Sunday August 19, 2012
Anak Malaysia points the way to patriotism
By KEE HUA CHEE
“I FORESEE a day when we will all be ‘anak Malaysia’ and not just be Malay or Malaysian Chinese or Malaysian Indian. We already respect each other’s cultures and religions and we live in harmony, yet we maintain our own different traditions and lifestyles.
“The three main ethnic races have different beliefs and cultures yet are a reflection of each other. This should remind all Malaysians that only with tolerance and acceptance of each other can the spirit of patriotism stay strong and alive.”
So says Ch’ng Huck Theng, sculptor, painter and connoisseur of art and antiques, whose trio of bronze sculptures titled Anak Malaysia sold for S$21,000 (RM52,500) at the 33 Auction held in Singapore in May.
Ch’ng’s sculptures are from a limited edition of eight sets that have never been exhibited before. Squat, abstract, cartoonish and grotesque even, the winsome trio have thick, puckered lips, seemingly deformed torsos and oversized toes. Each of the sharply delineated bodies gives the impression it could bob up and down or sideways when touched.
Hardly heroic in physique or posture, the figurines, which stand at 48cm by 30cm by 30cm each, may well be his caricatures of ourselves.
“Anak Malaysia is all about being Malaysian and being proud of it as this is the only home we have. The figures represent the three main races of Malaysia. Originally. I wanted to add a fourth to represent the Orang Asli and Eurasians, but this figurine would have been too generic.
“The differences, or what we perceive as differences, come from our minds and not from appearances,” says the artist, who adds that the idea for the set had been at the back of his mind for the past decade.
“It was only within the last two years that I stoically worked on crafting and designing my sketches into three-dimensional reality.
His three figurines had started off looking the same and would have been identical if not for minor alterations.
“I just tweaked their necks, added a songkok on the Malay figure and a putu on the Indian, and their entire facial expressions changed dramatically,” Ch’ng, 40, explains.
“However the Chinese figure has no distinguishing mark. In a way this is very apt as the Chinese diaspora is spread all over the world. But in countries where they are a minority, the Chinese keep a low profile and are hence considered by some as the ‘invisible race’.
“You may notice their garments are identical. I purposely avoided the traditional costumes of a mandarin coat, baju Melayu or Nehru jacket. That would be so cliche and passe! I want to show that however different we are, we have more commonalities than we ever imagined as we all share the same roots due to our humaneness.”
33 Auction managing director Linda Ma says: “Anak Malaysia is not pretty in the conventional sense but it certainly rouses passion and attention.
“To me, the unusual figurines look cute, humorous and fun. Even if you see them for the first time and are unaware of what they represent, they will lift your spirits. The figures make a positive political statement yet stand on their own as endearing and lovable works of art.”
An elated Ch’ng adds: “I would have been happy and relieved to see Anak Malaysia go for S$15,000 (RM32,500) – but don’t publish this! There were many established artists and sculptors, including Zhu Wei (of China), whose aluminium sculpture eventually sold for S$120,000 (RM300,000).
“I was told a prominent collector from Batak, Indonesia, bought my sculpture. I hope he will have many years of pleasure looking at the ‘Children of Malaysia’.”
Ch’ng had previously been working on polyester resin sculptures. He has held 11 solo exhibitions in Malaysia, Indonesia, the United States and Korea and will be celebrating 20 years in the trade next year. He is working on a celebratory collection that is bound to feature some controversial art works.
“Some may be controversial and even provocative but definitely interesting! Anak Malaysia will also be officially revealed for the first time,” he says.