Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Fifteen Views From Sealand, (c)2007 L Chai

If you're in Christchurch until the end of the year, do drop by the main city post office because I'm in a group exhibition called Tell Me To My Face, organized by the High Street Project as part of their off-site programme.

My work, Fifteen Views From Sealand, is made up of 15 postcards that will eventually get sent to the micronation of Sealand.

A little background is needed here. Sealand is a micronation in international waters off the coast of Britain. So micro that its population rarely exceeds 1. It was first built as a fort during the War. Its next incarnation was as a pirate radio station, until a certain Major Paddy Roy Bates proclaimed it his own nation - complete with passports, flags, coinage and stamps.

Sealand's sovereignty remains up in the air, mostly because it is so tiny that no one really cares. It's said that its location in international waters gives it the potential to be a tax (evasion) haven.

In keeping with my ongoing theme of 'footnotes', I wanted to make a work about a Sealand-centric world. After all, micronations are mere footnotes in the atlas.

I showed this to my colleague who asked me this interesting question: is the ship approaching you or is it leaving?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Justice is still a one-word prayer

There is this wonderful man, John Berger. He writes books. He is respected in the art world for his seminal text/film Ways Of Seeing.

His latest book, Hold Everything Dear, is a meditation on the state of the world post-September 11. His writing is generous, empathetic and lucid. He stands out from other political activists with his non-hardlined, deeply thoughtful and beautiful language.

Now, how many political commentators can you think of who write beautifully - about what is essentially a horrifying situation?

John Berger's another giant who walks this earth. His voice is quiet and powerful.

Justice is still a one-word prayer, as Ziggy Marley sings in your time now. The whole history is about hopes being sustained, lost, renewed. And with new hopes come new theories. But for the overcrowded, for those who have little or nothing except, sometimes, courage and love, hope works differently. Hope is then something to bite on, to put between the teeth. Don't forget this. Be a realist. With hope between the teeth comes the strength to carry on even when fatigue never lets up, comes the strength, when necessary, to choose not to shout at the wrong moment, comes the strength above all not to howl. A person, with hope between her or his teeth, is a brother or sister who commands respect. Those without hope in the real world are condemned to be alone. The best they can offer is only pity. And whether these hopes between the teeth are fresh or tattered makes little difference when it comes to surviving the nights and imagining a new day.

From the chapter, I Would Softly Tell My Love

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Remember This Day

Let it stoke the fires of democracy. Thank you, thank you all of you who showed up.

Wearing yellow, getting thirsty, braving the rain, fleeing the water cannons, suffering the chemical sprays, braving on to the Palace, cheering for the King and Allah, supporting each other, shielding your children, holding hands.

For all that, a thousand times thank you.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Growing Up In 80s Malaysia!

This post is dedicated to anyone who's ever crooned to Sudirman...

Remember when

That radio station on the hill, Radio 4, was the only English language radio?

There was only RTM 1, 2 and 3?

The tau foo far lady came round your neighbourhood carrying her yolk?

Trishaws weren't just a touristy thing?

There was no Bandar Utama?

It took months to renew your passport… uhh nevermind

Multi-coloured Bic ballpoint pens were in?

It was a world without roti bom, cheese naan or roti tisu?

There was no North-South Highway?


Snacks were 20 sen?

We played Uno?

PMR exams were first introduced?

Bahasa Baku was introduced - saya was "sayar" not "sayerr"? And certain Malay words changed, eg "ugama" became "agama"?

Sugus was banned in schools because it contained lard (gelatin)?

Pens resembling syringes were banned? (Dadah membawa maut, mah)

Popular Culture

Remember when

The pig scene from Disney's Beauty & The Beast was censored in the cinema?

Deanna Yusoff was in virtually every tv advertisement?

"Malaysia's Michael Jackson", Sudirman, sang on Star Search and launched his coke drink 'Sudi' which we scrambled at the canteen to buy?

Raja Ema sang "Oh, Sayang"?

Zainal Abidin sang "Hijau"?

Amy from Search sang the song, starred in the movie, "Isabella"?

Remember the successful tv series Jangan Ketawa that was subsequently taken off the network because it featured two transvestites?

Yaohan opened in KL and it was the biggest mall then? Then Subang Parade opened and it was the biggest?

Malek Noor, our national bodybuilding champion, was "Ujang"?


Remember when

Tunku Abdul Rahman passed away and the nation shut down for a day?

Our handsomest sultan, Sultan Azlan Shah, sultan of Perak, was Yang Di-Pertuan Agong? (pictured here in his current glory; sorry I couldn't find an 80s era photo... This one's taken from

Your parents came to pick you up from school early because a Malay had run amok with an M-16 in Chow Kit (sparking fears of another May '69 riot)?

Opposition party Semangat 46 was still around?

Malaysia hosted CHOGM? (This event is well documented in Lat comics.)