Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Our Leatherback Turtle is back !

My turtle and her eggs

With a little play and storytelling I told the children gathered at the PJ library, the story of One Tiny Turtle. Wasn't I delighted when some days later, I read in the papers that a leatherback - the largest of the sea turtles- has made a surprise return to Rantau Abang beach after 32 years. Conservationists call it a 'miracle' for the endangered species . With renewed hopes, we welcome our rare turtle back to our Trengganu shores 'coz we nearly whacked it away for eternity due to poaching, pollution and overfishing. Seriously, numbers dwindled from up to 10,000 female turtles in 1950s to only 5 nests from 2 turtles without any hatchlings emerging in 2006. We have sadly 'over-fished' in our own waters, so to speak .

Happily this reptilian giant turtle dubbed the 'Puteri Rantau Abang' or Rantau Abang Princess was released back into the sea carrying a satellite transmitter which will help conservationists track turtle migration patterns. So long, 'princess'. Till you return to Rantau Abang.

Nicola Davies' One Tiny Turtle, illustrated by Jane Chapman is an absolute gem. The text scores highly as it makes nature facts so alive and interesting. The illustrations paint the undersea world of the loggerhead turtle from a tiny turtle to adult so beautifully. Every child will want to discover more and be in wonder of the turtle.

The story goes on - turtle leaves for the seas again, eggs hatch in the warm sand, hatchlings wriggle out of the shells and head towards the sea, predators lurk above and below. Only one makes its way to safely to the ocean. Here's a text of the struggle :

In the dark, claws and beaks and grabbing paws miss just one young turtle. One day, she'll remember this beach and come back. But now she dives under the waves and swims. SWims and swims! Out into the arms of the ocean. Far, far out to sea, land becoms a memory waiting to wake in the head of the little turtle.' - One Tiny Turtle

Cover of the book One Tiny Turtle

It has been many years since my family last saw the leatherback turtle laying eggs. We waited in our car in the dark at Rantau Abang. An excited voice rang out calling for tourists like us to follow him. I remember holding our children's hands, stumbling in the sand, heading towards the nesting beach and following the dim light of the torchlight. It certainly felt like a night adventure, full of high expectations.

The guide signalled us to be quiet. Turtles are very sensitive to light and noise. There was a hushed silence as we stopped a distance away from our very important visitor. In the cool night breeze, the huge blackish, reptilian mound was already busy digging away the sand, making a hole deep and steep enough to deposit her eggs. How can I forget the egg laying? Never! It was an esctatic feeling to see the ping pong size eggs go 'plop, plop, plop, one by one. Amazingly white and glistening under the moonlight. When it was all over, the huge flippers swung and swept the sand to cover the precious eggs from predators.

With the young captive audience, I took the opportunity to be the big turtle. I 'reprised' the role of the turtle. All of them have not seen a turtle laying eggs nor have they heard about our very own leatherback turtles. My legs and arms were the hind and fore flippers. The children were amused and played along when I dropped the eggs! - so many and each time one dropped, they shouted 'plop!'.

It was a rewarding session. There was an air of excitement too as the kids drew turtles . We even walked like turtles in a song 'I'm just a baby turtle'! Kids wanna have fun as they learn - facts become so digestible! Lastly to the sounds of their laughter, as they headed for home, they were asked to find out more about the varieties of turtles we have that nest on our beaches - hawksbill , olive ridley , green and of course, the giant of them all, the leatherbacks.

Our turtles, our heritage

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

To Malaysia with love

A new friend and 2 happy faces

Nobody welcomes visitors with broad smiles and curiosity more than the residents of Selangor Cheshire Home. Add 4 youths to a group of middle-aged volunteers of The Sunshine Group,I daresay it was a wonderful combination to set off a vibrant mood. The young men and ladies were 2nd year medical students of Sunway University on their awareness programme of the disadvantaged in the community.

All hands busy making the flag

Watch me and follow

Our main activity with the residents that morning was the making of the Malaysian flag. With 53rd Hari Merdeka (Independence Day) on 31st August approaching, Daisy, who was in charge of the activity had meticulously prepared the bits and pieces for an interactive session with the residents.

In truth, making one's own country flag is no child's play. It has to be THE flag as we know. There was even a little quiz about the significance of the colours - yellow, blue, red and white, the crescent and the 14 stripes and points of the star.

A helping hand next to me

Some among the residents may have forgotten. But that did not dampen their spiritedness in following instructions, and with a little help got everything in place to make the Malaysian flag. Nor in their gusto singing the national anthem, Negara Ku (My Country). One or two, talked with pride about the country they love, the place they call home. I believe most schoolchildren have had the chance to make a flag and wave it so fervently for the country. One way for the seed of patriotism to be planted. Merdeka Day (Independence Day) will come and go as each year rolls in and out . Our young nation celebrates with parades, march pasts and fireworks. Citizens, especially the schoolchildren are reminded of the past sacrifices of the country's leaders to achieve independence for one and all. Tunku , fondly called Father of Independence (Bapa Kemerdekaan) will always be in our hearts.

