The Husband

Most men genuinely believe that they are a perfect husband to their wife. Or the king of some sort. Unfortunately, the husbands that I’ve been observing over the years including my next of kin are the complete opposite.

Most of the irresponsible pieces of shit often think they are superior and try in any way possible to make their wives feel inferior. And to me, this is a classic case of low self-esteem. It’s also a classic domestic abuse which so many men get away with. You don’t see the scar on the skin, but they are eating them slowly from inside.

The traditionalistic school of thought believe that husbands have authority over their wives. It is a highly ingrained belief. Today, I personally do not think so. It’s a practice that should stay in the past. I find it downright ridiculous to ask for a husband’s permission to pay your family a visit or shave your armpit. Even if he forbids it in the most gentle way, it does not make any sense. It’s just domineering.

In my opinion, it only makes sense to ask for permission to buy a new car knowing maybe the husband will have to pay for the monthly instalment. But if you are forking out your own money to pay for it, by all means, go ahead and there is no need to ask for permission. It’s fine to discuss before making the decision, however, and if there is a budget, stick to it.

But if you got a job offer and you want to work, and you happen to have a husband who constantly makes a condescending remark or acts as though he is the smartest person in the universe, fucking grab the opportunity by the balls before you both (and your kids) starve to death. We all know that some men have a very bad track record when it comes to monetary and family management. Not trying to be sexist here; just stating a fact.

You see, marriage is founded on the principle of mutuality. It’s a partnership, not a private fiefdom for dominant husbands. I do however understand that men need to feel respected by their wives. Especially around their friends and extended family. They need their ego stroked.

Newsflash dickheads, the keyword here is RESPECT. And women need to feel respected and loved by their husbands too. Not to boss them around, humiliate them and mute them. There is only to a certain extent that a wife can give in and show admiration. And while they can still and want to do so, a good husband should know not to cross the line.

While I disagree with how other religion views this matter, I would like to share a quote. Believe me, I don’t want to use a quote from the Bible as a reference because it will look like I’m biased but it’s so good, I can’t resist.

Proverbs 31:23-26

23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.

24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
and supplies the merchants with sashes.

25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.

26 She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

You see there will never be gender or marriage equality. But I do believe a change can be made if men (and women) just leave the old practice in the past. After all, behind every great man is a great woman. And in Proverbs 31, it’s stated that the support of the wife has helped to elevate her husband. He didn’t go up there by himself.

We have all heard jokes about “who wears the pants in the family.” Yet leadership in the home is no laughing matter. And one of the primary roles of a husband which I believe is to lead. That leadership simply means influence. A husband should not dictate or demands total obedience to his every wish and command.

But have I seen this leadership though? No, unfortunately, I haven’t. I’ve only seen pathetic submission and marriages on the verge of failing.

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Photography Chat With Lance Vun

To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” – Elliott Erwitt

Photography is a powerful form of storytelling. It encapsulates time and preserves memory. Other than that, it is also a means to express and reflect one’s feelings. However, apart from personal uses, photography can also document formal occasions and events one would like to look back to. Graduation concerts and weddings, for example.

Today, with good smartphone cameras and a mobile photo-sharing application called Instagram, everyone – young and old – have turned into photographers. And whether it is important or insignificant, (or selfies), we capture and share everything on Instagram. It is relatively simple and fun. However, not everyone has the eye.

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Lance Vun is a photographer born and raised in Kuching. He has been shooting professionally for over eight years. He first started as a photojournalist who then chose to make a living off of weddings. As a wedding photographer, he has had the opportunities to photograph countless weddings across the state. Other than that, he is also a passionate street photographer who has taken photos not only in the gritty streets of Kuching and some other parts of Malaysia but also in the brassy streets of Australia.

Prompted by a friend, Lance, along with a group of photographers have decided to organise a photo exhibition called Streets of Kuching. The exhibition is now live at Art Space, ChinaHouse, Kuching.

Here, the young lad talked about his passion and journey as a photographer.

How long have you been a photographer?
I was 19 when I first dabbled with DSLRs. I’m 28 right now so this year would be my ninth year doing photography. But I feel like I’ve not done enough. I know people who have been around for a shorter period and they’re doing pretty well. They’ve done more than me. I feel like I could’ve done more but everyone has got their own pace. I need to push myself because I feel that my photos are still nowhere near the top. But I dare say that my standard is above average.

What or who got you started in photography?
I was not into photography in the beginning. It was my friends who kickstarted the transition. I was in the middle of my diploma that I got influenced by them. I tried my hands on it and not too long after that, I found interest in capturing images. I was studying business in Swinburne at that time. So after I was done with that, I took another diploma in photography. I started building my career from there.

Who are some of you favourite photographers who has influenced your work? And how do they inspire you?
You see, inspiration is all around. It could be from the books I read to the films I watch. But my main source of inspiration would be Joe McNally – a New York-based photographer who used to shoot for LIFE Magazine. Right after 9/11, he did this huge project called ‘Faces of Ground Zero’. I was truly inspired by that. And the other one is Zack Arias – he’s an Atlanta-based photographer.

What sort of work do you specialise in?
I’m a wedding photographer by profession and I photograph mainly weddings and event coverage. That’s what I’ve been doing most. Because I’m very much into stories. So weddings and events can give you that. Sometimes I do basic portraits. I used to do press work. I used to work as a photojournalist for United Daily News and took photos for the newspapers. Now, I also run a studio under PhotoBorneo as part of the community project called HAUS.

What intrigued you most about your subjects?
Emotions… And moments that you can’t stage and don’t get to capture twice. Moments where you just have to be there because you don’t want to miss the emotions.

Exactly what do you want to say with your photos, and how do you actually get them to do that?
Well, I like to tell stories through my photos. I want to express how I feel about what I see at that time. But specifically, in weddings, I want to capture priceless moments. Moments that can’t be staged. There is something special about photographing couples who are crazy in love. But it’s not just about two people, it’s also about the people around them who are there to celebrate that special day with them. And every wedding is different. Every wedding is an exciting adventure. So, you’ll see a lot of different things happening at the wedding. Many that you can’t replay.

Like candids?
Not really. Some, maybe. But these are the stories, and kind of a life history that you want to share with people. There are so many opportunities for beautiful photos throughout a wedding day. And for me, those photos carry more weights because those are the photos which the future generation who were not there can see. So, I’m honoured to be hired as a wedding photographer. And I have been very fortunate in undertaking multiple weddings since after my initial work was well received.

Right. So what do you think makes you different from the other photographers that you know?
I think I see things on a deeper level. I photograph the essence of the soul, of the subject. My style is quite documentary with a focus on real moments and emotion. I don’t stage my photos. I watch events unfold naturally. It’s not just about the visual aesthetics but it’s more about the life. 

Why do you like street photography?
See, for me, photos that really stand out are the one where a street moment is captured to show a unique story. With street photography, you get more freedom. You don’t have to give instructions to your subjects or annoy them. Anything from candid shots to perhaps portraits, none of them is staged. I also like the challenge. People don’t usually realise that they are being photographed. You need to have an eye for detail and finding something worth telling through the photos you take.

What are the other challenges of street photography?
Well, unlike wedding photography, one thing that will always hold me back is the fear of shooting strangers. If I publish it, I might get in trouble. You will need their permission. But street photography is my passion. It’s probably the best way to show my way of viewing things and I’m determined to keep developing my eye for street photography.

