Monday, June 28, 2010

Ibrahim Hussein Museum and Cultural Foundation

Photo credit : from brochure

'In my first thirty years of painting, it was as if I had spent thirty years in heaven. However, with this Foundation, I realized that to be involved in anything to do with the heart, you have to be strong and must not depend on others. With that in mind I have gone gone ahead up till this day.'- IB: A Life

We hopped from Rebak Island to the mainland to visit the Ibrahim Hussein Museum and Cultural Foundation. Finally we found it after asking at a pisang goreng stall for directions.

The white building perches on a hill looking desolate, in the Machincang Reserve. Luckily our worst fears were unfounded . A tinkle of the bell brought a caretaker to our service. Duly we paid a fee of RM12 each for tickets.

Without a shadow of doubt, as we stepped inside, it is a 'gem' indeed amidst the rainforest on Langkawi Island. Inside the gallery is spacious and white and occupies 2 floors. The private, non- profit foundation was launched in 1991 to develop art and culture of international status. It was Ib ( fondly called by his close friends) Hussein's selfless efforts - his belief that art is an important unifying force - that made this dream a reality.

Malaysia's iconic artist Datuk Ibrahim Hussein passed away in Feb 2009. I had recently bought a copy of Ib: A Life, the autobiography of Ibrahim Hussein. I found the book an interesting read. Luckily it is not a tome that I would have to go back and forth to. More than that, it is a peek into Ib the artist tracing his humble days in Kampung Sungai Limau Dalam, Kedah . As a child, he 'used to walk miles just to see a motorcar! It was a struggle for him as he journeyed to be artist , having to take on jobs as a postman, and even as a movie extra as the family was poor. Today Ib's paintings are widely collected by the who's who in Malaysia and abroad. Ib attributed his 'success' to fortuity. But it is evident from the book, his love and discipline for painting, and his honesty brought him many friends.

For myself, I've only seen and read about him in the media, a great smiling face. Like many Malaysians, we know of his fame as an artist related to the May 13th 1969 incident. When it was exhibited in 1969, it generated lots of interest and the locals referred to it a the 'black painting'. I was happy to see it up close (second time) in the museum.

'May 13th'

In response to the May 13th 1969 racial riots, Ib Hussein painted black over the Malaysian flag adding only a red line and a white circle below it.To Prime Minister,Tun Razak's questions: 'Ibrahim, is that a real flag?/ Why did you deface our national flag?' , Ib Hussein explained:
black - the darkness represents an eclipse the country was going through
red- the twilight that comes after the eclipse and darkness
white circle - symbolises a new energy and a rebirth

He added, ' To me, May 13th is not a national tragedy, it is a human tragedy; and could happen anywhere in the world if man chose to live like that.'
Eloquence won the day and he was allowed to exhibit the painting in the Dewan Tunku Canselor, Universiti Malaya. There was also a condition that ' May 13th' was not to be sold or be taken out of the country.

' My life is made of points, textures, colours, shapes, darkness and light, mass, weight, planes, volumes, sounds, smells, colours and warmth. ' - IB: A Life

Cambodia - Angkor Wat - image of Pol Pot emerging from the cracks of the ruins

Ib Hussein: ' Many incidents that were happening around me made me realise I had to fulfil a serious commitment in art. I began to see that it is the duty of the artist to paint for his fellowmen the suffering and ecstasy of his time.' - IB : A Life

India's 'Bandit Queen' Phoolan Devi ( 1968-2001) - representing the subjugation of women and the downtrodden

Sharing light moments with caretaker of the museum after an enlightening visit.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Smiles of Rebak Island

'Where in the world are you?' my friend asked in her sms text.
Rebak Island, Langkawi. I shot back a reply.
Where?? Nice? Absolutely!

Did I know Rebak Island before this? Not till my blogger friend, Ocean Girl told me about it. We were due for a holiday and my hubby wanted to experience somewhere special.

The van from the Taj Hotel picked us up.It was only a 5 minute ride from the airport to Port Langkasuka. From the jetty, across the 5 km stretch of waters that separates Rebak Island from the mainland, it was a 15 minute ride to our destination.