Art happy to tinkle the ivories. Besides Negara Ku, we sang some other songs

Art, one of the youths played on the piano for us to sing . The youths were attentive and caring in their ways. They will surely be missed when they have to be back in the University and new visitors come after them. The morning ended as it began on a high note. The warmth and camaraderie spread around and was gratefully received.

So, it was an early celebration of sorts among individuals - residents of the Home, students and volunteers. It was an engaging session - the youths and volunteers reaching out as caring citizens - bringing smiles, laughter and friendship. Undoubtedly, there are countless more ways than one to reach out to fellow Malaysians. The beauty of it all is that we take away such warm memories of rare moments shared and how much better we can be as individuals. I believe there is no super formula. It comes from the heart. From it springs the love to make Malaysia, our beautiful country,a truly caring nation.

To all Malaysians, Happy Merdeka !

Nearly done - just a pair of scissors to snip off unwanted bits.

Proudly holding the flag she made

More than a smile!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Malaysian Art Friends' Exhibition

Recently our friends, art collectors themselves, Pakhruddin & Fatimah Sulaiman, invited us to the launch of The Malaysian Art Friends' exhibition which showcased selected works from private collections at the National Art Gallery Malaysia on 26 June 2010 .

Of the exhibition, Pakhruddin, one of the project directors says it is ' a logical progression from the book, 30 Art Friends: Appreciating Southeast asian art, which is the product of a friendly collaboration between 30 private collectors from Malaysia and Singapore.'

This rare public display of collections is indeed a wonderful sharing with the public. It is by no means a definitive exhibition of the amassed collection of the 15 collectors; the majority of them only started collecting art in the early 1990s . For now, it was just a peek . My hubby and I were part of the audience that evening. It was a good feeling to see so many people gathered. Also, many artists(collectors too!) were there. How nice to bump into my daughter's former art teacher Thangarajoo and Long Thien Shih, a well -known artist from whom we bought his painting way back in 1991.

With the 2 countries unique collaboration to bring art to the public, it would have been ideal to have all the 90 artworks for the book exhibited together. But the logistical issues and huge costs did not work in favour of such an attempt. The Singapore Art Friends exhibited alongside Christie's preview exhibition for its Southeast Asian art auction, to accompany the official launch of the book on 1 May 2010. We bought a copy . Never mind the heavy weight of the book, the wealth of the art in it is heaven -sent. Indeed it is a privilege to view 30 collectors artworks and to read their innermost thoughts of their prized possessions . All profits from the sale of the book will be donated towards art education and development in the two countries.

Some of the artists featured in the private collection were: Bayu Utomo Radjikin, Ibrahim Hussein, Jolly Koh, Latiff Mohidin, and Long Thien Shih. I was too busy viewing the paintings and chatting away with friends across the Causeway that I didn't capture any for the evening! It was redemption time when we took our friends M and G from Australia to visit the exhibition again.

Beyond any doubt, the exhibition has been a labour of love by all involved. To think a personal desire to document the family art collection for posterity by Quek Tse Kwang, architect/director of RT+Q Architects Pte Ltd, Singapore , the idea took off and has resulted in a book and an exhibition. Through this highly commendable effort, it shows art speaks across borders . The sweet outcome is 2 hearts beating as one! Am taking my time to enjoy the book, 30 ArtFriends Appreciating southeast asian art.

Chang Fee Ming Good Luck To The Young Rice 2002 Watercolour on paper

Natee Utarit Micro History of Politics No.I 2006 Oil on Canvas

Ahmad Zakii Anwar Devotees 2008 Charcoal on paper

Jimmy Ong Ivan Rehearsing The Kantan 1987 Charcoal on paper

Kow Leong Kiang Silent Conversation series - One Afternoon II 2006 Oil on Canvas

Redza Piyadasa Nyonya Serenade II 2006 Acrylic & mixed media on board

Chang Fee Ming A Last Puff 1999 Watercolour on paper

Georgette Chen Malay Woman Year Unknown Oil on Canvas

Zulkifli Yusoff Malay Sketches (Conflict: Morning at Batu Gajah) 2008 Acrylic on canvas

Chang Fee Ming Chords of Friendship 1986 Mixed media on wood

Jalaini Abu Hassan B Anjing An 2009 Bitumen on canvas

Jimmy Ong Ivan Rehearsing the Kantan 1987 Charcoal on paper

Ahmad Zakii Anwar Daging 1 2009 Bitumen on Canvas