Friday, July 31, 2009

Porta de Santiago

Perhaps the oldest public monument in Malaysia is the gateway of the A Famosa, named the Porta De Santiago, the only physical remnants of a city with 1 kilometer stretch of walls and bastions encapsulating the then city center.
By right, this gateway was part of the city and should never be regarded or even qualified as a monument. But after the massive destruction effort by William Farquhar in 1807, by demolishing all the structure of the city except for the southern gateway, the structure inadvertently becomes functionless.

This turn of event had altered the function and the context of the gateway.
I would like to call it an accidental artwork. The gateway stands on itself, independent of any association with any other structures, buildings or monuments hence qualify it as a unique (one of a kind) structure. It is three dimensional with considerable ornaments dictating its historic value and is accessible to the public.

The gateway, being historic evidence of the oldest colonial structure in South East Asia at its present state evokes greater appreciation from the public. Its presence enhances the public’s aesthetic experiences because of its monumental outlook, its ancient interiors and its geographical settings being built on a foothill.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


It's nearing to August, our nation's independence month. I would like to reflect on a particular public sculpture named Wahdah. This stainless steel, granite and epoxy sculpture was commissioned in 1997 by the Jabatan Perdana Menteri (JPM) as a momento to the Malaysian public commemorating our 40th Independence celebration. I am going to quote the original write-up submitted to the JPM, it's in Malay and I hope when I have extra time to spare, I will try to translate it to English. After receiving briefings from JPM officials, and underwent a meeting with 45 delegates from the public service departments chaired by the Culture, Arts & Tourism Minister, Dato' Sabbaruddin Chik, I managed to come out with 3 scale models, each with distinctive concept and rationale. I was suprised and a bit awestrucked when the then Prime Minister, Dato Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad personally interviewed me and decided there and then on Wahdah(Unity) as the chosen monument for our 40th Independence anniversary.

Wahdah atau Unity ialah arca yang terdiri daripada tiga ciri yang berkesinambungan. Ciri-ciri Wahdah jelas dipersembahkan melalui bentuk arca itu sendiri. Bahagian atas arca Wahdah memperlihatkan bentuk bulan sabit yang satah-satahnya diklasifikasikan bersama untuk membentuk persefahaman dalam bentuk bulatan. Secara terperincinya, bahagian utama arca ini terbentuk daripada formasi beberapa elipsoid 'linear' yang terbentuk melalui 14 satah bulan sabit. Bulan sabit dikaitkan dalam arca ini sebagai satu perlembagaan negara Malaysia yang mempunyai ketuanan diraja dan negara Islam. Dan sewajarnya, bilangan 14 satah yang berlainan saiz dan bentuk mewakili 14 negeri.

Garisan-garisan halus yang terdapat pada permukaan satah-satah melambangkan kesepaduan. Bentuk kerjasama yang seiring, nilai, budaya, adat resam, perkongsian wawasan juga digambarkan dalam arca ini melalui garisan-garisan halus. Konsep tumbuhan dan bulan sabit apabila diasimilasikan bersama membawaa kepada makna mendalam arca Wahdah. Bahagian bawah arca yang terbentuk daripada batu melambangkan kekuatan dan daya ketahanan masyarakat Malaysia yang kukuh dan stabil. Dalam erti kata lain arca ini menitikberatkan konsep kesepaduan.

Rasional Reka Bentuk

Arca Wahdah diilhamkan daripada dua konsep utama iaitu konsep tumbuhan dan bulan sabit. Melalui konsep tumbuhan, arca ini dapat dilihat sebagai bentuk keratan rentas sepohon tumbuhan yang matang. Di dalam keratan rentas tumbuhan terdapat elemen-elemen seperti floem dan xilem yang memperkuatkan kesegahan tumbuhan.

Bentuk luk keris pada arca Wahdah mewakili elemen floem dan xilem berkenaan dan ia menjadi metafora utama arca ini. Apa yang dapat dikaitkan ialah floem dan xilem mewakili nilai-nilai yang terdapat pada rakyat Malaysia dan penyerlahan bentuk luk keris yang kukuh dan tegap menandakan bahawa rakyat Malaysia memainkan peranan penting dalam membangunkan negara Malaysia. Tanpa keutuhan elemen ini negara Malaysia tidak akan mampu merealisasikan Wawasan 2020.

Picture 1,2,3 & 4 - Wahdah at its new location, Taman Asean
Picture 5 - Wahdah was originally located near the DBKL office

Saturday, July 25, 2009

This is my first entry of chronicling monuments and public sculptures available in Malaysia. I choose Taiping as the entree since its the first capital city of Malaya. Urban development characterize the soul of a city. The pictures on the left is the Taiping Clock Tower, a sign of modernity at that time. Do bear in mind that during those era, people are not equipped with personal watches and they entirely depend on monument like this to provide them with the time. This monument was also considered as Taiping's gateway where it acts as the door to the city center. One interesting thing is the symbol on top of clock tower roof. The 2 dimensional chicken made of metal presides over the navigational device represented by alphabets. U for Utara (north) S for Selatan (south) B for Barat (West) and T for Timur (East).