Monday, July 13, 2009

Sarawak Ethnic Designs

Recently, I have received a lot of inquiries regarding Sarawak design in my blogs. Therefore in this blog post I would like to generally touch on this topic. I say' generally' because Sarawak has about 27 ethnic groups and it would be impossible to talk in specifics. Sarawak design motifs are derived from their immediate surroundings especially the rich and diverse eco-sysyems that the natives have over many generations and ages being able to live in co-existence or harmony with. Inspirations can be taken directly from nature's rich flora and fauna - curls of ferns,flow of rivers, shapes of lizards and crocodiles, fruits and flowers, insects, and many other various wildlife and plant species.
In many instances the art has been transferred from many generations ago till today, though recently there has been an upsurge in cottage industries that produce items for the tourism market based on local ethnic designs taught by experts not necessarily of blood lineage. Much of the designs have passed the test of time though new elements are introduced as expected.

Sarawak ethnic designs can be applied on many materials or surfaces. Chiefly among them are wood, ceramic, stones, rattan, textile, beads, human skin (tattoo) and the more modern paper.
In modern designs where motifs are stylised, the images become symbolical. However in more traditional designs details of legendary figures or mythical beings, give much aura of spirituality and when embodied into the designs are believed to arouse the magic or spiritual into the cultural objects.
I guess Sarawak's ethnic designs will become more popular in future due to awareness in tourism and the quest for a cultural presence and identity in an increasingly globalised world.
I hope the collection of Sarawak designs as they are implanted, embedded, painted, carved or woven as shown below will indicate the vigour and uniqueness of these designs.
Examples of Sarawak Ethnic Designs

Burial Pole

Hornbill Mast Head

Headress and Hand Bags

Wooden Shield

Traditional Music instrument - Sapeh

Batik Painting on Cloth

Tradtional Painting

Book Design

Tiled Pavement

Tiled Pavement

Concrete Walls

Beaded Table Mat

Modern Textiles

How to Skin a Frog

Among the native peoples of Sarawak, frogs are a delicacy. Thus frogs are gathered and sold at many a jungle produce market in the small as well as big towns throughout Sarawak. A few months ago I saw one lady who skinned frogs expertly at the Bintulu Tamu. The video below may be repugnant to some. So its fair for me to give a warning. This video is not for the faint hearted. Please click to play the video.

Ready Camera, 3-2-1, Roll Camera!

Today I thought of trying something different. To give a better feel of Sarawak I'm inserting a short video recording which I took this afternoon at the Kuching Waterfront. There I stumbled upon a filming crew in action. The floor director was a lady and they had rehearsed the movements of the singer, the different shots using boom,trucking and dolly techniques many times before this clip was done. With the assistance of a sound man, music was played on minus-one and the singer lip-synced the song.
It's an Iban song. The Ibans comprise about 30 % of Sarawak's population. Since this recording was done using my camera hand phone N93i some shots are not that very clear, due to no fault of the device but more than anything my shaky and experimental hands. Please click to play the video.

Video Filming in Action. On Location: Kuching Waterfront,Sarawak.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Curry Crabs

At Santubong's estuaries and coastal mudflats there can be found many types of crabs, clams, cockles, mussels, and many other varieties of fish. Back from Santubong the other day we brought home about a kilo of crabs costing RM 16. I had not taken crabs for a quite a while now and thought why not give it a go. I'm really the worst cook in the world. Therefore when it comes to cooking I respectfully leave it to my dear wife. Below is how she would prepare it:

Curry Crab Cooking Instructions:
1) Heat 3 table spoons of cooking oil in a wok
2) Saute ( stir fry) the mixed cinnamon, sliced onions,sliced garlic and curry leaves until fragrant and the colour turns golden
3) Add in fish curry paste for 10 minutes on low heat until the paste and oil separates
4) Add 3 cups of water, tamarind juice, Crabs and pineapple slices
5) Cook for 10 minutes on medium heat
6) Reduce the heat, add in thick coconut milk and salt to taste.
7) Add 2 spoons of sugar
8) Cook for another 10 minutes and the dish is ready to serve.

Yummy! the Curry Crabs dish is ready to serve.

View of Mount Santubong with mangrove trees in the foreground

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Legendary Village of Sarawak

Yesterday we drove about 45 minutes out of Kuching City to Sarawak's legendary village. The village of Santubong that nestles at the foothills of Mount Santubong is associated with the legend of Mount Santubong and its surrounding mountains and islands. I have written briefly about the legend earlier as in here. On this visit I took the opportunity to drive the narrow village roads and parked close to a mangrove forested area . What fascinated me were the strong colours of the houses, the system of boardwalk that are built way above the high tide level and the mangrove trees with roots and trunks partly and sometimes fully submerged in water especially during high tide.

The main occupation of the villagers here is fishing. They fish along the coastal areas not far from the village and in the rivers that meander close to the village. All the houses that are built on the muddy banks and mudflat areas are raised on stilts made from the 'belian' timber - easily the hardest wood in Sarawak.
To access the river bank where the fishermen boats are parked, a system of boardwalks are constructed to enable the villagers bring in their catch or for sightseeing. At the far background in the above picture is a view of Mount Santubong.

One typical mangrove tree that can seen everywhere around the riverbanks is the Mangrove Apple tree or sometimes referred locally as the 'Pedada tree'. Above is a picture of the young 'Pedada' fruit ( Sonneratia caseolaris). Pedada trees grow wild. The fruits when ripe can be eaten raw .

