Thursday, September 14, 2017

Atomic Consciousness & my unpretentious friend Raj

He messaged me via Facebook, saying he would appreciate a few words from me to include in the catalog for his upcoming solo exhibition, Atomic Consciousness.

“Raj,” I said, “I haven’t been involved in the arts scene for a very long time, I’m totally out of touch.”

He was insistent, saying it was precisely why he wanted me - not someone with an academic background - to write about his work as a visionary artist. In fact, Raj showed up at my doorstep a few weeks later, clutching his portfolio. I had other guests at the time and everyone gasped when they saw the mindboggling detail and psychedelic quality of his artwork.

I looked through his exquisite pieces, marveling at the man’s sheer patience and stamina, not to mention his technical skill. But what could I say about his vision that wasn’t already being said – and far more eloquently so - by his own outstanding handiwork, every piece a collectible? Can words enhance their impact on the beholder? Do his glorious visual expressions require verbal elaboration?

Before leaving, Raj handed me a printed flyer from an earlier exhibition titled The Pulse of Creation in which he had given voice to what inspires and motivates him to create art. I doubt I can do better than to quote and paraphrase the artist here:

Thangarajoo Kanniah in April 2017
The line that divides also unites. Lines portray both division and unity in the universe. Physical lines divide space into form and structure. Imaginary lines connect ideas and thought. My work is the subconscious manifestation of the mystery of the creative force. In essence it reflects and harmonizes the tangible and the intangible. The paintings are in reality a spiritual journey within the conscious and unconscious realm of form and space.

There you have it - the artist has perfectly articulated the conceptual basis of his own life’s work. All that remains for me to do is to embellish his statement a little with a few anecdotes and flashbacks; and perhaps some personal commentary on Thangarajoo’s unique situation in the context of the Malaysian sociocultural milieu.

I don’t remember exactly when I first met the young Thangarajoo Kanniah. It would have been in the mid-1970s when a friend introduced me to the legendary Latiff Mohidin at Anak Alam – a pioneer artists’ collective located in what is now known as Taman Budaya. Raj, as he prefers to be called, would have been a mere teenager then, happy to be part of a cultural ferment he could already sense would someday be spoken of in reverent – and most certainly nostalgic – terms.

As the token Indian of the group, Raj made it a point to immerse himself fully in whatever activities were happening at Anak Alam – and there were poetry readings, intimate stagings of experimental plays, junk sculpture projects, even community cookouts. Many of the artists and performers associated with Anak Alam later went on to carve distinguished careers for themselves – and Latiff Mohidin himself deservedly achieved iconic status as a painter of international renown, as well as a poet and a translator into Malay of classic works like the Tao Te Ching.

To my mind there is absolutely no reason why Thangarajoo Kanniah should not have attained equal stature with many of the other Anak Alam luminaries – nationally as well as internationally – judging by the quality and prolixity of his artistic output. However, in the art world (as in almost every field of endeavor) a competitive, pushy ego seems to be a prerequisite for substantive commercial success – and Raj is one whose temperament is averse to aggressive self-promotion.

Another massive obstacle would have been the unwholesome trend in the 1970s towards an institutionalized ethnocentric nationalism (in recent years worsened by divisive faux religiosity) which would have effectively made someone like Raj a permanent outsider in the arts patronage stakes.

Instead of simply giving up and doing something more lucrative, Raj just kept soldiering on. In 1984, Raj had a transcendental near-death experience when he slipped and fell down a waterfall in Templer’s Park and found himself trapped underwater for what seemed like an eternity. According to Raj, his soul involuntarily left his physical form and he became a conscious part of the entire reality spectrum. Somehow he found himself back in his body - he can’t recall whether the water pushed him out or if somebody pulled him to safety – but he was never again the same person. From that point on, the bulk of his artistic output became a conscious exploration of the interface between the physical and metaphysical dimensions, between mind and spirit.

Encountering his work in the digital age where fractal motifs proliferate, some may be tempted to compare Raj’s numinous imagery with the hallucinatory work of Alex Grey - who famously taught himself anatomical drawing while preparing cadavers for dissection in the anatomy department at Harvard Medical School (please note that Alex Grey bears no relation to the popular TV series, Grey’s Anatomy). When I asked if he had seen some of Alex Grey’s entheogenic visions, Raj was quick to point out that his externalized innervisions are not the product of consciousness-changing drugs, but they emanate spontaneously from the core of his own cellular (and soulular) being.

