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dusun e-journal of Asian Arts and Culture

martin bradley paul gnanaselvam linda ashok martin navnihal lochner nazlina hussin

February/March 2013 Ridiculously Free


sean thow ursa teoh joo ngee liew kwai fei andres barrioquinto toro



buy this e-book on Amazon

February/March 2013

contents page 6


page 8 page 20

malaysia photo essay - sean thow - tapah orang asli

page 32

artist - ursa teoh joo ngee

page 48

short story - paul gnanaselvam - shooting the breeze

page 58

artist - liew kwai fei

page 66

india poetry - linda ashok

page 72

the fearless campaign

page 82 page 98

cambodia phare ponleu selpak - community art school gallery - maek make

short story - martin bradley - rubicon

page 114 gallery - studio art page 120 gallery - sammaki page 123

travel - martin bradley - battambang with a dead rat

page 120

the philippines artist - andres barrioquinto

page 140

singapore artist - toro

page 150

south africa poetry - martin navnihal lochner

page 157

malaysian food - nazlina spice station

cover editor

dusun martin a bradley


Dusun TM

editorial Dear Reader The Western New Year has bitten into 2013. Now it’s the turn of the Chinese New Year - the year of the Snake. Time marches with both feet forward taking us headlong into what promises to be a very exciting year for Dusun. To mark this new beginning, Dusun has made some slight adjustments to its design.We hope that you like the new look. This year Dusun hosts an Exhibition of Khmer Art, from Cambodia, in Kuala Lumpur, in February. That exhibition is the second part of the launch of the book - A Story of the Colors of Cambodia, available through us and at selected galleries in Singapore and Siem Reap, Cambodia. The exhibition will feature in the next issue of Dusun. In this exciting issue we bring poetry and imagery from India, stories and paintings from Malaysia, paintings from The Philippines, galleries from Cambodia, action painting from Singapore and poems from South Africa - yes I know that South Africa is not in Asia, but these poems were just too good to miss. Dusun’s page count goes up and up,as we bring you some of the very best our region has to offer. So delay no longer - and read on....... Editor

An exhibition of Art for and by the children of Cambodia including Art by their teachers

26th January to 9th February 2013 Exhibition opening 6pm 26th February 2013 wine and light refreshments At Alliance Franรงaise 15 Lorong Gurney Off Jalan Semarak 54100 Kuala Lumpur Malaysia contact +60 0126069219



photo essay

sean thow tapah orang asli (indigenous people)

Sean Thow was born in Chulia Street, George Town Penang - 1951, He loves film and photography. Sean enjoys travelling and exploring the non-touristy spots around Asia - China,Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and capturing moments as he roams. When not travelling, Sean repairs, refurbishes and renovates film cameras, and makes his own film chemicals from those locally available. He also designs gadgets to help with his film development process.

martin bradley Martin Bradley was born in London, 1951. He is a writer/poet/designer and a graduate in Art History, Exhibition Making, Graphic Design, Philosophy and Social Work. He has travelled most of the known world and lived in Britain, India and Malaysia. Martin was Guest Writer at India’s Commonwealth Writers Festival in New Delhi (2010) and Guest Writer at Singapore’s Lit Up literature festival (2010); he has read in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (2009, 2011), in Cambodia (2012) and due to read in The Philippines (2013). Martin writes articles on Art & Culture for magazines and newspapers and designs digital images. He has been the editor of Dusun – a Malaysian Arts and Culture e-magazine and founder/host of Northern Writers – a venue for ‘readings’ in Ipoh, Malaysia. He has had three books published during 2012 - Remembering Whiteness - a collection of poetry, Buffalo & Breadfruit - autobiography, and A Story of Colors of Cambodia, which he also designed.

short story


by martin bradley

Kabir stop. Stop Kabir - hey I’m getting all wet. Grrrrr, Kabir. Bibik - Kabir is wetting me again. The Kampar River sweeps eternally around the mountains at Gua Tepurung, Perak, heading for the distant sea, and anonymity. Bibik - Kamil pushed me. No Bibik, it was Kabir. He started it. He pushed me first. Children, children, play nicely eh! Omar, slim, tall, with a black goatee, is momentarily distracted. He plays with his ceramic watchstrap, as he and his wife Faridah rest under a spreading, bamboo bush. In the distance, clouds are turning a darker grey, indicating that rain is on its way in the silver state. Relaxing a little, Omar continues to draw in the soothing smoke from his Sobranie Cocktail cigarette. As he does so, he observes a large butterfly, buffeted by a gentle breeze coming off the Kampar River. The Batik Lacewing manoeuvres from flower to flower. Its ephemeral form flicks and corrects itself, flicks and corrects itself, repeatedly tacking like some tiny, transient yacht, sailing in and out of the breeze, finally finding port in an equally delicate, purple and white passionflower.The butterfly allows itself to settle, and finally take its fill of nectar. There is a slight bounce to the flower as the butterfly alights on its tendrils.The bounce is barely perceptible to the naked human eye. The settled butterfly takes its succour. Omar watches. He smiles at the butterfly’s persistence. He is secretly pleased to be fortunate to witness that gentle dance. Had Omar been but a few feet closer, he would have caught the equally delicate scent emanating from the disturbed passionflower. As it was, the flower’s perfume dissipated, un-smelled, into the languid heat of the rural day. Ha, ha, ha - look at you silly boy