The sight of the boats berthed at the marina was a pleasing welcome. The sun was shining gloriously. On the Rebak jetty to greet us were the the staff, ready with buggies for us and other guests. Even the General Manager was there. How nice to land on the doorstep in a buggy without having to struggle with our suitcases. We were soon to find out the smiles of Rebak Island and the Taj Resort charmed us very much for our entire stay. Their hospitality was just superb.

From the restaurant looking out to the sea

Hey, lepak away! I could hear myself saying. Already I could feel myself slowing down. The balmy atmosphere induced it. That, to a city girl is priceless!

Wish upon sunny - hammock days!

But this city girl was not alone. On that weekend, Ocean Girl was there with her family. The next morning she invited us to her boat. Stepping on her 'hideaway', we could see it was a lovely home to sail the waters. All of 42 foot. Powered by two 420 horse power engines. It was special to meet her family and her 2 boys charmed us with their hospitality.

What a beaut!

I wish, I wish....

Rebak Island is named after the native rebak tree. The Taj resort is an unique and exclusive haven and privately owned. We didn't feel cut off from 'civilization' as the boat service ply frequently enough. Do what you want on the mainland , then retreat to the tranquillity and real comfort of what the resort has to offer. Or you can choose to lepak ( Malay for loiter) away and not leave the island and enjoy Mother nature and everything a secluded tropical paradise has to offer.

No traffic - just keep cycling!

Monitor lizard feeding time - ala chicken pieces

Our room faces the picturesque Senari Straits. In the evening, some hornbills flew above our heads. We had families of monkeys romping in the garden near our balcony in the morning. Never had I seen so many - from cute little ones to adults having fun at such a close range. They had their fun and then they were off. I guess they keep breakfast time like I do!

As you gaze, you marvel...

Pamper yourself, let whatever worries float away.

I had a Mojito and my hubby, the Taj special. Then we joined the other guests watch the opening ceremony and match of FIFA 2010 World Cup.

Waiting for the boat to ferry us for more sights of Langkawi

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Have a ball with Venetian Masks

Come to the ball!

Lately, a friend showed me an exquisite Venetian mask she owns . Hold one in your hand and you will know what I mean . A piece of art. I tried it on myself . Surprisingly, it is light and comfortable. I must say it is papier mache at its best and so wonderfully moulded. Best still, the fun started - who knows me ??

The mask is indeed colourful and so is the history of Venetian masks. Transport yourself to Venice - to a time when masks were used to hide the citizen's social status. History has it that during the 13th century, the citizens of the Venetian republic were wealthy, luxurious and decadent. To keep their secrecy, the wearing of masks became popular. As no one could be identified, the citizens chose to remain unknown, be it for illicit, personal or romantic encounters. Being incognito was a real comfort zone to conduct one's activities in any manner desirable! The authorities in the small city of Venice had their hands full coping with the rampant immorality. Thus the wearing of masks went through periods of being outlawed by the Catholic Church.

However, things changed over the years. In 1979, the wearing of masks became popular once more. Come Carnevale (Carnival of Venice), the masks put gaiety and colour into the lives of Venetians and tourists. It's mardi gras time and fun spills out into the streets of Venice.

I watched my friend's video of the masquerade ball which she attended last year. It was amazing. Dubbed the mother of all balls, I could sense the excitement. It was a night of endless fun and gaiety. Not only did the drinks flow, the camaraderie behind the masks continued into the wee hours. What a party! I declared. The ladies were gorgeously dressed and the colours made such a magical evening. Should you desire some fun and have a ball of a time, go wear a mask and attend a masquerade party. The choice is yours - sport a full ( Bauta) or half mask (Columbine).I wouldn't mind hiding behind one myself.

Springtime flowers - kisses of summer for a Venetian mask

The masks are characterised by their ornate designs. Gold, silver, royal purple, sunny yellow and other striking colours are ever-present. Fur, fabric, gems, sequins, exotic bird feathers, silk ribbons wildly decorate the masks. The artistry is obvious and it charms you.

There's plenty to know about the beautiful Venetian masks. I found many more exciting masks at 1001venetianmasks. There's Bauta, Columbine, Medico Della Peste, Moretta - all Venetian masks bearing names which are new to me. But one thing's for sure. They are all beautiful masks. Behind the artistry are master artisans who take pride in giving the wearer authentic beauty and rich Italian history. The allure awaits you - just pretend you are someone else! Go on, have a ball!