I can say that you’re enjoying a pretty stellar career as a photographer now. What are the best and worst experiences you have ever had to go through to get the shots you deemed as perfect?
There are many. But I can’t pinpoint one at the moment. However, I would say it’s probably the one that got me the Kenyalang Press Awards. It was a random photo that I took from the bridge but I was fortunate enough to win that award. It’s not my greatest photographic accomplishment, but it kind of motivates me. I still have a long way to go.

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Of course. Now, comparing where you are at the moment, with where you were when you first started, what do you think you could have done differently to get to where you are sooner?
I don’t know. But nothing, maybe. I may have screwed up many times. Many of my photos didn’t work. But I won’t say that I regret them. I learn from them. That’s how we learn and polish our skills. Only from mistakes and flaws will I know what to focus on in the future. That’s how we progress. Making better, more compelling art is addictive. So I guess, I wouldn’t change anything. In fact, I still have more to learn.

Do you create personal work often?
If you’re talking about street photography, I do it here and there, every now and then. Whenever I have the time and opportunity, I’d take my camera around and start taking photos. I do it mainly in Kenyalang. It’s a place that is close to my heart. And I like to do it alone and take my time to blend into the street scene.

Do you want viewers to recognise the symbols or messages in your photos and be subconsciously affected?
Of course. Not subconsciously. I want my photos to affect people. That’s what it’s all about. Especially the scenes of urban life through my street photos. This photo of these two uncles for example. They may look like they are only two old men having drinks. But it’s more than that. I want to show our culture here on Sunday mornings.

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Of course. Let’s get to the technical part. What cameras and lighting gear did you start with and what are you currently using?
I started with Canon 1000D that my dad bought for me. At the moment I’m using two Canon 5D MKIII. And I mainly shoot with a 16-35mm lens, 50mm, 100mm, and a few lights here and there. But I rely on natural light as a preference, though. It’s the best.

And if you had to choose one lens which one would it be and why?
At the moment I guess it’s the 16-25mm because I like wide stuff. With a wider angle, you get more drama in. But with wide angle, you need to also handle the distortions. So, I kind of have this love-hate relationship with that lens. You have to be able to master that characteristic of a wide angle lens.

What technology or software do you use to keep focused on what you do best, as you photograph?
It depends on the tasks or the photos. I use 70% Photoshop Lightroom, 30% Photoshop CS6.

How much time do you spend taking photos, versus retouching photos?
Two-third of the time, shooting. One-third, editing. Not to say editing, but processing and delivering what’s best for my clients.

More and more iPhone photographers are coming out of their boxes now. They take good photos too. Soon, people may not need professional photographers anymore. What motivates you to continue taking photos?
Well, everyone can take good photos. No doubt. But many do it for fun. They don’t plan to become a professional photographer. And there’s no versatility. Versatility is important to photographers. And photographers are compelled to push themselves further in the pursuit of creative excellence. So, adding creativity to compositions and looking to achieve something different is something I am constantly striving to achieve in my work.

For your commercial work, how important is your website or social media accounts? Do you bother making a hard copy portfolio?
Well, yes. It’s very important. Otherwise, how would people reach me? Everything is through social media nowadays. And yes, I do make a hard copy. I need to bring something to show my clients to convince them.

As for this exhibition, is this your first or have you had many prior to this?
I have participated in a few but this is the first one with me being one of the organisers. It was a friend’s idea. And it was just a matter of realising it. Most photo exhibitions here focuses on landscapes and vibrant photos. So, I thought why not do something different this time.

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What are you trying to achieve from this exhibition and why?
As organisers and speakers for this exhibition, we hope to educate, guide and motivate people. We want to give them tips on street photography, of course. Other than that, we want to provide a platform for other photographers to exhibit their work. As far as I know, in Kuching, we don’t have exhibitions for street photography. So this is the first and we have a lot of participants. Some of the participants are relatively new in this field. But I can tell you that the level of skill from the newcomers is astonishing. So we kind of want to set up a community where photographers – old and new – can learn from each other. This is the chance for everyone to learn and evolve.

Are you planning to make this is a yearly thing?
Well, we’ll see how it goes. I mean, I received good comments and positive feedbacks. They did suggest to me to do it a yearly thing, but you know, we need the budget as well. If need be, I don’t see why not.

Which photo in this exhibition are you currently most proud of?
The boat. I was at Waterfront. I saw the boat coming towards me. Something about it intrigued me so I took the photo from the top. I thought it was going to stop there. But it went to the corner. I went to take a look and saw the uncle counting his money. It wouldn’t be appropriate to take a photo of that. So, I left.

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You’re born and raised in Kuching and spent some time in Australia. What is home to you?
Home is where I can just be myself. Without having the fear of how other people would think of me. Without anyone judging me. Home is where I feel joy naturally. When I’m home, at the dining table, I’d automatically lift up one of my legs on the chair. But that never happened when I was in Australia. I don’t feel comfortable doing that anywhere else. And when I do street photography in Kuching, I feel more of myself. When I do it in Australia, it didn’t feel like home.

If you could live anywhere on this awesome planet, where would you build your dream home?
I have not travelled and seen enough. So, at the moment, I can’t really say where I would want to build this so-called dream home.

Check out Lance Vun’s photos here!

PS: All photos are courtesy of Lance Vun.

A Chat With Music Producer Galvin Patrick

With the growth of home recording technology (made affordable to everybody), many homosapiens find themselves venturing into music production. While some eventually pull multiple duties as studio owners, sound engineers, and even vocal coaches, the rest went on to work as music producers, producing award-winning songs.

Galvin Patrick is a Simanggang-based music producer. His passion for music developed at a very early age, from watching his mother playing the keyboard and eventually learned from her. In his teen, he picked up the guitar and thereon mastered the art of playing the keytar.

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The 30-year-old is also part of a church choir as a singer and a keyboardist. In his college days back in 2007, he actively performed in the local music scene as the keyboardist for independent bands like ‘Lateral Faction’ and ‘Solemn’.

Over the years, he naturally gravitated to compositions and has come to specialise in producing music, which he does in his bedroom using mainly FL Studio 12.

Galvin does not want to have a signature sound. He wants to be viewed as a more versatile music producer. On that ground, he has collaborated with and produced for a number of local and international artists on different music genres. This includes Paulo Santos, a singer from Brazil, Masia One, a rapper from Singapore and Melissa Francis, an Iban songstress from Sri Aman, Sarawak.

The music business is a nasty, cutthroat environment that will chew up and spit out those who are not well-ordered. And Galvin’s journey is also a rocky one. However, he is not allowing anything to slow him down. In fact, through his music, the producer has helped made the world a little better.

In 2011, he contributed one of his songs called Try To Save The World to  help the victims of earthquake and tsunami in Japan through ‘Indie Aid Japan’, a compilation album of 28 digital tracks.

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Below is a little bit more about the producer:

So Galvin, name 5 songs in your playlist.
The Chainsmokers & Coldplay – Something Just Like This
Ed Sheeran – The Shape of You
Major Lazer – Run Up (ft. PARTYNEXTDOOR & Nicki Minaj)
Kygo – It Ain’t Me (with Selena Gomez)
The Weeknd – Starboy (ft. Daft Punk)

Do you have a guilty music or entertainment pleasure?
I do. Mostly boy band pop songs from the 90s. I listen to the Spice Girls, Aqua and Madonna as well.