No, you’re the silly boy Take that No, you take that In the cool water of the river nearby, Omar’s two young boys take a rare opportunity to enjoy the freedom of natural play. Kabir, Omar’s youngest boy, scoops water as it tumbles over a large, slippery, rounded rock. He intentionally deluges his elder brother Kamil. Po-faced Kamil is not amused. Already Kamil’s hair-gel is failing; this watery onslaught proves the final straw. His hair flops under the strain and, annoyed, he splashes viciously back at Kabir. Kamil’s brief, violent anger is clearly demonstrated on his face. Bung, bung, not so rough eh! Kim, the Indonesian maid, calls out while darting a quick look at the boy’s parents, seeking their approval. The boy in the river nods. He has already forgiven his younger brother. The two fall to playfighting, splashing and falling over each other in the tumbling water. Faridah - the boy’s mother (Omar’s wife), is distracted and quite unconcerned with the children’s horseplay. She lies on her green mengkuang mat, laid over the course elephant grass. Faridah has entered a world of her own. She busies herself sending SMS messages to friends back in Damansara Heights. She shuts out as much countryside as she is able. Her mind seems positioned somewhere in cyber-haven, between luxuriant malls and her ubiquitous girlfriends. Faridah reaches up with a carefully manicured hand. She adjusts her white silk Yves St Lauren scarf and nestles her Blackberry to her ear. She is no longer content with just messaging her friends, but is compelled to hear them narrate their city gossip first hand. Momentarily she frowns, noticing the small, barely perceptible, scuff marks on her cream Givenchy shoes. She shudders at the whole irritating idea of countryside. It’s a nice enough concept, but totally impractical – should be concreted over really. Omar reaches out to touch his wife’s hand. Faridah, busy reconnecting with life in the city, shuffles her toned and wellcared-for body. She moves the Blackberry from one hand to the

other and quickly, practically absentmindedly, taps the palm of her husband’s outstretched hand - twice, in an endearing, if somewhat distracted way. A slightly disappointed Omar retracts his rejected hand. He looks at the children playing energetically in the river, smiles at their connectedness, and then eases himself off the mat. He saunters along a path by the meandering river’s side. He is enjoying the peaceful, tranquil atmosphere. His eyes drink in the ambience. He observes stark tree and leaf shadows created by an insistent sun, curious patterns made from the Breadfruit trees, durian, papaya. He ambles, now in light, now in shade. A mischievous sun plays hide-and-go-seek among the tree’s abundant leaves. As he walks, Omar notices rambling aubergine, lemongrass and lanky torch ginger leaves struggling to hold onto the quickly fading reminiscences of domesticity. Soon it would all be gone. Soon nature will have reclaimed the soil from generations of diligent workers, he considers. Omar looks on with a mixture of sadness and awe. He is glad to witness the peace and tranquillity, the sedate majesty of nature as it is represented here, its harmony complete, now that it is bereft of the hand of man Near the path, Omar observes the many houses left to crumble, their older family members long since deceased, the younger, disconnected family having moved on. Adventurous children have moved to the city, needing to break free from what they perceive as the claustrophobic hinterland. Yet, in due course, these very same children, crushed by the compromises of city life, yearn for their previous lives of simplicity. Their city lives become narrow and, in sadness, they realise that they are forever divorced from the very lands, which give them their identity. Along Omar’s path, there is a cairn of rounded stones. The stones, worn smooth by countless years of water erosion – have been brushed and caressed by soothing waters. They present no objectionable edges to the unwary handler. The stones were thoughtfully, delicately placed, gathered to make that cairn and

placed midway between the riverbank and the water’s edge - by some unknown poets. The composition, which in another land might be a hymn to Zen, presented Omar with a confluence of man and nature. He closed his eyes tightly, and let the dappled sunlight play upon his eyelids. Omar sees the oranges, purples and reds projected onto the inside of his eyelids – a psychedelic light show, courtesy of Mother Nature. He is unable to imagine the riverside without this lyrical stone structure. The cairn seems to reach out, carrying its monolithic melody to all who would see, touch and hear it. In the distance, but still within earshot, Omar can hear his wife on the phone. He can hear his children’s laughter, overlapped with intermittent bird song, the sounds of insects, buzzing, chirping their way into the warm, sunny day. Is it, really? Faridah’s voice is excited. Oh Nur don’t say that That’s obscene, oh! She’s obscene, dear, you’re obscene.....tell me more He did WHAT, he didn’t, did he A play-incredulousness inserts itself into the two friend’s conversation as, giggling; each enjoys the salacious nature of their phone tête-à-tête. Well, he’s a white man - we know what they get up to, but her - she should know better Later, I’ll be back later, no, here in Perak, yes, I know, but, well, you know The conversations tumble one after another. They are endless, meaningless, empty words and phrases barely meant, teasing, playing, drifting off onto the river, being carried like dead leaves along with the river’s currents, under the bridge, away, downstream. Don’t say that, I’m sure that he is a perfectly nice man, even though he is married, what! Three wives, ok, yes I take that back, don’t go anywhere near him. But, yes, dahling they all say that at first, then down the line, well you know, you’ve been there before. Faridah dials number after number . Her well-manicured hands

push tiny, black, shiny, plastic buttons, leaving the tiniest traces of Faridah’s expensive moisturising cream on them. Faridah reflects, Alhamdulillah, and Inshallah (God willing), the day will eventually come to a close, we will pack and leave, be gone from this festering, insect ridden place, go back to city and to the gossip, I mustn’t forget the gossip. Faridah sighs a big, heartfelt, sigh and thinks... Omar wanted to bring the children here. Let them have some fun, he said Let them loose, let them run wild for a while, it’ll do them good. Bik here will look after them, and you can just lay back and soak up the atmosphere. Faridah had wanted to laugh when she remembered this, but it seemed to mean a lot to Omar, so she had agreed, packed the SUV and, after two hours driving, there they were - in the countryside, beside this quaintly rustic, insect infested, river. Deadly boredom had set in after the first few minutes. Faridah had a terrible job trying not to let it show to her husband. Inwardly, she was screaming. Outwardly, she gave the briefest of smiles, tried to look interested in the surroundings; but she was most definitely not. It was a river, full stop. That... is... what... it... was... a river, and then......... in her mind she left the sentence hanging. First, it was that ridiculous flying thing. It seemed to have nowhere else on earth to be - except in Faridah’s ear. The incessant buzzing had driven her mad. No sooner had she disposed of the fly, next on the list was the demented dragonfly. The creature was discomforting to say the least. It had jittered forwards, then backwards. It shivered its raspy, dry, crackly wings. It was most unnerving. Luckily, Faridah managed to catch it a sharp blow with her Cosmopolitan magazine, but it left a nasty smear on Aishwarya Rai’s nose. Still all fair in love and the protection of one’s make-up from unwanted intruders. From young, instinctively, Faridah knew that she was made to glide through life. She was made to do very little, except, perhaps