Well, here he is, some four decades down the line from those heady Anak Alam days, still the token Indian consumed with a mystical passion to reveal the sacred in all things through his consummate art.

Antares Maitreya
Magick River
Kuala Kubu Bharu

13 May 2017

Catch Atomic Consciousness when it opens at
Bangunan Muzium Belia
on 21 September 2017!
The exhibition will be on for two months.

Mak Minah, Uncrowned Queen of the Temuan (repost)

"Minah Angong" by Andy Maguire (oil on fiberboard, 10" X 8")

Yes, I am pleased to tell you my story. But as I cannot write things down, I will ask my friend to help. He is among those who knew me well in my last years on this earth. I whisper these words in his mind’s ear, for he is still in the world of the living, while I am already back in the realm of spirit, and happily so.

Minah Angong's gravestone
My bones now lie buried on top of a hill overlooking the saddest sight you can imagine. Majestic hills stripped of trees, mountains blown up to make a dam. I may be dead but my spirit lives on in my songs, and in the sacred (and now badly scarred) landscape I love so dearly.  One day my songs will be heard and they will soften the hardened hearts of the greedy ones who destroy more than they construct. When men’s hearts heal, so will the land.

I was born in Pertak, Ulu Selangor, between two world wars, into the Temuan tribe. The identity card issued by the government says I arrived on September 14, 1930, and records my name at birth as Menah Anak Kuntom.  People knew me as Mak Minah because that was my stage name as lead singer with a band called Akar Umbi. Perhaps the most exciting moment of my life was when we performed before 42,000 people at the biggest stadium in Selangor. Afterwards, so many people came and congratulated me. I had a photograph taken with Sharifah Aini and Sahara Yaacob, who were also performing that night. We looked like three queens together!

Anyway, Menah or Minah makes little difference to me, since I can’t spell. Our names keep changing as we change. But once we write anything down, it becomes harder to change. Take my sister’s name: although we have the same father and mother, her name is recorded in her identity card as Indah Anak Merkol, after our  stepfather. My mother’s name was Beresih but all her children called her Mui, which is the Temuan word for Mak or Mother.

As a child I remember life was carefree and fun. Fish was abundant in the streams, and the forest supplied all our needs, except for luxuries like sugar, salt, and milled rice. Fresh meat was easily available as there were many animals that could be hunted or trapped.  We Orang Asli can eat anything, with or without legs or wings, as long as it’s not poisonous (we even know how to remove the poison from some wild plants so that they become edible). Apart from fish and wild boar, we also eat porcupines, pythons, leaf monkeys, deer, birds, and bamboo rats (whose flesh is very clean and sweet, as they feed only on bamboo shoots). These are all gifts of the Great Spirit That Dwells In Everything.

Mak Minah with younger sister Indah (1997) 

The only education I received was from my grandmother, who enjoyed telling us stories. She explained how human beings were seeded on Tanah Tujuh (which is what we call this physical world) by Mamak and Inak Bongsu, a brother and sister who survived the Great Flood by clinging to the top of a gaharu tree on Gunung Raja. 

My grandmother was full of wonderful tales about the beautiful elven races (Orang Halus) who left the planet for the higher heavens when the Difficult Times began. Some chose to remain, because they had grown to love the earth, but they gradually became invisible to human eyes.

Minah claimed she could summon the dragon,
totem of her tribal lineage (Peter Lau)
People ask me if Orang Asli have any religion. I always reply that we don’t need religion because our God is not separate from the everyday world in which we live. The Great Spirit That Dwells In Everything takes all forms and speaks to us as the song of the wind in the bamboo grove, or as the neverending gossip of the river. Sometimes it is the distant call of a mist-covered mountain. Other times, it is as close as a sleeping child breathing gently in its mother’s ear.

During my lifetime I saw how people became blinded by ambition and greed. They began to mine the earth for metals and log the forest for wood. With each passing year the land became hotter and the rivers became dirtier, so we could no longer drink the water without boiling it first.  With each passing year we had to walk farther and farther to find some bamboo or catch some fish because people would come into the forest and take out more than they needed. And with each passing year we saw more and more wilderness cleared so that towns could be built.