You play the keys, you write and sing a little bit, and you produce. But you consider yourself more of a producer, correct?
Yeah. But I have trouble defining myself actually, including my genres. I also do a little bit of this and that. What I do love is, capturing ideas and turning them into songs.

A lot of people have the notion of producers as self-taught, bedroom musicians. Are you one of those and do you have a formal musical education?
I never took any professional training or classes. Most of the time, DIY or self-studied. Although I wish I had taken a formal musical education or any sound engineering courses. It was a tough call due to a tight budget. Most of the courses were in KL or overseas during that time.

I see. Shall we talk about your journey of becoming a self-taught producer then?
Sure. Let me begin with that time when I asked my uncle to get me a pirated software CD. I was looking for the best audio converter, for ringtones – the one that can chop the audio and have all the basic functions. Then I saw the ‘Magix Music Maker’ software in that CD, tried it out and was amazed by the functions. I thought to myself that ‘this is a hidden gem’. I started using it, and get to know the basics from the HELP file. There was no YouTube tutorial during that time. A few years later, I discovered Sony Acid Music, then shifted to Reason, Cubase, Ableton Live, and finally using FL Studio till now. It is the best DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) so far for me! I bought the original copy a few years back.

How did your family react to the idea of you producing music?
All parents want the best for their children. For me, it was quite tough. They were not keen on the idea. But so far, they have been showing great support and help to get my music going.

Tell us about your studio. What DAW and some of the plug-ins that you use?
I have a small bedroom studio with MSI GE 2PE Apache Pro, installed with FL Studio 12.4, M-Audio USB interface, A Samson CO3U mic, Kurzweil monitors. I use some hardware instruments like Korg Electribe Music Production, Korg Kross Workstation keyboard, Korg RK-100s keytar, alongside some midi controllers like Akai MPK mini and M-Audio Trigger Finger Pro. Most of the plug-ins I use are from FL Studio itself, with Airdrums, Hybrid3 and my favourite plugin, Harmor VST.

Do you prefer analogue or digital sound production?
Both. But it depends on what kind of music I want to produce. I did record some guitars on some of my tracks.

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Your musical style has been defined as pop, hip hop and electronic dance. However, you probably listen to all kinds of music, correct? So what influences you to create your beats?
I listen to all, I love universal music. I would Google a song and find out who the producer is. I like producers like Kanye West, RedOne, Norman Cook, Max Martin, Diplo, Afrojack, Zedd, etc. But, overall, I love a mix of genres and experimenting them. That is one of the reasons I love to collaborate with everybody.

I see. Now, you were actively performing in the local music scene in 2007. Could you tell me more about how that started and your experience working with other musicians/bands?
I shared a demo I recorded back home with a friend (Bernie) in college. He then introduced me to his sister (Carrie) and talked about auditioning at ‘Rentak Juara RTM’. I was thrilled after listening to her voice during our band practice but we did not make it through. It was probably because she was way too young during that time. She was 14! Amazing talent with a BIG voice! But later, we performed together in metal-synth-rock bands called ‘Lateral Faction’ and ‘Solemn’. It was a great experience. I got to expose my talents to many different audiences in Kuching back then.

Besides that, you also formed your own project band – The 14th Project – in 2008 and released a demo with singles like ‘Goodbye to You’ and ‘Kesempurnaan Cinta’. Could you tell me more about that?
It was actually my project band before I proceed as a solo artist. I used Sony Acid Music to produce our tracks at that time. There were a lot of versions and demos of our songs. Maybe you can Google them. It was my earliest works that sounded really bad. I was so noob while producing those songs during that time!

I think you have gotten better. You were nominated in several music categories – ‘Lagu Borneo Paling Popular’, ‘Artis Solo / Band Borneo Paling Popular’, ‘Artis Harapan Borneo’ in Anugerah Carta Borneo Era 2011 for the song ‘Sang Mentari’, and ‘Best Electronica/Dance Song’ in VIMA 2011 music awards. And won the Anugerah Carta Borneo Era FM Sarawak (Best Lyrics) in 2012 for the song ‘Harapan’, and a Silver Award in VIMA (Voice of International Music Award) in 2014 (Best Genre Bender) for the song ‘Lagu Ini Hanya Untukmu’. How do you feel about these accomplishments?
It took me a while to believe all the hard work had paid off. I don’t really like to be praised as I don’t feel like I have achieved enough. There is more work to go for, but I do appreciate the support from everyone who has been pushing me forward.

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After the many collaborations and the awards that you have won, you stumbled into mainstream prominence which led to you being signed under Warner/Chappell Music (Malaysia) to compose original songs for other artists, globally. Are you still doing that?
Yes. I recently continued my contract for 3 more years. I am hoping to work and collaborate with more talents from around Malaysia and worldwide. WCM (Warner Chappell Music) is actually my publisher, to copyright and protect my works. That means I can still work with whoever as long as they agree to split the royalty percentage. Sulu Sarawak, a brilliant songwriter was the one who helped me to get to WCM back then, after so much struggling to look for a publisher. See, I cannot hide the truth. I have been the victim in so many stories. It is probably because they wanted money more than music, and I was tricked so many times – my music was not getting paid, worst; stolen.

That is the ugly truth. But you managed. Now, that aside, I am sure you learned a thing or two from that, like revenue and royalty statements?
Let me put it like this; imagine your music is your property with some houses on it. The houses are the radio stations. The people in them are the listeners. Do you think the houses and people are staying there for free? They will pay the rent to you if they want to stay there, and more if for a longer period. That is how it works. People pay you for ‘renting’ your music on the radio. You will get the royalties for how many times the song got played on air.

Right. This is something many must take note, indeed. So, what is your philosophy concerning your own work?
I would like to create something that I love and make you fall in love with it too. Like buying a perfect gift.

 

Do you ever find yourself struggling as a creative? In the sense of music direction.
For me, I do stuff during late nights and early in the morning where inspiration would usually come. Sometimes, I have to take a break by watching movies and play games like Dota 2. Whenever an idea pops up, I usually record it on the audio recording app on my phone. Every idea is precious. Sometimes it takes 2 years to develop a song. I had to change and update the sound every now and then to make it more complete.

Do you think about the relevance of your music before you make it?
I like to update myself with sound designing properties. It is not about the trending genre but the sound you should develop to make it ‘yours’.

Right. You have been around for a while. A decade at least. How do you see the current state of the local music industry? (Mainstream and independent.)
So far, we are still left behind with ideas. For example, vocal sampling. I did vocal sampling in my song called ‘Mencuba Lagi’ 5 years ago. Now you can listen to top radio hits with lots and lots of vocals sampling. Though digital sampling has been in existence since the 1960s.

That is very interesting. How do you feel about the popularity of your music today? 
Average. (I think) I did some pretty good songs with B-Heart and YMY, mostly well received. I did a collaboration with international artist like Masia One, on a track called Local Girls. She is an international rapper from Singapore/Canada and had collaborated with big names like Pharrell Williams and Major Lazer. I am not that popular yet. That is not really a concern. But I will get more songs out!

