Sunday, 1 September 2013

It's raining cats and dogs (and rats, and bats....)

Well, it's rained twice this week, once for three days and the other for four...sorry! couldn't resist bringing out that old Irish joke.  Yes, the rain has dampened a lot of planned outdoor activities such as collecting new dyestuffs, swimming in our lovely pool and getting out into the garden, but Rimbun Dahan is still beautiful in the rain.

View from my studio across the fish pond
And there is actually nothing better than hearing the rain pouring down, listening to Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No.2 to accompany the thunderous drama outside,  and stitching quietly. However, during the brief periods of respite I did manage to snap a few gorgeous things on my camera.

Walking past the pool, I spied this perfect contrast
and one of the many colourful dragonflies that inhabit the gardens
As promised last week, I also have photos of some initial dye tests done with some palm seeds and mangosteen skins on my pre-mordanted sample fabrics.  The different coloured stripes on the long pieces of fabric show the 8 different mordants I have used to see what colours they will give me from one dyepot. A great thing to be getting on with whilst it is raining.

Using Madagasca palm nut windfalls
The small square sample pieces have also been mordanted with Symplocos which was delivered this week. Symplocos is a plant that is a bio-accumulator of aluminium, not a man made chemical, so I will be testing its efficacy against the usual Potassium aluminium sulphate and/or aluminium acetate.  Unfortunately I thought it would be easy to buy a lot of mordants here, hence didn't bring much with me, so maybe have to order some in.
Mangosteen skins
The colour of the mangosteen skin dyebath
The mangosteen skins gave a wonderful dyebath colour that didn't translate onto the fabric itself.  I am not surprised but I also did not have many skins.  I also read that a local artist prepares his mangosteen bath for 12 hours.....I will still not hold my breath (and those of you into natural dyeing will know why) but I am willing to give it another go.  Of course, just getting the colour to take does not mean it will be light or colour fast......I have got a few excursions planned in the next couple of weeks to local dyers and craftspeople...stay tuned. I have also finished stitching the large cloth I was working on last week.

So, what else can you do in the rain? On Thursday night, the Rimbun Dahan resident artists all went to the Taksu Gallery for the opening of "Water" a 4-person exhibition that includes current RD resident Sabri Idrus. I was also quietly celebrating the fact that I have been at Rimbun Dahan for exactly one month. I met a few other Malaysian artists as well as award-winning film maker U-Wei Haji Saari, who will be in Canberra soon with his film 'Hanyut', based on Joseph Conrad's novel, at the Canberra International Film Festival.  Canberrans, take note.

Myself, Sabri Idrus and Filipino artist Carlo Gernale in front of Sabri's work.
And speaking of Galleries, Rimbun Dahan has its own magnificent underground gallery that is designed around a central atrium, lit from an open landscaped turning circle in the driveway in front of the house. Too large to show it all here, but also a very impressive collection of contemporary Asian and Australian art.

The other thing you can still do in the rain is make a dash for it across the road and have lunch! Carlo and I eat a meal together nearly every day at our favourite local Warung outside the front gates. As all the artists work and live in different parts of Rimbun Dahan, it is nice to talk to another person and exchange ideas and information. And what better way to do it than over makan.
Always busy, always delicious. You can even 'Like' them on Facebook!
And on the socialising front,  my Bahasa Melayu teacher in Canberra, cikgu Zahara, put me in contact with a friend of hers from high school, Fatahiya, who lives just up the road.  Her friend's daughter was getting married on Saturday and the women all gathered together to start preparing the food for the kenduri, or wedding feast.  
Fatahiyah is on the far left.  It's BYO knife for this social event.
I got to join in, thank goodness I like paying attention to miniscule things......
Ikan bilis....BEFORE cleaning!
These tiny, tiny ikan bilis are one of my favourite foods, mixed with a hot chilli sauce on top of rice, and more fresh chilli.  But I certainly did not know you could/ or would CLEAN them! It is a bit like peeling prawns - take off the head, slit down the back with your thumbnail, clean out the dark intestinal tract, and put in a pile ready for cooking. Wow, I will never eat so many of them again without thinking about the hours of labour going into cleaning them. Usually, cleaning ikan bilis is not done due to their size and the fact they are already dried and stiff, but this was for a special wedding feast.  There is a Bahasa term for this which I have forgotten, but basically it means 'coming from the heart'.  I am sure someone can remind me of it.

And finally, although Muslim culture does not have the same belief that rain on your wedding day is a good omen, I am sure being married on 31st August is...not only is it Hari Merdeka but it is also during Hari Raya.  Thankfully the Groom and his entourage arrived just before another downpour.
Congratulations to Sakinah and Kairol, and best wishes for your future happiness together.

Kairol and Sakinah
sehingga minggu depan  (until next week)


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