I enjoyed going to town where many things could be bought, but to do that we had to sell durians, petai, bamboo, cane (manao) and aromatic wood (gaharu) for cash. Yet I could never imagine myself living in a town where it’s always so noisy and hot. Like all Orang Asli, I dearly love the jungle which is our natural home and hunting ground. I would rather die than be forced to live in a town.

Japanese soldier in Malaya, 1942
When I was 12 the world turned upside down. Planes dropped bombs in the jungle to destroy bridges and railway tracks. We had to hide in caves on the slopes of mountains. For many years my family stayed hidden deep in the forest, for fear that we may be captured or killed by the invaders. During those war years we missed the taste of salt and sugar. We lived in the middle of the Malay Peninsula - far from the sea – and had grown accustomed to flavoring our food with salt bought from the Chinese merchants.  My mother taught me how to make cooking oil from the perah nut.

After the war life became even worse for us. The government put us all in detention camps, surrounded by barbed wire, and guarded by soldiers. They said it was to protect us from the communist guerrillas. Unused to suddenly being confined in a small space so close to town, many of our people became depressed, fell sick, and died. This is how I lost both my parents.

Sembo, Minah's favorite granddaughter
But I was already an attractive young woman with many admirers. My life stretched ahead of me like a newly laid road, and I had a taste for adventure. I found myself married to a man I hardly knew. At least he could take me away from the confines of the resettlement camp. We ran back to our beloved jungle and built a hut along the river, along with many others who could no longer bear living within a fence.

My first marriage was a tragedy. I was too young to be a dutiful mother. My children died of illness and my husband left me. For a while, I flirted with the idea of becoming a white man’s mistress. Then I met Angong who had recently become the Batin (headman) of Kampong Gerachi. He was a patient man with great wisdom. It was he who taught me the ceremonial songs passed down to him by his ancestors. Angong taught me to be proud of my noble naga (dragon) lineage. Not every family has an animal totem. Only those with some knowledge of jungle medicine (jampi) or who possess magical powers (dukun) have special allies in the animal kingdom. 

I bore Angong five children and greatly missed him when he returned to Pulau Buah, where souls go after they drop their physical bodies (which we call baju, or clothes). When my children grew up and started their own families, I moved to Kampong Pertak to live with my younger sister Indah and her husband Rasid. My elder brothers, Diap and Utat, lived nearby.  My eldest son, Ramsit, took over as Batin of Gerachi.

Minah Angong & Nai Anak Lahai with Akar Umbi lineup in August 1995

Mak Minah with Antares & Chandrabhanu
after performing 'Birthplace Reclaimed'
in 1993 (photo by Rafique Rashid)
It was fated that my life would begin to change in 1992. I met a few people from the big city who happened to be musicians. They heard me singing and decided to record my voice, adding musical instruments to give my traditional sawai (healing) songs a modern sound. The first song we created together was called Burung Meniyun. I was asked to sing it on stage during a performance by a famous dancer named Chandrabhanu who lived in Australia. I was surprised and touched that people in the big city would receive my humble song with such open hearts.  Never before had I sung for so many strangers in such a large hall! Chandrabhanu himself was quite a colorful character, dressed up as some kind of witch doctor with all sorts of strange objects dangling from his body. I found it exciting to meet so many new friends who were delighted to hear my ancient songs. 

It all happened so quickly. One moment I was just an Orang Asli widow gathering firewood and tapioca leaves in the forest and going fishing with my sister. Then suddenly I was on national TV singing for thousands of people in a huge stadium! I shall never forget the pleasure of hearing the loud applause and shaking hands with everybody afterwards. I felt proud to be able to please so many people with my simple songs. For once I could feel that no one was looking down on me, or ignoring me, for being an uneducated Orang Asli. 

Can you imagine how it feels to be recognized by someone in Ulu Langat who had seen my performance on TV?  When I went to the market in town, people came up to me and congratulated me on my performance. But back in Kampong Pertak, I was greeted with a mixture of wholehearted support and suspicion. Some whispered behind my back that I was soon going to be too sombong (proud) to be their friend. That really hurt my heart.