Do you think that social media has impacted your standing and presence within music?
I do. With today’s technology and thanks to the many smartphone users. The free marketing in promoting is a good move. Most of my songs had been downloaded and shared among friends through social media.

Do you feel like there is a lack of brotherhood within the local and independent music community?
The connection within the people. Yes. It is lacking because of the negative values. People do support you, but not forever. People change from fashion to food according to their personal preferences. The community cannot cope up with their interest so they often break up into smaller groups. However, there is a lot of bias in favour of helping others throughout the music scene. The truth is yet to be told. Someday.

You have collaborated with quite a number of rappers from the East and West Malaysia. What was your first memory of hip-hop?
I fall in love with hip hop music from Dr Dre’s work in Eminem’s songs since I bought the cassettes. Later on, from Sarawak itself, when I get to know some rappers and get into their community. I had so much fun knowing their music movement and get to collaborate on some songs with them.

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To date, who did you work with the most and what is the most challenging collaboration – with who/what song?
I think to work with Paulo Santos a singer from Brazil. I had to learn some Portuguese to communicate with him and his producer. We swap files through emails and WhatsApp as usually but this time, in Brazilian Portuguese! Even foreign language can’t stop me from collaborating with anyone! There are 5 songs altogether in Portuguese. You can check them out here.

Who do you really want to work with; producer and/or artist?
I wish to work with anyone from Interscope Records, like RedOne, Zedd, The Chainsmokers, or anyone from Malaysia as well. Not just big names, but the local artist as well!

What is something you have been trying to do differently as a beat maker/producer so far?
I am trying to create a Sarawak’s style beat, as a genre originally created by me. Well, you can listen to Cantik or Local Girls to get the idea.

You were quiet for a year or two. I assume you were working on something different, something new. Mind sharing?
I isolated myself from everyone for the past 2 years and was heavily involved with church activities. The politic in the local music scene was getting a bit too much for me to handle. I went through depression, I was not getting much from my career, my songs were rejected for many times, and the local music community neglected me for being different, for looking too far ahead. I was criticised for suggesting the copyrighting of music, for collaborating with more artist from West Malaysia than the East and for focusing too much on the hip hop genre. What they do not know is, I was doing all sorts of genres, and even producing songs for Melissa Francis (a famous Iban songstress) and with other Iban bands as well. My music was also tagged as ‘western food’. Once a local producer said to me ‘People don’t eat spaghetti here in Malaysia’. It was because of my ideas of making clubby styles of genres in the Malay language that does not suit the local listeners here in Malaysia.

You had a pretty rocky journey. But the fast-paced music industry always tests the boldest of creatives. What are your music goals?
I wish to develop a dynamic platform for musicians to collaborate, from anywhere to anyone, globally.

While most musicians/producers opt for commercial names, why did you decided not to do the same and use your real name instead?
For me, finding my true identity is important. Attaching music to my name is another thing. I was impressed with so many individuals who have so many stories behind their names, from Isaac Newton, Leonardo Da Vinci, Elvis Presley to Michael Jackson. Being the person behind my own name is like standing up for what I believe in, that is my dream, my passion, the journey within every song I ever created.

Do you have advice for aspiring artists?
The more you are struggling, the more success you will find, later. Dream big and work hard!
“Cantik” OUT NOW
iTunes: https://goo.gl/p33hWI
Apple Music: https://goo.gl/OFvDvg
Spotify: https://goo.gl/hTzBbE
Google Play: https://goo.gl/H35sLJ
Amazon: https://goo.gl/ACzObV
Deezer: https://goo.gl/5vZyJ4
Tidal: https://goo.gl/nZbrkx
Microsoft Groove: https://goo.gl/II7UKW
BandCamp: https://goo.gl/UWpYRA
YouTube: https://goo.gl/U5h9LL
Website: https://goo.gl/Q9QczA

Follow Galvin Patrick:
Facebook: https://goo.gl/EMmcMj
Twitter: https://goo.gl/bgQzmZ
Instagram: https://goo.gl/Kn9J6W
Spotify: https://goo.gl/Tfeuyi
Email: gmvinster@gmail.com

 

Miyo – Kuching Street Heroine

“Graffiti is a life force in a city, that says to every citizen, I’m alive, the city is alive. A city without graffiti is like a field without flowers.” UC Berkeley’s Professor Greg Niemeyer.

Graffiti, regardless of its form, makes a statement. And any notion of meaning or interpretation towards the art which has existed since prehistoric times is left to the perception of the viewer. However, people often consider it as vandalism.

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Graffiti is a time-intensive craft explored by highly skilled artists. And this art form is dominated by men. Contributions by the women have been particularly overlooked in many parts of the world. Despite pursuing their art under dangerous and illegal conditions, they do not receive the same respect as their male counterparts.

In Kuching, women are underrepresented in this subculture. One, however, is pushing the limit and challenging the stereotype. Miyo – real name Dewi Emilia binti Iskandar – is Kuching’s first female graffiti artist. In fact, the only one on the radar. Leaving her marks within the masculine spaces of street art, she astounds the traditional gender notions.

During my interview with her, she spoke passionately about the art of graffiti and her devotion to it. While some best-known female street artist has gone to great lengths to preserve their anonymity, she who sometimes goes by the moniker ‘The Black Cat‘, through this interview is doing the opposite.

Check out the interview below:

 

Could you describe your journey into becoming the first female graffiti artist in Kuching?

I used to create weird block letters. I was 13 at that time, and I had zero knowledge about graffiti. I was introduced to the art of graffiti in college by my lecturer. I started painting in 2007 on a plywood for a competition. I was a solo project.

I took a break and got back to it again in 2012 when I met my junior Dhiya Roslan who shares the same interest. I was not a skilled graffiti artist back then so, I picked up a thing or two from him.

We then officially kick-started our journey at an event called ‘Youthnity for Charity’ with some friends under the name RUSK Crew. There were Saddiq (Twenty-Fifth), Razi and Moody. After a while, we got along well and got Shafiq Fauzi (Shaff) on board as well to ‘bomb’ Kuching city.

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In 2013, they left to further their studies in KL. And I was left alone here. Fortunately, I had an offer to work at a bank so I had to go for training in KL for a week before sitting for the exam. When I was there, I saw a post on Jin Hackman’s Facebook page about a graffiti jam in KL. I contacted the curator of the event and joined a whole bunch of strangers to ‘bomb’ the walls in Jelatek. I was the only female writer there and the rest were pretty surprised. It is almost impossible to find a female graffiti writer in Malaysia.

After some unfortunate events in life, I stayed away from the scene for a bit. And got back to graffiti in March 2014. During that time, I received a couple of offers to paint on walls. I saw a great spot at the Bishopsgate’s arch in Carpenter Street and started to paint on the ‘virgin’ wall. I few friends tagged along and soon, Kuching city was filled with more and more graffiti.

Later, I began receiving some serious warnings from the Kuching North City Council (DBKU). I would fly to Singapore, KL and Miri whenever I get caught. But it was a great turning point when DBKU called me while I was in Singapore telling me that they want me to paint for the city. I took the offer and worked with an art community group that was recently established by D2K and I called the 9Lives. Ever since then, the public slowly accepts street art in Kuching and now more painters are coming out to ‘bomb’ the walls.

