm of existance. That heaven and hell maybe for some just allegorical ideas to frighten or persuade our appropriate behaviours, but the fact that watching someone in the throws of death still frightens one is something to ponder upon for every living man. If man is keen enough to learn more about death he should educate himself by wathching the process of the decay of the human body through a glass case instead of assuming what happens beneath his feet at the cemetary.