One interesting inter-tidal wildlife that I managed to capture with my digital camera handphone was the Horshoe Crab ( Limulus moluccanus). Locally it is referred to as the "Belangkas".
Here the Horshoe Crab is eaten minus the hard armour-like cover. I didn't opt to buy the crab however and instead settled for some sea prawns.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Waterfront Colours

Yesterday I visited the Kuching Waterfront after missing it for quite a while since my arrival here early this month. I have taken a number of photos of the Kuching Waterfront in this blog and some of the shop houses too. The strong and varied colours of some of them can be seen here. This morning I had the itch to render two of the shop houses I took pictures of yesterday. I had it done in mixed media as a trial sketch finished in just about 40 minutes.

Kuching Waterfront Shop house, 18 x 14 cm, mixed media.

The Kuching Waterfront is my regular haunt now and I guess many paintings in future will feature the scenes around the area. The above is a start as I need to do lots more for my coming 2nd solo exhibition. Anyway, more pictures of colourful sampans are shown below. These sampans too will be target for my future paintings and sketches. Soon the Kuching Waterfront will be very busy with a regatta which I am looking forward too. I guess I'll not miss it this time because I'm in Kuching till the end of the month. The regatta is to be held towards end of this month.

Sampans or small river ferry boats are receiving a coat of colours at the Kuching Waterfront,in time for the Kuching Regatta.

Funky Bug

I have not put up any post recently for the main reason that I was very focused on completing my assignment. Well, I'm through with it this afternoon and have submitted it. Thus with my mind freed I took time this afternoon to catch up with the garden. While busy photographing the hibiscus flower I saw a few tiny bugs that moved about the leaves and petals of the hibiscus plant. You can see one tiny bug at the top right hand corner of the picture on the left. Mu curiosity paid off. On closer examination it was not an ordinary bug. One of them had the look of an alien. I call it the ET Bug. Next, came one that looked very familiar. He looked very punky with blue Indian Sioux hairstyle. His two round eyes and nose came with a matching set of mouth full of white teeth. Seconds later I saw two punky bugs coming out from below the cream petals of the hibiscus flower. My camera phone kept tracking their movements. In the wink of an eye both bugs got stucked to each other. Ooops, caught them in the act. Or shall I say--Two Heads is better than One.
ET Bug

Blue Punk Bug ( Sorry couldn't name it better)

Ooopsy Daisy !! Caught in the Act!!

( Or shall I say..Two Heads is Better Than One)

Friday, July 3, 2009

Battered chicken or "Ayam Penyek"

I know of buttered prawns. What about battered chicken? Secrets out. I just discovered a new dish in town but was told that it has been introduced just a few months ago. The menu's specialty is deep fried chicken breast that is battered or in the local lingo 'Penyek" in Malay to mean hit hard and flattened. It is served with rice and a small bowl of soup. A selection of fresh vegetables and leaves ( long beans, young tapioca leaves, white cabbage) are added as salad. Now the last and most important thing ( to me) was the red sauce of which the formula is not disclosed due to trade secrets . Anyway I bet that there were tomatoes, chillies, onions and shrimp paste ( Belacan) that made part of the magical formula. As is customary here the best way to eat the dish is with your right hand and fingers. Its just finger-licking good. A lunch set above costs RM 6.00 , drinks aside.
P.S. Have a nice weekend everyone!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Uniquely Kuching

On the 29th of June, a Monday we took to the road again to Kuching after spending nearly a month at Bintulu. Inul, the narrator of her travels through the jungles, countryside and small towns of Sarawak was doing better this time around. Less screaming and less messing around. Daisy, her mother was at her queenly best. The ten hours journey was met with heavy downcast and scattered rains for three quarters of the journey. Thus there was little photography work done . With this trip my cat's journey hit the 18,000 km mark. BTW, cats are easily identified with the city of Kuching because the city derived its name from guess what - Cat or 'kuching' in Malay.
I always look forward to coming over to this city. It is a city of convenience. A moderately sized city with a hinterland or urban sprawl that is relatively flat all around encircling the city for miles and miles on all directions. Kuching is a melting pot of all the indigenous cultures of Sarawak. A truly Sarawakian town. With the first available opportunity to drive downtown, just a few days ago I was met with something uniquely Kuching. It's no wonder they call it a city. Here you find the queer and the quest for uniqueness.
A scooter made in Kuching for local and export market, called " Demak"

It's indeed a unique 'Beetle" - yes, they build engines at the tail part.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Bloom Watching

Sunday - and feeling light and easy, I decided to take to the wheels and spin around Bintulu town to do some bloom watching. Luckily I spotted a line of Angsana Trees in full bloom at Kidurong township. Kidurong township faces the sea and is an ideal location for Angsana Trees ( Pterocarpus indicus) which grow naturally by the sea through out Malaysia. Bintulu's distinct dry spell now have induced many Angsana trees in town displaying their best blooms.

Angsana or sometimes referred briefly as 'Sena' is native to Malaysia. It has small yellow and highly fragrant flowers. I was amazed by the carpet of yellow flowers that gather below the trees I saw this afternoon ( See pictures at inset and below)
Angsana trees are huge trees with a shady crown and are normally planted on broad roads. When full grown it can reach a height of 30 meters.
Recently I have been very busy bloom watching and that hobby made me put up a new blog specifically to compile all the pictures I took of the plants since I started blogging about them. The blog is really a photo blog with very little data on the plants except their names. All the plants can be accessed here. It is my fervent hope that the compilation becomes a useful resource on tropical plants .