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I travel quite frequently since 2014 to Singapore, Indonesia and KL to leave my mark. I also took part in most of the graffiti events in Indonesia. Through that, I got to meet more great, incredible talents around the world.

2015 was also a great year as me and the 9Lives art group was approached by Petronas to paint under a program called ‘TanahAirku’ which made a big hit for Kuching painters.

In 2016, I won fourth place for a graffiti competition in Brunei against all guys and a girl (who got eliminated in the first round), created the first ever official graffiti workshop in Kuching with my old friends and got a spot under TEDx, exhibited some of my artworks and had a mini graffiti workshop session.

I have mostly been doing commission jobs to paint on walls and participated in quite a number of exhibitions under 9Lives. Now I focus on my work as an independent artist.

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It has been a tough journey with a rollercoaster ride from the streets to fitting in with an art group but nonetheless an amazing one; especially the ones that I have experienced in Indonesia and Brunei. I learned a lot through some graffiti friends in Indonesia, had my first ‘spraycation’ (spray-vacation) in Java from Jakarta to Tangerang to Yogyakarta to Bandung and back to Jakarta before flying back home, all by myself.

Indonesia is like my second home and I went there just to travel and paint on my own, met strangers then became good friends with some Indonesian’s finest like Poetry, Zaner, Cloze, Mone, Yogyakarta boys, Bandung writers and more. They certainly opened up my eyes to the real graffiti life and how it works.

Currently, I am given the opportunity to use a studio space at ChinaHouse, Kuching on my own until further notice; as a creative space.

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That is a very inspiring story! As a female pioneer of street art in Kuching, who or what inspired you?

There are a few people. My mum is my great source of inspiration; I saw her doing batik ‘canting’ since I was small. My daughter as my motivation to be the mum she would be proud of. My late boyfriend Yuki who has mad love for creative street stuff and also this great graffiti writer named MAD C from Germany who is just great at what she is doing.

Have you come across any other aspiring female graffiti artists in/from Kuching?

Not even a single soul, but that is yet to change. I just need to work harder to create interest in them, I guess. Some approached me for a bit of guidance but then disappeared in a flash. Graffiti is always known as a ‘male’ thing and that explains how it is almost impossible to get females to have passion in graffiti.

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Right. So, in your opinion, how is street art different than more formal kinds of contemporary art? Is it more or less important? Why?

Graffiti is the only art that cannot be bought or sold. Unless if it is a commission job, then, of course, graffiti writers are getting paid but loses the real essence of graffiti as an expression that is priceless. Real graffiti artists do not expose themselves in the public eyes. They are mostly anonymous, always working discreetly with artwork that shouts their name and character.

Graffiti or street art is as important as contemporary art where messages are conveyed through arts whether it is based solely on imagination or sensitive topics like politics or religion to create awareness. Most people perceive graffiti as vandalising properties because it made the streets look dirty but graffiti writers think the opposite.

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I believe you come from an artistic background. And your dad is a musician. How would you say this influenced you to become an artist yourself?

Both of my parents are creative beings who came from creative fathers. My dad’s father was a great self-taught ‘architect’ who built our kampong house from scratch and always been building and fixing broken stuff at home on his own. He also played ukulele in an orchestra band in Kuching back then. He is a big fan of keroncong music and he loves to write. From there, my dad might have been influenced by him and he himself is a great keyboardist, a composer and a sound engineer who has also been through many ‘rollercoaster rides’.

My mum’s dad is also a good singer who loves dancing to keroncong music. And he has the most beautiful handwriting I have ever seen. My mum used to be a singer and she loves art as much as I do. I grew up watching her doing her batik ‘canting’ but unfortunately, she had to stop doing what she loves because of her health condition while raising me as a single mother.

My parents made me think that it is possible for me to do what I love to do and be successful as long as I put my heart to it with lots of patience for my passion. There will be ups and downs but the most important thing is to keep on moving forward and create more as time goes by and guide others in the long run to create professional art community.

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How do your family and friends feel about your artwork?

Initially, my mum was not too keen on me leaving a fixed day job to be a full-time artist but somehow, I managed to open up her eyes when I got paid a lot for my projects. Her main concern is my daughter’s future because I am a single mother also. But with time, she began to understand that money is not everything and for as long as I keep on doing what I love wholeheartedly, I will always get her support. The rest of my family was also very sceptical about it in the beginning but like my mum, they are slowly adjusting to the fact that I am rebellious and a born artist at heart. Nonetheless, I get supports from friends and families even though not everything I created impresses them.

How do you go about getting walls for yourself and other street artists?

I take walks around town or cruise at times and with my ‘cat’s eyes,’ I would spot a wall that screams ‘paint me’ or abandoned buildings, walls under the bridge that catches my eyes. When the time is right, I will ‘bomb’ the spot either by myself or with some friends.


What is challenging or difficult about street art in Kuching?

It used to be thrilling which makes it exciting because we need to avoid from getting caught by the city council. Now it does not feel as adventurous as before. The city council has now accepted street art and allowed it to be filled in Kuching city.

I can tell you miss the thrill! And what do you find surprising about doing street art in Kuching?

The public and the government bodies seem to have adapted to having graffiti all around town. And most painted walls have become an attraction where locals and tourists would take photos for different occasions, from weddings to projects, to just a mere selfie shot.

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What kinds of reactions do you get as a female practising street art in Kuching? Are you threatened or do you feel frightened? And are you lauded?

As a female graffiti writer, I get criticised a lot. Some from the professional graffiti writers, some from peers who thinks that my art is ‘ugly’. At times it gets to me, but far from threatened. I felt challenged which makes me want to be better and surprise myself by proving them wrong.

I admire the rebel in you and the positivity. So, spray cans or brush?

Spray cans are my boyfriends.

What brands of spray paint are you using?

Anchor and Pylox are the cheaper options. Most of us use that. The rather expensive one would be Montana. That one last longer.

Making art is expensive. How much do you spend on spray paints an average?

About RM300, I think.

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What inspires your writing style?

My writing style is inspired by Hiragana & Katakana, Sarawakian natives elements, and also the Egyptian hieroglyphics.

What are your techniques and what inspired you to use them?

Just basic graffiti skills actually.

Can you tell me more about the Petronas street art project?

9Lives was approached by Kaki Seni Malaysia; they were looking for artists from Johor Bahru, Kota Kinabalu and Kuching to be in the second edition of street art under TanahAirku; TanahAirku 3.0 Street Art Kuching. For the Kuching side, 9Lives was given 3 walls; 6 artists, 3 males and 3 females.

I collaborated with Twenty-Fifth for this and our artwork is called the Tree Edge in which his piece was a hornbill and a hibiscus while mine is the word ‘harmony’ on a ‘terabai’. It was one of my favourite wall-painting experience as it was the first time we painted using sky lift. We were literally brought to a higher perspective to paint which also symbolises a positive vibe.

I am blessed to be given a great opportunity to expose myself the legal way. And to work on it with an old friend made it even more special. We are equally proud to represent Sarawak for the project. That painting, I dedicate to all Sarawakians. May all of us continue to live in harmony.

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Are you or any other street artists mentoring young street artists in Kuching?

No doubt. Some do it on the streets, some do it through workshops.

Is there a strong interest in visual arts, or its history, in Kuching?

