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Entries in RUANG (4)


The Towns of Malaya

While walking around town on the last day of my Raya break, I stopped at Ruang by Medan Pasar. The place held a small exhibit that week and it was an interesting one.

Ruang was nicely located at this junctionThe address in case you were asking ...A respite from the hot weather outside ...It was about the old towns of Malaya filled with topographical photos of major towns in Malay Peninsular before Merdeka. Some really fascinating find here.

Yes, there were not too many items. But those on display were worth a look ...It really made you appreciate what Malaysia was about ...The old Seberang PeraiThere were some featuring Seberang Perai as well. Apparently, a book containing all the exhibits would be launched soon. So far, I had not find any details. Soon I hope ...

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Postcards from the South

During my first visit to Urbanscapes this year, I looked around for the program they had in store. This one certainly caught my eyes. A talk on the railway in Johor, how it transformed the landscape of the state as it opened up the interior. Johor was populated mainly at the shores and with the railway system connecting Gemas and Singapore at the time, the Sultan did the state good by snaking the rails through Labos, Pagoh, Kluang, Sedenak and the rest as they said was history.

But the telling of the story also needed passion and commitment. And in Mahen Bala, who’s family originally came from Gemas, the tale was given the delivery it deserved.

All mapped upMahen and his team spent many months documenting the story of how the railway not only opened up this town, but became the central nervous system of these new settlements. A century later, they still played a role for these towns although with the passing of time, these township were connected by the road system. The railway had since played second fiddle.

You can buy some of them ....In the next year or so, the landscape would be transformed again. The rails roads would be upgraded into the new double track system. With the upgrades, the old stations - which used to be the centre of these initially small settlements - would be left abandoned, and some won’t even be a stop any longer on the train schedule.

Mahen told the stories of the people of these towns who grew up by the tracks, and the railway workers of the past who dedicated their live to Keretapi Tanah Melayu. A fascinating hour of storytelling and I couldn’t wait to read the book telling the stories to be published later this year ...

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Urbanscapes 2017

It was that time of the year again when Urbanscapes came to town. Not much of a frenzy this year. It may have been the economic slow down. It may also be because it was too near Ramadan. The event this year felt subdued compared to yesteryears.

But that did not mean that there was nothing happening.

Large format printingSome interesting lightworkThe notice was upIt was more of an art affair than performances. There was no concert in the middle of the town square like last year. It was a party atmosphere then. The event this time around were mainly indoors - at the aptly names Urbanscapes House., right by Medan Pasar.

I had only the chance to attend a couple of the sessions. First was having a look at some street photography exhibition, featuring works of local talent. Nice ...

Going upstairsMeeting the authorSome nice stripsThe second weekend I was there to attend a talk on the railway system in Johor. More about that one later.

I bought some comics, had a chat with a few of the vendors, listen in on a few dialoques and took some photographs. Space was at a premium, so not much food or drinks there. Not much open space to enjoy from years ago. It was party in the park atmosphere then.

"Sila selongkar"Some superhero stuffsMore happening downstairs I gather that some of the events were held at other venues scattered around town. There were a couple of guided photowalks which unfortunately I could not attend due to work. But overall, the organisers did cater for those keener to explore the town as urban dwellers and hopefully learn a bit more about the city they live in. Definitely would support it in the coming years and of course, the event had to adapt with changing times.

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Rags to Riches

RUANG - which was the Urbanscapes House from last year was fast becoming a hub for the creative lot in the middle of the city. The location was great, it had ample space and very accessible made the place an ideal setting for exhibits and events.

This weekend, I was able to catch a photo exhibit hosted by Kenny Loh and Born in Malaysia at the second floor of the venue. It was the final day of the event and Kenny himself was there to welcome the visitors. I spent close to half an hour looking through the photos and they were certainly eye openers.

Ample space and great lighting ...It was basically an exhibit about the lives the immigrants in the KL inner city, how they cope with life hear, their struggles behind the scene. Each photos carry its own story, some happy, plenty are sad but fascinating none the less.

KL was becoming a hotpot of South and Southeast Asia, with he evidence being obvious everywhere. The city was fast becoming divided into quarters with each migrant population occupying their own space, displacing the locals essentially. The days when we congregated at Kota Raya and Puduraya were long gone now. There were now the territories of the Filipinos, where they congregate each weekends at the nearby church. The Nepalese were now occupying Medan Pasar. Bangladeshis and Indonesian had also established their hub.

In the next generation, the current locals may be displaced out of the inner city at the current rate. The stories and pictures just illustrated how those migrants struggled here as well as some success stories in the mix. Most of them were here to make an honest living, and I second them. My worries were the Africans who were similarly making inroads to the capital, mainly occupying the suburbs. There brought with them their own cultures and problem ....

The exhibits were well thought off and I would definitely be coming back should another instalment of the series came to fruition. I must admit that one of the photos brought tears to my eyes. It featured a Chinese family business about to be closed down as time evolved. It was originally opened by a migrant whose children had since called Malaysia their home. The shop were finally closed after being in business for a century. I snapped that particular passage below ....

I was lucky to be able to make it back to the LRT station before it started pouring ...Kenny alerted me that it was about to rain outside when I said goodbye, good luck and looking forward to more to come. I made it to the LRT station just in time before the rain fell ... A great Saturday afternoon it was ....

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