Minah performs at the first Rainforest World Music
Festival in Sarawak, August 1998 (Wayne Tarman)
I enjoy singing for people, and my late husband taught me that these songs handed down from our ancestors carry healing power. They are medicine songs. When I sing I can feel my spirit expand like a strong wind blowing through a tree. Naik angin, we call it.  Once I start I must carry on until the wind becomes a breeze and goes quietly on its way. If I don’t let the spirit wind flow (lepas angin) I can get very sick.

My first experience of flying was when Akar Umbi performed in Sarawak at the Rainforest World Music Festival. I had such a grand time and made even more friends. I returned to Sarawak with Akar Umbi the next year, for the last time. At the party after the close of the festival, my newfound friends sang me a rousing Iban farewell. My heart was light and heavy at the same time. Perhaps I knew this was our last meeting on this earth.

Photo by Roland Takeshi
Even as I felt the pleasure of being applauded, I could feel the pain of losing our past and future. The dam project would soon destroy Kampong Gerachi and its durian orchards. A man-made lake would fill the Selangor River Valley, drowning a once-beautiful forest, along with our ancestral graves. I could not imagine anyone so foolish as to declare war against the forces of nature.  Did they have no understanding of, or respect for, our deep love of the land? Were they totally unaware that destroying the land would mean the end of our livelihood and future?  We are the land. If the land dies, we die. 

My sister Indah and brothers Diap and Utat felt the same way that I did. We cherished our traditions and would never lose our heart connection to the land, even if we were offered vast amounts of money.  The Temuan tribe has lived here for many thousands of years; the hills and valleys and rivers are much, much older than that. Our fruit trees can live for over a hundred years and as long as we keep planting new ones, our great-great-grandchildren will never starve. But if they destroy the wilderness and put our people in housing estates and make us work in factories, our tribe will be disappear within a generation. Our nenek-moyang (ancestors) told us: “When Orang Asli are no longer visible on this earth, the sea will rise, the sky will fall, and everything will perish.”

Minah Angong by Antares (1999)

It all seemed hopeless. My own son, as headman, had signed an agreement with the dam builders and loggers, allowing the destruction to begin.  I tried to talk him out of it, but he silenced me, his own mother.  My sorrow ran deep.  Before it had even started the dam project had split our families apart. 

But there were thousands of voices raised against the dam, and I was glad that we had so many friends, people who knew the true value of the rainforest and fought hard to stop the destruction.  I was interviewed by many reporters and I told them how I felt about seeing our way of life being taken from us.  One reporter asked me: “Don’t you want to see your grandchildren getting a good education, which they can only get when development reaches the rural areas?” I replied: “All those who cut down the trees and make the hills bare, causing landslides and floods, aren’t they educated too? If that’s what being educated means, then we Orang Asli don’t want to be educated!” The reporter had nothing to say to that.

Minah gazes at the Indian Ocean at Batu Ferringhi, Penang, 1993 (photo: Rafique Rashid)

In a way, I’m glad I didn’t live to see the bulldozers and excavators arrive. Three weeks after I performed in Sarawak, I fell ill and surrendered my body to the earth. It has become part of the sacred landscape of my ancestors. But my spirit is reunited at last with the Great Spirit That Dwells In Everything and I am happy.

[Originally published in Off The Edge © Antares 2002, first posted 21 September 2014. Reposted 14 September 2016]

Monday, September 11, 2017

16th Anniversary of 9/11 ~ Loose Change (Final Cut, November 2007)

Sixteen years after that fateful morning when the world watched awestruck on millions of TV screens the collapse of New York's landmark World Trade Center Twin Towers - followed seven hours later by the crumbling into a pile of rubble of WTC7, a building that wasn't even hit by any plane - we still don't really know whodunit.

The mass media was immediately fed the "intelligence" that it was 19 Arab hijackers armed with boxcutters, acting on the instructions of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. However, at least 7 of the 19 alleged hijackers subsequently lodged complaints that their identities had been stolen, that it wasn't them on the FBI list of suspects.