I believe so. As you can see the rapid growth in the Kuching art scene. The only thing that we need now is a ‘Balai Seni’ to display the work of our local artists (young and old). Since most visual arts nowadays got exposed through the ‘back door’ (shortcut) unlike the fine artist that has got to go through a lot of tedious and difficult process, the interest somehow shifts at times to modern contemporary art even though fine art is still considered as more valuable. We have art collectors and art lovers coming from all around the world or the locals who would support the local art scene by purchasing our artworks or give us commission jobs.

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Please tell me about your involvement with the street art community in Kuching.

I was definitely the pusher, the so-called pioneer who started the ‘trend’ for the rest to follow. Currently creating and pulling the ‘chosen ones’ to guide because I choose quality over quantity.

Do you think that more people in Kuching are more aware of contemporary art because of the social media?

Through social media and based on what they found in their travels.

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Are artists using their art as a way to voice their political feelings? And are you?

Some who has the balls and a great knowledge of the law and political matters, most definitely give their shots every now and then. It is not my mission, so I stay out of it.

Would you use street art to highlight women’s rights in Kuching in the near future?

Why not? Since I am always being discriminated for being ‘the only female’ in the scene, therefore, I have to work harder to reach certain standards. It would be great to show the public what we can achieve.

Is contemporary art in Kuching important? Why?

It is, to suit the future; to move forward without forgetting our roots.

Do you have any plans for exchanges with artists from outside to come to Kuching?

I am looking forward to hosting my friends from Indonesia mostly and the rest of my friends from all around the world for collaborations in Kuching.

Is it important for Malaysian street artists to have international recognition and opportunities? How could they be better supported?

Yes, and some of us have made it far to Dubai for a massive wall art project where they get paid a great amount of money. Also, some other projects through connections that were built from time to time through travels, research and such. Street art is known internationally and every country got their own great artist. Most probably through collaborations and sponsored travels, and more exposure I believe.

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Do you have any upcoming exhibitions or projects?

I have established in 2013, a hip-hop community called Tha Project. Now I am focusing on building it from scratch; through 7 elements of hip hop – emcee, bboy, graffiti, DJ, beatbox, basic knowledge of hip hop, skateboarding and maybe basketball in the near future? Watch this space jam!

Do you have any plans to collaborate with street artists from other states/countries?

Well, of course. Hint: CATFISH (a collaboration with a Filipino female street artist, Beni Art).

Tell me about your ambitions for the future. Where would you like to be in, say, five years?

I would love to be living either in Japan or in France (with my daughter) as a harmonic poet, graffiti writer and a hip-hop enthusiast. Inshaa Allah.

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Constantly in evolution, artists who believe in making changes will surely pave the way for more aspiring artists. Miyo is no different. She is paving the way – and back alleys – for even more female artists making graffiti, not only in Kuching but also perhaps, Sarawak. And Tha Project will surely be the next big thing many would hear in the near future.

I am definitely stoked to see more strong, smart and talented women in the predominantly male subculture. And who knows, this exposure may help Kuching’s graffiti movement to become launched into the rest of the world.

PS: ‘terabai’ is an Iban war shield.

A Muted Global Pandemonium

Internet luring is common, since perhaps, 10 years ago. And any child can become the victim of an internet predator. A sexual predator, to be exact. And these predators are open to anything. They don’t discriminate gender, ethnicity, education, socioeconomic status, even religion.

Nowadays, there are many stories of young children being groomed online and raped. Rescued? Less than half of that.

However, even at home, one is not safe. One does not have the fear of being left alone for no reason. Or being left alone with a certain person.

I don’t personally know any rape victims, but I do know a number of those who were sexually abused – as a child, even adults. And there are a few that I know who were sexually assaulted by their own next of kin – the victims of incest.

While they nervously shared with me about the routine event of molestation, whether or not they experienced the sadistic crime of rape, I don’t really know.

When I was 18, a friend in high school once shared a very disturbing story with me. A story of incest that took place in the 1970s between his uncle and his aunt. Every now and then, whenever the topic comes into discussions, I would have flashbacks of the narration that makes me sick. The narration was so graphic. It was more than just molestation. And I questioned the incident, though – was it rape, or accidentally a consensual sex?

It was a tale of incest that first took place in a cornfield. His uncle who was drunk when he shared the story with him was in his late teen when one day he realised how fully developed his younger sister was. Puberty did her right. She was curvy and voluptuous. She still is today, even in her late 50s.

The siblings were close when they were kids. They were innocent. He admitted, however, that he has always been sexually active and developed wild imaginations when he was a young boy. As he gets older, masturbating was getting boring for him.

He has had his eyes on his sister for quite some time before the cornfield incident. He shared that he would have sexual dreams of her. Her shadows and silhouettes at night drove him crazy that he would masturbate to the images he has of her whenever he had the chance.

The sister who had no idea what was going on in her brother’s head, of course, didn’t have any suspicions and was okay being left alone with him. He was her trusted babysitter. Or at least, seemed less predatory.

The story as told by my friend:

So one day, in the cornfield, and happened to be far from everyone else, just the two of them, he couldn’t control himself. Watching his sister walking from behind, somehow physically exposed, he could feel himself having a hard-on.

He couldn’t stand the torture anymore and told her to stop walking. She ran to him and coincidentally brushed her breast against his face as he lifted his head and moved closer to her.

He took a step back and looked at her from top to toe. Obviously, he was undressing her. But still, she didn’t suspect anything. Until he got even closer to her and started violating her body. She was stunned, I’m sure but, couldn’t say anything. He pinned her down in the dirt in the cornfield.

He started touching her firm breasts. He took off her shirt. And then her bra. He groped and massaged her breasts. He pinched her nipples between his fingers. Her nipples both go rock hard at that. She whimpered. It turned him on and then continued rubbing and pinching her nipples for a while. He was having a time of his life with no guilt at all. And she moaned a little as if she liked it.

He then started kissing her breast, and slowly went down and started sucking them. While at it, he pulled down her pants, sliding it down her hips. He spread her legs and started caressing her thighs. He could feel her body shaking. And slowly pulled down her pants and panties to her feet. She was breathing heavily and moaning as he became more aggressive with her breast. When he rubbed her pussy, she whimpered. She was so wet!

Dude, I am a guy and I know for sure, why he couldn’t help himself!

Her body language was so inviting, she whimpered and moaned! She was so wet that she allowed his finger slid up her snatch then forced its way inside her pussy! She was a virgin and her pussy was tight.

It’s so wrong that I was so into his story. They are my uncle and aunt for fuck sake!

And of course, naturally, she spread her legs even wider. He didn’t need any more encouragement to go on. He took off her pants and panties, shoved his head down, started kissing and licking her pussy. She was moaning like crazy as his tongue plunged in and out of her. He fingered her and ate her out. And later, his hard dick slid into her wet pussy. As he was fucking her, she was moaning, gasping and panting, craving more.

Doesn’t she know that she was being raped? Did she want it to happen? I had so many questions in my head.

And I asked my friend, “Didn’t he feel guilty at all?”

“He said he enjoyed it, and he could tell that she enjoyed it too. She sort of didn’t say stop,” said my friend.

“Did it happen again after that?” I asked.

“No idea, I didn’t ask. But I can’t look at them the same way anymore,” he said.