- shopping, walking and gossiping. And then some more shopping and perhaps sitting - looking as elegantly as she could - using her husband’s money to achieve this state of elegance with manicures, pedicures, styled haircuts, designer-cut clothes and the occasional off-the-peg accessory, or three. The ebb and flow of text messages had begun. Initially, the messages eased the tension of Faridah being in the countryside, but it soon became obvious that they were never going to be the ultimate cure for that frenzied rusticity. Faridah hadn’t meant to be rude to Omar. He was a tender man. He treated her with a great deal of affection but, sometimes, that just wasn’t what she wanted. She needed a cure for this countryside irritation. She needed a good old dose of city gossip. It had been so unfortunate that Omar had chosen that exact moment to give her a tender touch. But the countryside was just too real - too messy – too in her face. What Faridah needed was pure, unadulterated, city-bred fantasy. Jun It was Jun, you remember Jun She married that Chinese guy – he had to convert, you must remember the row they had No, lah, of course not, it was just a show So, anyway, it was Jun that told me about Siti Oh, you heard, ok, well – hold on, Bik, Bibik, not so boisterous eh Faridah called across to the maid. She had now joined in the water-play, along with the children, and was not much older than the children – in her simple mind. Alhamdulillah, maids! I must have a word with Omar, perhaps on the road home. I can’t do this rustic thing anymore. Omar was now far enough upstream to see, but not to hear his wife, the maid and children in the distance. Amongst the coarse lalang grass, Omar found an old tree stump. He sat, partially looking, partially dreaming about the wooden remains of the houses he had

found in the vicinity. In his mind’s eye, Omar could see kampong houses, imagining them to be the huge wooden Kutai houses, or maybe, because of the placing of the pillars, the rumah limas - Indonesian styled pyramidal roofed houses, built for the well-off. He recalled, from his training as an architect, that Indonesian nobility had settled in Perak, after clashes in Indonesia, in the 1500s. They had brought with them names like Kampar and Bali local Kinta Valley towns. They had also brought their house styles – like the "Kutai" house types. Omar sat and imagined Indonesian houses adorning the rivers in Perak, gentle breezes blowing freshly laundered sarongs on washing lines. To be certain, he would have to excavate the ground - to see if they were the traditional Malay rumah limas, or the more fanciful, older styles. He would have to see the wooden or concrete foundations - the lapik tiang (base of the post) he had read so much about. It was so very different, here, by the river. It was as if life itself slowed, mellowed to the pace of the countryside. An idea was taking hold: a fantasy about buying some of this land, by this river, building a small, ok - large house – to accommodate his wife, family, maid and maybe family and friends who might want to visit to fish, or just lap up the atmosphere. He smiled an uncustomary large smile as he considered this. It was not impossible. It would be great for weekends, and maybe, just maybe they might decide to stay permanently.The kids obviously loved it, so did Kim. Faridah would come round, Omar was sure she would - eventually. Perhaps he might say something - on the road back. Omar trod carefully back to the family’s picnic site - the rush of the waters and the children’s laughter getting louder as he ambled on. Over a lunch which Kim (the maid) had prepared under directions from Faridah; husband and wife, children and maid relaxed and chattered. Their talk was fanciful, a meandering dialogue, wandering from their coming vacation in Cambodia – seeing the magnificent Ankor Wat, to the new colours for the maid’s room. Kim had no say in this. Faridah talked of new carpets

for their SUV, of Omar buying a new office chair. It was nothing too heavy, nothing to disrupt their manufactured peace - seemingly preserving the sanctity of the place with its endless ability to wash away modernity, haste and hassle. When the last piece of creamy potato salad had been scooped into the remaining drying baguette, and when the grilled fish had been reduced to its moist bones, and all that was left of the lamb biryani was a few morsels of ghee rice, Omar stretched his legs. He lit a calming cigarette and stood watching the children, as they once more entered the cooling waters. The river-born breeze had chilled. Omar gave a slight shiver. It was a reminder that they needed to consider packing and get back onto the highway - before the rains came. Omar let the children play for a few minutes more, and then called time.The children play moaned and groaned, but acquiesced. Faridah put away the hand phone she was about to use. She stared for a moment too long at the bag in which she had placed the phone. She turned and helped Kim collect the rubbish, and then store the plastic airtight boxes. She shook off the mat, seeing their waste flung onto the grass. She folded the mat ready for Omar to arrange it in the back of the Nissan. A lacewing butterfly tacked in the breeze and started to seek shelter as a few stray drops of rain began falling. The smooth engine started with barely a whisper and, turning the windscreen wipers on, Omar navigated through the makeshift car park and out onto the rough road, onto and over the aging bridge, and through the small rustic kampong heading to the main road. Aside from the continual chattering of the two boys - winding down as tiredness was setting in; all were relatively quiet inside the car, thoughtful. Kim turned to look at the two boys, just to make sure they were comfortable and, having performed her duty, sat gazing out of the car window. She dreamed her own private dreams. They were dreams of the country she had left behind, dreams of her own precious family - her mother, the child back home, the poverty and

the civil war that had devastated her country. She mused upon her family’s imagined excitement on receiving their first colour television - bought with money Kim had saved to send home, back to Cambodia. The car glides onto the highway, joining a million others, heading south towards the city. The car’s occupants are each enmeshed in their own thoughts. Omar Omar is a little heavy of heart, to be travelling back to the city. Faridah is fidgety; eager to be gossiping with her friends again, bored with using her mobile phone and glad that each kilometre brings her closer to her beloved city. The two boys, Kabir and Kamil, drifted off to sleep, finally worn out from their memories of play and they slipped into dream. The road thunders under the SUV tyres, propelling the car ever closer to the city. The rain weeps onto the front windscreen, running away in rivulets and, almost simultaneously, Omar and Faridah both break the silence. I was wondering........ Kim gazes out of the car window, not really seeing anything as her eyes are slightly glazed. She is considering buying an air ticket - home.