Who hides there?

Sophisticated and beautiful!

Wear a Venetian mask and party away!

The eyes have it - isn't she a beauty?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Mould clay

From a distance I saw groups of children in the huts at the artists' colony. I made a beeline to check out what was happening there.

It was a pleasant surprise to see the kids all eyes and ears on the teacher demonstrating how to mould clay. I found out they were children from an international school out for a morning session to learn the simple art of moulding clay.

All eyes, all ears

That brought me back many years ago to my first attempts. When the childen were young, I sneaked away during afternoons to dabble in clay. I tried the free form of handbuilding . My first clay art was a spirally vase and had it glazed a dark brown. Next, I made a house with a pond and a duck in it.

Time just flew when I was at class especially when I sat at the potter's wheel. I remember patting pliable balls and centering them on the turntable. Then , my raw, untried hands tried so hard to mould the clay. Many unwieldy results, as expected - they sagged and flopped again and again. Back to square one for countless times. I enjoyed the pulling technique to achieve the cylindrical form. The other skill was to acquire an even thickness as the vase was being moulded. I knew the magic could only lay in my hands to coax beauty out of it, shape wise.

Unfortunately, I did not stay long at the art to acquire some basic decent skills. But the wonderful feeling of ' playing' with clay was some reward already. Handling the clay was also a form of therapy - a terrific destresser. As the turntable moved, my thoughts were with the clay. Nothing else seemed to matter. Always the 2 hours or so just flew.

As they kids played with the balls of clay, I could not help but liken them as the clay we adults help shape as they grow. From the bosom of mothers and fathers, so much is in their hands to mould the lives of those who spring from them. That said, teachers too are responsible in the moulding process of inculcating values .

Teaching is fun!

I left the kids with their bubbly enthusiasm and headed towards the artists each housed in their own hut. I popped in to say 'hello' to two of my friends . Work was in progress and I duly left them to some peace and quiet.

In company, they learn from one another.

A nice shape coming up

It's all in their hands and minds.

Someone loves you!

Play and learn

Friday, June 4, 2010

Dress Your man!

Make a splash with big motifs

It was a hive of activity at the National Craft Day, Kraftangan, Jalan Conlay. Ladies were browsing and buying. I was just looking and hoping to find something I like, better still at a bargain .

Then, HE caught my eye - poor fella, he cut such a lonely figure. All dressed so handsomely but people just passed him by!

There and then I thought it'd be good to share some clothes that our men wear with my Readers. I do not have to go far especially for batik. Step into a wedding reception and you're likely to see guests smartly dressed in long sleeve batik shirts. Or even any informal occasion. The younger men have the more trendy wear which makes a fashion statement. Batik need not have the old tag of being unfashionable. Times have changed. There's plenty of choices in our shopping malls, high street shops, bazaars.

I can't say Malaysian men are 'boring' when it comes to batik wear. Our formal events state ' batik long sleeve/ suit' for the dress code. Many do strut out in batik. That's when colours lift their appearance. Did I read somewhere that certain days in the week, our civil officers are required to wear batik for a Malaysian - kind of identity ?

Recently, I took some visitors from India to the Kraftangan Centre. The designs and colours can appear rather bold to outsiders but choices are immense. Like any fashion, follow your style! Choose the colours that complement your skin tone. Our garment designers seem to favour leaves and flowers as motifs. Just keep some notes in your wallet, or the plastic, if preferred.

Afer paying close attention to these guys and what they wear, I think I should be in a better position to offer advice and dress MY man well. Go ahead, give YOUR man ideas and make him stand out in the crowd !

Crosses, squiggles etc all make a carefree look

Boldly accented shirt

Different shades complement to make you stand out in the crowd.

It's always summer here but autumnal tones are welcome

Our orchid makes a subtle impact

When the dress code says 'smart casual', I guess this will do fine!

Pink and wearable - at least it shows you're in the pink of health!

How's this for a tiffin lunch with the family?

Contemporary design and the favourite black too

Be brave! - orange is in !

Get ready to party! Beside every man, there is a lovely woman too:)