Well, I don’t think I can even see them as siblings, hugging each other without thinking it’s sort of in a comforting yet sexual embrace.

But they seem to be cordial with each other. They are both married. Not to each other, of course. And in fact, they are grandparents now.

Let bygones be bygones, I guess. But I am pretty sure, if it was rape, she must be traumatised by the incident. And if she was, perhaps at that time, nobody reacted to her traumatic reactions. Perhaps even she herself would not have realised that she has checked out for a while and was not being herself. And she must have had an endless amount of sleepless nights. And perhaps, dealt with it by never telling anyone, and eventually forgetting it herself.

No two rape victims will react in the exact same way. Some would want to be positive and live their lives. While some would think, what is the point of living anymore? And they would engage in substance abuse of drugs or alcohol to help cope with the overwhelming feelings.

There are many short- and long-term effects of sexual assault and rape. There are the physical, mental and spiritual effects. Mental illness and depression can lead to self-injurious behaviours. Victims of sexual abuse become abusers themselves.

According to Penang Women Development Corporation (PWDC) chairman Yap Soo Huey in 2015, there are 3,000 rape cases reported every year on average in Malaysia, with only two out of 10 cases going to court.

Rape is a crime that revolves around power, hostility, and violence. Rapists don’t discriminate. And they can be anyone – strangers and family members with an insatiable thirst.

Rape happens every day. Yet, it’s one of the most under-reported crimes in Malaysia and around the world. A lot of evidence point out that Malaysians’ attitude towards rape is very poor. And victim-blaming seems to be the culture.

I’m not a professional but I’m glad that people trust me enough to talk about their experiences with me. I believe by doing so, they feel more relieved and liberated. And that they stop blaming themselves for what had happened to them.

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. For some of us, it’s a day of love and romancing. Some, it’s a day to be a complete couch potato. While for the rest, it’s probably a day of reliving their worst nightmare.

Everyone wanted their first time to be a loving and positive experience. Unfortunately, not everyone gets what they want and eventually make themselves believe they had a wonderful night.

On a separate (yet related) note, one of the biggest forces in the Universe is puberty. It has the highest potential for transforming one’s life from zero to hero. Don’t forget, good genes play a part too.

While we can say that puberty kicked in at the right moment and did the right job with some of us, it did not for the rest, with additional fat tissue and funny patches where they are not needed.

But when it did the right job, and you are in the wrong place at the wrong time, it gives rise to certain evocative tales – sexual assault and rape. Perhaps, let’s include child sexual abuse as well.

 

Being Sarawakian: The Reserved Tribe

All the while I was in the Peninsula, I have had the chance to mingle with people of different culture, mindset, attitudes and characteristics. This was through my college years and employment at two different companies.

Quite embarrassed to say, I feel like I know the people of the Peninsula more than I know my own people back home. Even more embarrassed when they ask me questions about my own state, I could not answer them confidently; worried that I would be the butt of or their jokes if they happen to know more that I do.

Here is the thing, I left Kuching before I turn 21 and basically grew up in the Peninsula as I was there for almost a decade. I was a loner in my teenage years and I was deep in my own world of imagination and worry. I was busy writing and making music.

Leaving the Peninsula meant leaving my life, my friends, and my career. During my time there, I was not surrounded by any Borneans (relatives not included). Even when I come across a few, there was a degree of uncomfortableness that made me distance myself from them. The main reason would be their mindset. However, I do have two close friends that I met in college, though – Sharon Bentley (Kelabit + Chinese) and Clarribel Sayong (Iban). And they are an exception.

While they claim to be much more open-minded and liberal, they are to a certain degree, the opposite. Excluding my close friends, the majority of the people in Peninsula are downright racist and judgemental. I was lucky to have the one-of-a-kinds as my friends and confidant. They are the reason why I stayed there that long apart from it being the land of opportunities.

However, I am not discussing their attitude and characteristics to cause unnecessary chaos. Abiding by the series Being Sarawakian, this post is about my opinion on the progress of my own people.

The Attitude and Characteristics of the Bidayuhs

As mentioned in my previous post, the Bidayuhs are generally soft-spoken people. We are quite reserved and do not open up to strangers very easily.

Many articles/books written by the Europeans in the 19th century portray the Bidayuhs as people who suffered oppression before the arrival of Rajah James Brooke in 1841.

Malaysian-based New Zealand travel photojournalist, author and photographer Peter Anderson stated in his book Discover Borneo – Sarawak (page 58) that the Bidayuhs almost became extinct in the early 1800s due to their mild, inoffensiveness, and tolerant nature. The Brunei Malay rulers of Sarawak enslaved the surviving Bidayuhs from the Iban attacks, which the Brunei Malays encouraged. The Rajahs brought peace to Sarawak and the Bidayuh have prospered since that time.

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However, one of the White Rajahs did not hold the Bidayuhs in high regard, as stated in Dato Peter Minos’ book; The Future Of The Dayak Bidayuhs In Malaysia (page 15).

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“Charles Brooke did not think very much or very high of the Bidayuhs and thus he described them as having customs and appearance which do not encourage so great an interest in a traveller’s breast as the Sea Dayaks (Ibans). His words implied that the Bidayuhs lacked self-confidence and gregariousness.”

Yup, that… may be true, to a certain extent.

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The following are more excerpts from Minos’ book under the subtopic Attitudes and Characteristics:

“Morality is of a higher standard (than others), their gratitude is undoubted, and their hospitality to strangers well ascertained.” – Hugh Low

“The Land Dayaks (Bidayuhs) have not the bold and arrogant look which distinguishes the Sea Dayaks (Ibans). They are quieter and milder in their habits, and more modest in their dress.” – Odoardo Beccari

“The expression of all classes and of both sexes of these people is that of a subdued melancholy.” – Spenser St. John

Spenser is attributing this to the Bidayuhs past experience of oppression and suppression during the Brunei Sultanate.

“Bidayuh is mild and tractable, hospitable when he is well used, grateful for the kindness, industrious, honest and simple; neither treacherous nor cunning and so truthful that the word of one of them might safely be taken before the oath of half a dozen Borneans (Brunians). In their dealing, they are very straightforward and correct, and so trustworthy that they rarely attempt, even after a lapse of years, evade payment of a just debt. On the reverse of this picture, there is little unfavourable to be said, and the wonder is that they have learned so little deceit and falsehood where the examples before them have been so rife.” – Henry Keppel

“The Bidayuhs, to W.R Geddes, believed in true personal freedom and liberty and were highly independent-minded people who did not like to be controlled or dominated by others or by their own kind, so much so that they were often perceived as obstinate, recalcitrant, and uncooperative”, said Minos in the book.

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W.R. Geddes’ opinion is a slap on my face as that is what I think of myself majority of the time.

“Land Dayaks did not get much attention and encouragement from the Administration (Government) for many years. This neglect was mainly due to competition by other, more numerous and sometimes more troublesome ethnic groups. The Land Dayaks, used to being treated badly by outsiders, tacitly accepted this inferior position, which in turn contributed to the still popular idea that they are a conservative and less energetic
people.” – B. G. Grijpstra

The Bidayuhs today, are they still the same as their ancestors?

