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Daerah Samad.

I must be stating the obvious here, but I think A. Samad Said is a fucking genius. I just came back from the Daerah Samad exhibition currently running at Galeri Petronas and I'm still feeling floored. I don't remember the last time I felt this way after going to an art exhibition.

Pak Samad's sketches are, at a glance, appear to be random blotches of ink and coffee stains with a dash of poetry to top it off. But looking carefully reveals that these sketches of seemingly random and impromptu lines evoke images and thoughts that must have been playing on Pak Samad's mind at the time. Some of the haiku-esque works are simply beautiful:
kita juga masih menyimpan peta dan hikayat lama, membuka jendela dan pintu sendiri, kita masih akrab disambut mentari*
Beneath these words Pak Samad is a chaotic mess of lines that form what appears to be an urban squatter settlement, with towering skyscrapers looming in the background.

The message that the sketches seem to want to tell are dark and reflective but nevertheless I found Pak Samad's sketches to be breathtaking in its energy, and how I marvelled at the kinetic motion of his calligraphy which fused both Arabic and Roman scripts. These sketches are all Pak Samad's reflections of the human condition and its interaction with the environment, and indeed, in his artist's statement, he says:
"Whether we realise it or not we have been given a beautiful world by the Almighty to enjoy or destroy according to our individual or rampant human desires.

These are some of the turbulences of human stupidity or intelligence that I have tried to sketch."
I feel like I haven't said it enough: Pak Samad's a fucking genius and it's no wonder he's our national laureate. These works are a national treasure and if ever they publish a nice coffee table book featuring these sketches, I'll be slobbering over it in no time.

So! Remember to visit the Petronas Gallery. The exhibition runs till 15th July and if you want some special treatment, drop by on 23rd June at 3pm and you'll be able to join a walkthrough hosted by Pak Samad himself (as well as a talk by Nur Hanim Khairuddin, the guest curator).

Oh, btw, it's free!

* This translation does not do the original any justice:
"We also keep old maps and stories, we open our windows and doors, we are still cheerfully greeted by the sun


  1. Hey! I really hope I'd be able to go for that. Read it in the papers. I read Pak Samad as a kid! *grin* Sungai Mengalir Lesu :D

    Oh, when I did my Diploma in Journalism, we had to do a celebrity interview. I interviewed Paul Moss whereas two of my friends interviewed Pak Samad's son, Az. They were blessed enough to interview Az alongside Pak Samad and his wife :) I heard both the Samads are very hospitable and sweet. =)

  2. Well, you've one-upped me there. I never read any Malay books when I was a kid. I thought I was "too cool" to read Malay books... and now I'm regretting it and trying to make up for lost time.

    I've never met Az Samad in person but I did see him play at the Jazz fest in Hartamas a year or so ago. I also have his album which I like so much, some songs in it inspired some stories I wrote (and will write). His blog's cool too! I am also very jealous he knows Shelley Leong. Grrr. :D

    I have met Pak Samad in person and I have to agree, he's a sweet old man. I admire the way he speaks Malay... very distinguished! And not in that uptight-poncey-royal manner either.

  3. You're jealous he knows shelley leong? *coughs* don't you know they're dating? lol.

  4. The VERY reason I'm jealous lah -_-"

  5. Ooooh okay! Heheh sorry I'm always blur. Just make sure your girlfriend doesn't read this! ;)

  6. Haha.. a wee bit too late methinks :D She knows all... I gots no secrets.

  7. "kita juga masih menyimpan peta dan hikayat lama, membuka jendela dan pintu sendiri, kita masih akrab disambut mentari"

    "for we still hoard these maps and bygone legends, opening our own windows and entrances, we are still forged together in the sun."

    I offer my own clumsy translation, sorry I can't help it, the man is inspiring, even at the risk of ruining his words. I feel the original Malay version will always be unrivaled.


  8. Thank you. That is a wonderful translation.


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