Every so often a book appears that reveals and illuminates a project that might otherwise remain largely unknown by the outside world: ‘Colors of Cambodia’ is such a book. This is a highly personal and passionate account written by Martin Bradley and illustrated by Pei Yeou Bradley of her encounter with a remarkable art-based project in and around Siem Reap in Cambodia, and how she was drawn into practical involvement with the children for whom the project exists. Richard Noyce, Artist, Wales 2012

A Story of Colors of Cambodia One woman’s journey into Art charity volunteering, in Cambodia this extraordinary book is now available from

Ursa Teoh Joo Ngee

the homemaker series - zhi zhi zhi

the homemaker series - empty garden

Ursa Teoh Joo Ngee Born in Penang, Malaysia and attended the Malaysian Institute of Art, then Jerisalinu V. Arous, University of the Philippines, Philippines. She has had solo exhibitions at 1995 SILENCE ALL THESE YEARS, Café Gallery, Kuala Lumpur 1998 THEATRE IN PIECES, Uku Gallery, Fukuoka, Japan 1999 AFFINITY, Art Extreme Gallery, Kuala Lumpur 2000 THE JOURNEY BEYOND THE PICTURE FRAME, Ou’ Café, Kuala Lumpur AFFINITY IN CHIANG MAI, 50 Humanist Space, Penang 2002 WALKING LINE, Galeri Petronas, Kuala Lumpur 2004 NEW RAIN, Art Seasons Gallery, Singapore 2011 TEOH JOO NGEE Recent Works, NN Gallery, Kuala Lumpur

the homemaker series - 31st october 2006

the homemaker series - ancient garden I

the homemaker series - orchid primitive land

the homemaker series - nectar

the homemaker series - ancient soul

the homemaker series - new family

the homemaker series - silence waiting

the prayer I-washing the soul

the prayer II-whisper of joy

the prayer III-island of song

the prayer IV-harvest in the rain

paul gnanaselvam Paul GnanaSelvam has published short stories in e- Mags: AnakSatra and Dusun,. His work has appered in Anthologies Write Out Loud, Urban Odysseys: KL Stories, Body2Body and ASIATIC- a Literary Journal. Apart from Creative Writing; his reading interests include works of writers from the Indian Diaspora and New Literatures in English. He teaches Academic Writing and Interpersonal Communication at Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman in Kampar, Perak.

short story

Shooting the Breeze by paul gnanaselvam

I’m not sure why I had consented to this meeting.The late afternoon sun is at its pinnacle and the roadside cafeteria seems to be pummeled by hot dust. The incessant traffic with its vehicles’ glare reflecting straight onto the only vacant table where I’m seated is not helping either. I should be editing the thesis, I reprimand myself over unfinished work. Sometimes I am too soft; it is the weak spot in my character. It’s a quarter past three and there is no sign of Kugesh. He never seems to take heed of time or even my advice; he is like a rogue elephant throwing sand on its own head! When I finish my second glass of cappuccino, and decide to call it a day, Kugesh walks into the cafeteria. He is wearing a long sleeved tee and short khakis. He comes straight towards me and pulls up a chair. The sound of his flip-flops linger long after he is seated. His eyes are bloodshot- he’s overslept and I can see stubble has grown in patches on his oval face, the white outnumbering the black. His slightly curved sideburns signal that he has not been to the barbers’ for some time. Kugesh sits down quietly, fixing his gaze on the rush hour traffic building up on the road running parallel to the cafeteria. I remain silent, afraid of my own mood. I’m here for an old friend, I tell myself, so sit tight. A few seconds pass. Neither of us speaks. “Sorry, I’m late,” Kugesh chirps at last. “You drank without me? His eyes are still wandering the busy lanes outside, around the cafeteria. “You came one hour and fifteen minutes late, Mister, what do you expect me to do?” Kugesh doesn’t look up. Instead, he takes interest in toying with the plastic flower gracing the table. “Hmmm…,” I sigh in disbelief. I signal for the waiter and order another cappuccino, mindful of the gas building up in my belly. I like the drink but too much - it does not augur well on an empty stomach. “Another cappuccino and some chips,” Kugesh still does not respond. “You want a drink or not?” “Will you get me a muffin?” “Vanilla,” he says and looks away. “Of course,” I chuckle, reminiscing about our school days. Kugesh used to drag me to the canteen whenever I chose to remain in oblivion, during recess time. I never carried money to school. He would buy me a cup of orange juice, limau ais * or soy milk at ten cents each, all the five years we were best friends in upper secondary. “How are you?” he asks, finally.

*Trans- lemonade

I nod. I keep thinking of the thesis that I have to improve on. My supervisor has given me a deadline but my study is still wobbling about in grey matter.“I’m fine, as usual, and busy with work and more work. How have you been?” “Sorry I’ve not been picking up your calls, or replying your text messages, the medication… it’s the medication. Look what’s happened to me, my life is being defined by Seraquel 50mg, Eticim 100 mg - the doses are too much, makes me groggy all the time, it’s difficult to stay awake.” “I understand, but here I am Kugesh. Is everything alright with you? You sounded frantic when you called last night.” “I don’t know Jeevs,” What do you mean you don’t know? I want to ask but keep quiet. You’ve made me wait for almost two hours and you’re giving me Idon’t- know? “It’s been a hectic month. The doctors prescribed a heavier dosage of Eticim and I stopped taking it altogether. Two weeks later I found myself at the psychiatric ward at the GH. I got manic depression, the nurses told me.” A sudden pang fills my heart. Is it safe to be sitting there? What if Kugesh gets manic. I remember manic depression can translate into aggression. Kugesh had been put under observation last year, when he had threatened his family members with a machete. “Don’t worry, I am fine now,” he declares with a chuckle as if he has sensed my paranoia. The orders arrive and, without hesitating, Kugesh starts chomping on the muffin and my share of chips. He’s never had such an appetite. He had never been a good eater. He stood almost six feet and represented the school in swimming. His tanned complexion and athletic build sent the girls tipsy. I was just an everyday guy until I met him. Kugesh took me into his gang, ‘exposed me to the world’. “You can have this Kugesh,” I push my plate of muffin towards him. “Then what about you?” he asks, concerned. “I had one earlier while I waited for you.” “So, what have the lawyers advised you?” I ask cautiously, “about the divorce?” His was an arranged marriage. She was pretty and educated- that was all Kugesh saw before consenting. Kugesh did not see the need for her to respond to him, his ideas and thoughts when they went out nor