When I first heard the news, it was via SMS from a friend glued to her TV in KL. I wasn't particularly shocked because I had been expecting something dramatic to erupt on the geopolitical stage - but I was stunned by the sheer audacity of the ones who had planned this outrageous act of human sacrifice, this colossal false flag operation aimed at injecting terror into the collective psyche, paralyzing the masses into docile acceptance of increased security and surveillance, and sheeplike acquiescence to America's retaliating with a bogus "War on Terror."

By blaming the dastardly deed on Osama bin Laden (who was trained by the CIA in guerrilla warfare) and pinpointing his hideout as "somewhere in the mountainous region between Afghanistan and Pakistan," the Pentagon hawks and the Neocon White House were able to strong-arm a few allies (the Coalition of the Willing) into logistically and morally supporting the military occupation of Afghanistan - followed soon after with a debilitating military offensive against Iraq.

The scope of the whole diabolical plan was so vast and complex it's difficult for anyone who hasn't been researching the sordid history of Black Ops to even begin to grasp the strategic significance of the 9/11 event - what more comprehend the barely concealed ritual symbolism of the entire operation.

With all the evidence that has been gathered by thousands of diligent 9/11 Truth researchers and presented all over the world at packed-out conferences and seminars, it's utterly astounding that so many veteran journalists continue to parrot the Official Version of who stage-managed and funded the 9/11 atrocities.

Since 11 September 2001, the loss of human lives as "collateral damage" numbers in the millions and keeps mounting as the deleterious side-effects of warfare kick in. The only ones who have increased their fortunes through this hellish misfortune are Israeli, U.S. and British defense contractors, private security firms like Blackwater (later Xe Services), and oilfield services corporations like Halliburton (with close links to the Bush family as well as Dick Cheney).

And, for sure, there has been a sharp surge in worldwide demand for high-tech surveillance and security products and services, post 9/11, in tandem with a tightening of borders and an ominous increase of police powers.

It would require several volumes to present a detailed summary of all the evidence - and who and what it all points to. Suffice to say for now that I have read almost every independent probe into the 9/11 false flag operation (the "New Pearl Harbor" ordered by the Project for the New American Century) - and I have come to the inevitable conclusion that, for a start, several individuals must be arrested and charged with criminal conspiracy to defraud humanity, and to perpetrate genocidal and ecocidal programs aimed at culling the population and making it more manageable under the New World Order Central Authority.

The better known among these individuals would be George W. Bush (former President of the United States), Dick Cheney (former Vice-President of the United States), George Herbert Walker Bush (former CIA director and President of the United States), Donald Rumsfeld (former Defense Secretary), Condoleezza Rice (former Secretary of State), Philip D. Zelikow (author of Catastrophic Terrorism and executive director of the 9/11 Commission), Larry Silverstein (real estate mogul who signed a lease for the WTC buildings on 24 July 2001 and collected $4.55 billion in insurance claims 6 years later), and Dov S. Zakheim (foreign policy advisor and Undersecretary of Defense under George W. Bush, financial comptroller of the Pentagon, member of the Council for Foreign Relations and the International Institute for Strategic Studies, intermediary between the Pentagon and the Israel Defense Forces, board member System Planning Corporation, supplier of the Flight Termination System used for shooting planes out of the sky and collaborator in the development of Raytheon's Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle ground control systems).

For sure, many, many more individuals and networks are complicit in this monumentally wicked conspiracy. Most rational people would find the idea of so many accomplices in high places knowingly play a part in, going along with, or covering up such a horrendous crime utterly incredible. Therein, as always, resides the sheer banality of bureaucratic and corporate evil.

Please dedicate a couple of hours to viewing Loose Change 9/11 - and then do some research, for a start, at these helpful sites:


Military, Intelligence and Government Patriots Question 9/11

9/11 REVISITED ~ BY TRUTH ROCKER (most precise & succinct summary!)

Those of you who reside in Malaysia will have witnessed how brazenly a gruesome, premeditated murder involving the abduction, torture, shooting and blowing to pieces of a 28-year-old pregnant Mongolian woman can be covered up and buried under a stinking pile of racist rantings and sodomy accusations.

In both the 9/11 and Altantuya Shaariibuu cases, the sheer force of mainstream media spin appears to have bludgeoned the masses back to business-as-usual apathy.

You fall asleep in a speeding bus driven by a drunken maniac at your own peril.


[First posted 11 September 2013]