Here’s what Dato Peter Minos stated in his book:

“The Bidayuhs regard talking too loudly in public, airing one’s views too openly, pushing oneself and trying to order others around as marks of rudeness and arrogance. To be regarded or said or even perceived to be rude and arrogant in the Bidayuh community is undesirable and demeaning. To the Bidayuhs, a good and respected person is one who talks the least, who does push himself or herself around and who does not annoy or disturb anyone. Being natural adherents of extreme personal freedom and independence, the Bidayuhs tend to avoid those who order them around or who control too much of their lives or who tell them what to do or what not to do.”

In short, we are still reserved, but we definitely are moving forward. At least I think I and some people I know are. The youngsters are definitely pushing the envelopes.

I am hopeful.

And here are the notable Bidayuhs so far:

  1. Anding Indrawani Zaini, an Akademi Fantasia star, model, actor and singer. He is of mixed Melanau-Bidayuh parentage.
  2. Dewi Liana Seriestha, Miss World 2014 Top 25 and Miss Talent for Miss World Beauty Pageant.
  3. Pandelela Rinong, Malaysian national diving athlete.
  4. Tony Eusoff, actor and model.
  5. Venice Elphi, Malaysian football player, played for ATM FA.
  6. Richard Riot Jaem, Malaysian cabinet minister.
  7. Temenggong Salau, Bidayuh community leader during the formation of Malaysia.

PS: While doing my research (for my own intellectual satisfaction), I noticed that other writers who have written about the same thing also used the same quotes. While this is just a random post, I still want it to be worth referring to by some people some day for some reason.

PS: Dato Peter Minos, a modern and highly educated Bidayuh businessman is now the Chairman of Kota Samarahan Municipal Council

 

Being Sarawakian: The Tattoos

Tattoos have served in many various and diverse cultures since prehistoric times. Most commonly as rites of passage, marks of status and rank, symbols of religious and spiritual devotion, decorations for bravery, and marks of fertility, among others.

Throughout much of the 20th century, getting inked intimidated people and brought about many negative stereotypes in mainstream culture. Those sporting tattoos were often considered social deviants and outcasts. There was a degree of uncomfortableness and employment opportunities were also perceived to be negatively affected.

However, the culture experienced a resurgence in the 21st century in many parts of the world. And more people are slowly embracing the culture. As tattooing increasingly enters the mainstream culture, walking into a corporate office with a full sleeved tattoo is in fact, very common nowadays. I personally experienced it myself for the past 5 years, thanks to my democratic workplaces and better awareness about tattoos. Although I would cover them during certain occasion and when meeting the VIPs.

Despite it being a Muslim country, judging by the number of tattoo conventions held across Malaysia, it was evident that a growing number of Malaysians seem to be more welcoming towards the idea of having tattoos. The growth in the culture for the past decade has also seen an influx of new professional tattoo artists into the industry, especially in Sarawak. Some artists are renowned for their skills in doing traditional, hand tapped tattoos. And some, with their artistic talent, are building their portfolios coupled with the ongoing refinement of the equipment used for body tattooing.

Traditional tattoos are a significant part of Sarawak’s rich history. Borneo Traditional Tattooing is something that is symbolic to the lifestyle and daily practices of the native tribes in Borneo; mainly the Iban community. And the fascinating thing about traditional Iban tattoos lies in the process and its tools. The traditional tattooing process is a rather intricate one. The tattoo craftsmen usually make their tools for tattooing from bamboo poles and the ink is either from soot or powdered charcoal. Designs were carved on a block of wood that is smeared with ink and then printed onto the body. Once a design is in place, the skin is punctured with bamboo needles dipped in ink. It is said that a hand-tapped tattoo can last and look its best even after years of being exposed to harsh weather conditions.

While it is a common practice amongst many indigenous groups in Borneo, the specific designs and cultural associations vary from group to group. And each design and placement refer to a particular meaning and significance. On men, these tattoos are seen as a symbol of bravery, while women see them as a beauty enhancer. And the women often have the most impressive tattoos. Some are associated with weaving ceremonial garments that are used to hold freshly severed heads from headhunting trips. The headman’s daughter would have her arms, hands and legs completely covered in fine tattoos.

With nature as its main focus, the most basic type of Iban tattoo is the bunga terung design, mostly tattooed at the shoulders, just by the edge of the collarbone. It is usually the first tattoo that a man gets before going on his bejalai or coming-of-age ceremony. Many of my Iban and non-Iban friends have this on them. According to my Iban friend, the tattoo is believed to help strengthen the wearer during his bejalai journey into the woods. During the journey, the young man is said to gain his fame and wealth by helping out other neighbouring Iban communities and the favours would be gifted with tattoos.

Borneo Traditional Tattooing disappeared in the 1960s as many people in Borneo converted to Christianity. For the past decade, however, a lot of the younger people, in their effort to preserve and promote their culture, looked back and many of them had now started getting these traditional tattoos done again – as a tattoo artist and a tattoo wearer.

On a separate note, I have had a fascination with the art of tattooing since I was a kid. And faced the needle myself for the first time in 2009. My first tattoo is a musical note on the slightly lower back of my right shoulder. I often forget it is there until I’m in my towel and someone comments on it. My friend Chris and I were supposed to get our tattoos together, spontaneously, but he had his a few days later.

A tattoo virgin at that time, I thought it was going to hurt. And the funny thing is, I hate needles. Apparently, it did not hurt and on my body as of now, I have 15 individual tattoos. However, I don’t consider that I have that many as I like to combine them. And behind each marking, there is a story. My tattoos represent the many anecdotes of my life.

My most recent tattoo is the Amaryllis flower. Well, three of them together, as per design by my tattoo artist.

Back in the Victorian Time, the amaryllis flowers were given as a gift to writers, artists, and poets to show gratitude as well as respect for their work.

While I consider myself as a writer, I can’t say a good one. But, for 5 years I was employed as a professional writer who has developed and produced content for education and marketing purposes. And I enjoy writing. I have been writing since my first writing class in school. I write short stories, poems, songs and random stuff. Although after many years now, I still constantly feel I lack a bridge between my thoughts and my words that make my writing feels average. And I judge my own writing. I tend to get worked out by every single word.

Sometimes I feel like I am a better poet than I am a writer. When I feel very strongly about something, whatever that is related to it would just beg me to write it down into a poem. Sometimes a series of the same thing. I am not a grammar freak. In fact, my grammar sucks and that makes my writing probably not a reliable text grammatically and figuratively. Just PROBABLY.

So being a writer, a poet and a musician myself, I receive praises, constructive feedbacks as well as both gratitude and respect from my friends. It gives me a sense of pride and the encouragement to just keep writing. My friend Charmaine even said that I live to write. So the recent event where one of my poems were featured on a website and received so many views, that had provoked me to get the amaryllis flowers tattooed on my forearm. There are also other reasons, but that is the main one.

The artist responsible behind this tattoo is Ray, from Kota Kinabalu.

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Ray was a guest tattoo artist at BlackOut Tattoo Studio in Kuching where my usual tattoo artist Jona Vayne work his magic.

Jona is one of the tattoo artists here that I frequently go to. He basically did all the tattoos on my arms, except the amaryllis. The guy has been around for a few years now and he has been producing really excellent artwork across all tattoo genres. His creativity and passion for arts, however, is not limited to tattooing. I am going to write more about him in my future post. Stay tuned.

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