did he want to know if she even liked him. After the marriage, they had been working in different states but lived as husband and wife during the weekends. When the transfer letters finally arrived for them to serve in the same state, the real challenge started. Kugesh was a good, obliging husband. He made her coffee, allowed her to wake up late, cleaned the house and tidied after her. He bought everything that a man could for a woman. He celebrated her birthdays with such pomposity and in no time, he had turned her into an empress. She, on the other hand, went to work, returned home, ate, slept, watched T.V. and spread her legs like an automated button when her whims fancied her. Life became random. They did not discuss anything. They did not go out much. After three years, Kugesh began to notice that she was different- her world-views, her cultural make-up and her ideas about life- had all centered on none other than herself. She has nothing to contribute, he realized. He felt as if he had entered a smoke house and this marriage and his one-sided dedication was choking him slowly. The excitement dwindled and the love flame flickered. That’s when the late nights started and Kugesh got ‘involved’. Kugesh looks up from his plate and stops chewing his food. He squints his eyes and scrutinizes me. “They told me I could not do much as long as my wife does not comply with the divorce notice.They told me to cure myself first! This is despite telling them I’ve got hormonal problems and not bipolar disorder,” he says with a twitchy laughter. “Yup, what would they know? Where is your wife? Have you seen her lately?” “She is on an all- India tour, my mother said, fucking bitch!” “You went back home?’ “Yes, my mother has been calling me almost every day since I had left home. My wife ignores me completely,” he says, his voice suddenly breaking. “Did you try talking to her?” I guess I know this: “I was drunk”, Kugesh had tried explaining. “That was the bleakest hour of my life” “I am not stupid”, she had told Kugesh. “I can see it in your eyes.Why do you have the photo of a she-male in your hand phone?” “Remember, I was dejected? He said,

“It was the moment when confusion, depression and loneliness struck all at once like fireworks against a stark sky. I was plain drunk. I just thought that I had to do something to overcome the angst that was building up in me. My head was spinning and my heart was heavy. All I had wanted to do was just laugh. I tried singing an old MGR song. No…no…it was the one in which a very unhappy Kamal Hassan does a bhrathanatyam *number on an extended pipe over a well. And that was exactly what I did. I jumped up on the railing of the bridge in town and tried to get over to the other side. I gathered lots of spectators, some threatening to call the police, some cheering as I took each arduous, meticulous step forward, while some warned me of the swirling pool underneath. I had no fear; I just wanted to laugh, just a little. I didn’t care what awaited me at the bottom of the bridge. It was too dark to notice, anyway. Just as I reached midway, the crowd that gathered to watch slowly dispersed. I was befuddled. Nobody was interested. No one took a drunk seriously. So my eyes began to close in on me after all those sleepless, weary nights. My vision blurred, and I swayed and wobbled like thin plywood. I realized the sensation of tilting; I was going to slip and fall into the cold and sludge-filled waters of the Kinta River. It was at that moment that I witnessed horror in its entirety. Wavering about, a sudden gush of fear took me for one sober moment. In resignation, I cried out to my mother, lifting both hands in surrender, and before I fell off the railing, my feet were clutched tightly by a few hands, which then pulled me down onto the pavement from the railing. When I looked up to say ‘thank you’, I found ladies dressed in such pretty peculiarities at such an hour.They took me to a nearby restaurant, bought me hot tea and wanton- mee. They did not enquire, but asked bemused questions among themselves, even suggesting to each other what to do with a desolate man like me, in rough and gruff voices. After clicking away some photos with me in the background- as I lay slumped and defeated on the white plastic restaurant chair, they called for a taxi, paid the fare and took me home.” She retorted. “I will not let you live,” she had said. “I will kill you like an insect, inch by inch,” she had proclaimed revenge. I found myself in a little backroom in one of the shop houses in Brewster Lane. My head was heavy and I panicked as I could not remember where my car was parked. I heard the shower turned on. So I left my name card

*South Indian classical dance

on the bed and hurried out. Kugesh wipes his face constantly a few times with a serviette and continues, “She wouldn’t let me speak. And my whole family is on her side now. They are all asking me to go back and live with her, but I can’t you know,” he says. “I cannot live with that woman anymore, she is not willing to forgive, compromise or change her attitude,” He begins to massage his temples in circular moves. “Why can’t they understand?” “Don’t know, maybe they want you to change,” I say. “Anna was the only person who was willing to listen. She did everything to help me to patch up with Punitha. I met him…I mean her only once after that, to offer my gratitude. It was her birthday party. I sat in a corner as I watched the guests gliding in and out of the balcony and the kitchen. Then, the charades started. One by one, the gaudy guests were taking positions in front of the T.V and gestured with pointy hands and velvety lips of famous politicians, athletes and artists. There was so much laughter and happiness. I was euphoric, having left my perfect world behind.” “Take life with a pinch of salt,” said Anna, “or treat it as a joke,” said another man, chuckling like a parakeet, with a beer in his hand. “My spirits lifted at once. After a long time, I laughed. I felt lifted, lighter. I tried playing my cards well, but it did not last and the woman began to sense my detachment. It’s her fault you know. She never treated me like a husband. I just gave up on her,” Kugesh says, looking around to see if anyone is looking. “She knows it’s a mistake on my part. And she knows I’ve gone the extra mile to make up to her. But, she prefers to believe that I am not a man anymore, so, why is she holding onto the marriage? To make me miserable? And she has succeeded, look at me now,” he says. His eyes, by now, have turned red and watery. “I’ve told you to leave her or be man enough to tame that woman”, I am tempted to shout, but I remember that all these have fallen on deaf ears and been further suppressed by guilt. Punitha carefully minted a revenge plan. She was all nice, obedient and sweet in front of her parents and in-laws. Once in the bedroom, she worked Kugesh like a bullock. Her demands for sex increased with momentum and kink. There were weird fetishes that Kugesh found obnoxious. Turning them away meant getting nagged incessantly throughout the night about manliness and what a hopeless husband

he has become. These were followed by the incessant vulgar words and curses followed by wailings that lasted until the wee hours of the morning. Kugesh endured these in silence for the sake of family and marriage, so that such words didn’t seep out from the bedroom doors. Day after day, night after night, the torments grew worse. “That guilty feeling is going to kill you”, I had warned him a year ago. “I’m sure your parents stand by your side Kugesh.” “You don’t know Jeevs,” he pushes away an empty glass of cappuccino. “I think it is better to be completely insane, or sane, should be either one” he says after some thought. “It’s a torture when a man loses his health, what more his character. I went back home last Saturday as it was my father’s birthday. You know how excited I would get whenever my family members celebrated their birthdays. I bought a cake for him. All of a sudden my aunties came around and the celebration started….” His voice breaks for a moment. “And then, what happened?” I ask a little impatiently. Heads turn in our direction “My aunties arrived and the ceremony began. I stayed in my room. When the time came for the cake-cutting, not one soul - not even my mother came and asked me to come out to partake in the ceremony,” He burst into silenced sobs. “Oh dear me,” I exclaim, surprised at the sudden resentment building within me against his parents. “Why? Because I am sick right?” he asked. “That’s why, I tell you, it’s better to be completely mad, rather than hanging in limbo like this, between sobriety and malady,” he said, wiping away his tears. “I really hope I won’t lose my job. I find it increasingly difficult to stay awake at school in the mornings. The Principal has even suggested me taking a one-term sick leave. What am I to do, who will stand by me, if I don’t even have a job? Even the children are making fun of me, screaming out, cikgu tidur… cikgu tidur when they catch me dozing off. I called out to my mother, and I really thought God answered me that night- but only to twist my fate, I guess,” Kugesh stutters in between sobs. “Aren’t you attending your grad classes?” I ask to distract him.The waiters by now are looking worriedly at us. Some of the other customers have even stopped chatting. “I can’t keep up with books, I’ve put off my thesis by one semester. What about you? Any plans to get married?” he asks out of the blue. *“teacher is sleeping”

I shake my head. “Don’t let my mistakes haunt you,” he warns me. “Find a good girl and make sure you have chemistry,” I smile. By now Kugesh is peering into the empty glass with his eyebrows edging closely together. “You want another drink?” I ask. I know I can’t do much to help, I tell myself. “No Jeevs,” he declines. “I have to go back. Need to take the medicine or I will begin to feel very nervous. Will you come and look me up? You know I’ve moved out from my house, and it gets pretty lonely.” “Yes, I will,” I say, knowing that it is impossible to do that with my heavy schedule at work and of course, attempting to rewrite my thesis and putting my professional life into working- order. “I really wish this did not happen,” I tell him earnestly.

remembering whiteness & other poems by martin bradley

downloadable as a free pdf from

Liew Kwai Fei Born in 1979, Liew Kwai Fei is the fruit of public education in Malaysia, which emphasises national ideology, moral values and social obedience. He began his education at the SJK(C) and progressed to the SMK, which uses Malay as the main medium of instruction. In 1999, he enrolled in the Malaysian Institute of Art (MIA) and graduated with a diploma in Chinese ink painting. His solo exhibitions include Colour, Shape, Quantity, Scale, 15 Jalan Mesui, Kuala Lumpur, 2010; Paintings For All Ages/ Paintings With Extended Space, 19 Jln Berangan, Kuala Lumpur, 2009 and The Rhythm of Doing, Project Room @ Valentine Willie Fine Art, Kuala Lumpur, 2008, among others. Painted Words and Written Paintings: For the Refined and For the Masses is his fifth solo exhibition. He has also participated in various residencies which include, The Australia-Malaysia Institute (AMI) Visual Arts Residency Programme, Getrude Contemporary, Melbourne, Australia, 2011; The Khazanah Artist Commissioning Programme, Mumbai, India; 2010 and was one of the artist in residence at Rimbun Dahan, Selangor in 2010. Brought up in a working class Chinese family, Liew Kwai Fei is an entirely "made-in-Malaysia" artist.

4 ekor


nenek moyang


abang adik

tolong tolong

gotong roytong



linda ashok Born on 22 Feb 1987, Linda L Ashok has been writing since early childhood. Daughter of an artist, Linda has grown up amidst art and culture. Her works have been published several times in notable English newspapers like The Statesman,Voices, 8th Day and the Telegraph and other online portals. A confessional poet by nature, Linda faced a severe downturn during 2008-2011 and was at the brim of creative seizure. But she has been able to overcome the crisis by her sheer perseverance and love for poetry. Linda's poems are pithy, straight and sensual. She is currently organizing monthly poetry meets at Landmark Bookstores, Hyderabad, India where she’s mentors a group of amateur in poetry appreciation and writing. To know her more, you can also purchase her collection of short poems: SIGNIFICANCE OF THE INSIGNIFICANT from or write to her at


asking him to leave She waits behind you

like shadow smelted of your being holding cask of milk

She has known your grammar and kneaded flour for your bread … she has been crackers that you always wanted… She stood by your lies holding up the umbrella under monsoon skies you must know you have grown up Me? I am a trespasser. A brazen spool… A sweet gesture and I am undone. I long waited for sweetness too. But little I had idea she is an uncomplicated me. A must have for your son; a have for you… I ain’t in any dereliction but in harmony with my confession My body can’t let you park your brown car you drove this far.

father of a cherub you have a bowl of most voluptuous fruits the fully mature moon now ready to break under your slightest provoke you must go away to her, the darling woman who has patience to clad your entire nuisance in the sit up by the sleeping you carefully watching that her son must always find you , in every footsteps of growing up… I …a pair of old stockings you’ll fit in comfortably... But the strings will snap, long before you would like to sit with your legs stretched out on me.. (This is dedicated to the Genius of ANNE SEXTON.)

a glass of winter my midnight hunger pang is met fulfilled with a tea-stroll down into your mouth across the railing of whetstones a flight of dark egrets dust off the particles of winter snowing over their wings leaving my face stained with despair

nothing in here‌ only a bed of pneumatophores that induces rings of solar dreams-I hunch over to see the stem of phosphorous that instantly lights me Down into your mouth at the burst of dawn, evanescence takes a road-side leak.


After a spate of rapes in India - one of the most infamous concluded with the death of one young woman, a collective of designers and artists began a campaign to champion women’s right not to be abused, not to be seen solely as a sex object and claiming their right to move around the country unmolested. These are but a few of the posters put up on one Facebook site.

poster collective



photo essay

phare ponleu selpak In the aftermath of drawing workshops organized at Site 2, a refugee camp on the Thai and Khmer border, eight evacuee students continued their adventure with their instructor to establish Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPS), “the brightness of arts” in 1994 on the outskirts of Anchanh village, Battambang. PPS is a local non-profit organization whose mission is to restore the destroyed culture and identity of Cambodia that was lost during the Khmer genocide, by raising the awareness of its artistic culture throughout Cambodia and the world. PPS’s purpose is to improve the development of local communities by providing education as well as the practice of art. PPS also uses the arts to respond to the psychosocial needs of children and local residents, many of which are troubled by lack of education, poverty, and poor health. The association welcomes more than 1500 students to its venue attending different classes and workshops. Phare Ponleu Selpak offers a holistic approach to children’s needs in the area of social action, education, and the practice of the arts and culture. Social Action consists of Child Protection Program (Child Care Centre) and Kindergarten (Leisure Centre). The education program includes formal education: elementary school through high school, and a set of informal programs including literacy, math, life skills, and language classes. In addition, the arts and cultural programs are very important and known as a key to empower livelihood. A multitude of artistic and cultural activities are carried on everyday free of charge to more than 500 students, such as music, contemporary and traditional dancing, visual arts, theatre, circus, animation, graphic design and illustration. For those, who are involved with artistic activities, the centre helps to promote their artistic careers by finding places for exhibitions and performances both national and international. These opportunities will promote their professional careers and provide them with international recognition



mao so viet




travel story

battambang with a dead rat by martin bradley

The desiccated rat lying under the restaurant dining table was, probably, not the worse experience of my life, but it was, nevertheless, an eye opener to the northern Cambodian city of Battambang (pronounced battenbong). It had been a not unpleasant journey from Siem Reap to Battambang. The sun perpetually glinted into the aged bus. Practically clichéd ladies in straw hats rode by on even older bicycles and mid-aged ladies proffered dried chilli fried insects – with curry leaves, which they held aloft, in rattan baskets, to bus travellers. As we ambled past rural Cambodia on roads evidently not used to speed, rice was being harvested in miles of paddy fields and small tractors, with long trailers, heaved weighty loads of rice sacks along the side of the ever dusty Khmer road. The four hour journey (from Siem Reap to Battambang) was laced with intermittent sleep, fields, small villages, the ever-burning bright sun and glimpses of the tastiest baguettes outside of France, or so I was led to believe by one traveller just returned from Paris. Neither the sleepiness of the countryside, the oddness of the cuisine nor the seeming calm everywhere were to prepare me for the under-table deceased rodent, nor for the snub given by a workshop who had forgotten to close their classroom doors. It was a time of learning. It was a time when mindfulness was tested to its limits. However, that mindfulness eased me through minor confrontations without my more natural recourse to choice English words and colourful phrases honed and hammered into shape by the wilds of my notso-dear Essex (land of white ladies shoes and sparkling white handbags – for dancing around). I resisted the call to use that 15th Centaury vulgar expletive beginning with ‘F’, or raise my whole bowman’s hand or, indeed, give the one finger salute when one American harpy commanded me and my students to exit from their workshop at Phare Ponleu Selpak. True, and in retrospect, she was only protecting the sanctity of her workshop, but there were no signs to indicate a workshop was taking place, nor their need for privacy. That female had a most rude and offensive manner but, in the fullness of time, we sailed beyond her turbulent maelstrom, past her harpy-clad rocks into the calming waters of that near serene charity art school. One day past the harpy and dead rat incident and I was back at Phare Ponleu Selpak, this time giving my own talk about Art History, or rather a truncated version of 150

years of modern Art condensed into two hours. The student crowd could not have been more attentive as they sat crosslegged on the wooden floorboards. Shafts of light coming through wooden walls gave the room a fantasy ambience, and made it entirely conducive to the sharing of visual delights. It was a little surreal, however, to be talking about Surrealism and having to stop after each sentence so that my translator (himself an artist and one of the founders of the charity Art School) could relay my thoughts. My gesticulations got lost in the translation process. There was I - all full of gusto and wide gestures, and there was my friendly translator calmly wrangling my meaning into Khmer. I have no idea if the travails of Andre Breton or the Gaudi inspired Salvador Dali actually reached those polite and intense students, I hope they did. When not being translated, I headed to the San Puoy mountain temple and trundled my way up God knows how many steps, past just as many monkeys and eventually was awarded with a stunning view over the flat fields of Battambang. I was lucky. It was nearing sundown, sun rays highlighted gold covered images of Buddha and aspects of his teachings and the whole ambience was just too celestial. I say too celestial as I had to drag myself away and begin the descent, down those worn steps again - in the failing light. It was then, having survived the mountain steps and being driven to a local (now infamous) Cambodian restaurant, that I was confronted by that ignominious dead rat.

T he Philippines

events in dense fog

andres barrioquinto

dream never ends

Andres Barrioquinto SELECTED AWARDS

2009 ACES AWARD Award for Continuing Excellence and Service Metrobank Foundation 2003 13 ARTISTS AWARD Cultural Center of the Philippines, Manila 2001 FINALIST Phillip Morris Art Competition 2000 BEST ENTRY/LITHOGRAPHY Print Association of the Philippines BENAVIDEZ AWARD 389th Anniversary (1611-2000) University of Santo Tomas BEST THESIS “IMAGINE QUIAPO” University of Santo Tomas FINALIST 2nd Nokia Arts Awards Asia Pacific Singapore 1999 BENAVIDES AWARD 388th Anniversary (1611-1999) University of Santo Tomas HONORABLE MENTION 9th Taiwan International Biennal Print and drawing Exhibition JURORS CHOICE 52nd Annual Art Competitions Art Association of the Philippines JUROR’S CHOICE 1st Nokia Arts Awards Asia Pacific Singapore 1998 FIRST PRIZE 15th Young Painter’s Annual National Painting Competition Metrobank Foundation 1997 THIRD PRIZE 50th Annual Art Competition Art Association of the Philippines HONORABLE MENTION Watercolor Category 30th National Shell Student Art Competition

show of strength

the first taste

carry that weight

fake empire

everlasting light





a meteor shine

moods 5

moods 8383

moods 6

discovery 3

moods 8338

Behind the mild-mannered, be-spectacled man, there lies the enigma of the raging bull artist, better known as Toro. Toro is an ebullient artist matador. He dances exhilarating paint onto waiting canvas. He has all the energy of a be-robed wrangler of the most elegant of bulls. Toro is an artistic athlete. He is a noble performer, a dancer weaving his painterly spell of creation, an equilibrist whose graceful dancing partner is paint and all of paint’s paraphernalia.


outh Africa...

martin navnihal lochner

A graduate of Hugenote HoĂŤrskool and the Jack Meyer Art Academy, Martin currently lives writing poetry in Cape Town, Western Cape. South Africa.


I am after all human. I shave my own hair. I cut it and remember My own private holocaust. Those things the imagination plays with. Little toys of horror, lingering in that skull I clean. The blade runs close to the flesh and control of it is mercy. Anna had a beating heart, going for a cyanide shower. Mine is built like a furnace with bricks. Cold hard brick that can withstand the heat of hell. Poetry affords me my temporal descent into tenderness. Ah,feelings,vulnerab ility,flesh, blood dripping from my scalp. I am crying tonight over a Rilke poem. My wife also cries with me. I am after all human.

The Shower Tenor His pitch is perfect. The liquidity of his voice stronger than the gushing water, pressure forcing itself through the copper pipes, vibrating like a ball bearing. A devotional hymn covering the courtyard with steam, wall papering the darkness with a flowery melody. How beautiful the water falls, pitter-patter on the marble, it gives rhythm to the showering man's song. Now occupants of silhouetted trees chime in, an unrelated orchestration of effort to worship this morning. Today slowly unfolds with an overture of lyrics and dawn. I finish my cigarette and join in with a song of my own making. It's going to be beautiful day.

Long winter grass The academy of long winter grass, an education in the backyard. I always thought I was better than the sparrows, thought nothing of that black cat looking for his lucky break on our porch, the neighbors’ bastard dog at the fence playing puppy. One day our cousins visited us, all dressed up in percale linen and sailor suits, little wealthy angels gleaming in the sun. “ Careful for the grass. It is wet,” I said to them. My uncle ordered fish and chips. The cousins fed the old changer cat some of their fish, the dog got some chips and the sparrows the last crumbs of Portuguese buns. How long I lived on liverwurst and happy bread, how these stray animals shared in a take away luxury. I was no different from them. I have been instructed on poverty.

water and light That winter when your mother suffered her love for you, I was on the road. Her blood pressure I felt, heat fogged the wind screen and her worry broke into a sweat on my forehead. I drove past Wellington and headed for the old ghost road in De Doorns. I recall your little heartbeat playing its tune on the Doc’s jukebox. That tune cost me a packet and I smoked cheap to see your rhythm and beat running hills. It also fell flat in perplexing valleys. You see we suffered for your love, we silently left our pride to pray for your scream. I was on the road and hazards flashed in the thick mist. I kept to the middle, waiting for your unknown little face in the dead road. I waited for their call on this road of sad ghosts. The call eventually came and it was your mother. She was still bleeding but told me that you kept your promise to breathe in the water and the light. Our love, our love stayed strong.

Modern Women : The non-pastoral display of loving care, metal herds that hoot on tarmac glory outside our suburban window. I am treating my working damsel tonight. Simple pleasures vacuum packed, the implosion, the rip that runs so well on the seam of mass packaging, the chocolate breath of factory fresh biscuits, hot milk, sprinkles of cinnamon, a vanilla pod soaking luxurious in low fat, two cubes of rainbow sugar, God save us from pewter, I stir only with silver. Three knocks on the porcelain and she runs into the kitchen, smiles sweetly, collects the treat, says, “You’re still making dinner tonight.”

by nazlina hussin

Chinese New year Come Chinese New Year, George Town is awash with red. Red lanterns and red decorations can be seen everywhere. Even the undergarments seller, at the corner of Kuala Kangsar Road, sells provocative red undies in abundance during this time. Three days before the big day is the busiest day ever at the Chow Rasta market. Last minute shoppers throng the street to search for the most exotic, expensive and festive food items to serve on their banquet tables. Prudent housewives know that prices of seafood during this period triple. Up to a month before the big day, they would already have bought, and frozen, the sea produce to be used later. Fresh large prawns, whole fish, mantis shrimps, sea cucumber, dried abalone and fish maw (costing up to RM1000.00 per kilo) are hoarded jealously. The market will be full of baked goodies, especially pineapple tarts. Since the pineapple is “Ong Lai� (or, lucky apple), this fruit is used extensively - on altars as an offering, or in sweet treats. At this time of the year, you will be able to see strange looking mini pineapples. They have little pineapples growing out of their skins! I was told they are for prayers only, and not for consumption. Paper pineapple lanterns also will be hung in front of homes, to bring prosperity and good luck. Another interesting item is a gourd. Not a normal gourd, but one that is shaped like a water carrier that belonged to a holy monk, from China. It is called bottle gourd and is always associated with abundance and prosperity. These gourds are imported, and normally bare a ring of red stickers near its neck. It is also common to see them decorated with red Good Luck knots. Pumpkin is another beautiful vegetable to be associated with CNY. Not your ordinary ones, mind you. These are perfectly symmetrical, shiny orange ones. For some reason, these pumpkins do not make me

think of Halloween! Pumpkins are normally steamed and made into cakes, or cut into cubes and simmered with sugar and coconut milk for a fulfilling tea time snack or dessert. As the New Year is a signal for a new beginning, good luck bamboo will be sold in stick forms. It will be available everywhere. Hmm, let’s see what happen to these bamboos in a couple of weeks, I tend to forget watering them. We will get lots and lots of mandarin oranges too. Since its name in Chinese sounds like gold, they are exchanged and given away to guests and relatives. To appease the Kitchen God, ti kuih is served so that its sticky goo will glue the God’s mouth and no bad reports will be carried to the Supreme Deity up in the heavens. The kuih can be found at the corner of Kuala Kangsar road. They are made in Balik Pulau, cooked by hand in huge woks, over flaming wood chips. Done this way, the taste is much more superior to those cooked over a gas stove top. Another thing that you will find during this time, and that is arrowroot, which looks so much like white onions. Arrowroot is starchy, like tapioca, and the taste is so good that when they are sliced thinly and deep fried as chips, once you start, you simply cannot stop munching till the whole canister is empty! The hectic end of the year celebration only stops during Chinese New Year in George Town. What a nice ending, after which, tired revellers only can smile at their memories and their not so thick wallets…

Nazlina’s food website: http:// Nazlina also holds cooking classes four days a week in George Town, Penang. Check out http://www.penang-cooking-class. com

Dusun 11  

Dusun is an Asian Arts and Culture e-magazine, bring you the very best in Asian Art, Literature and Poetry.

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