Monday, 21 October 2013

Where did the week go??

Last week began in an unusual way due to the celebration of Hari Raya Haji, a public holiday, on Tuesday.  Most people also took the Monday off as well, so it felt like a very extended long weekend.

Hari Raya Haji is an important event in the Muslim calendar and commemorates the willingness of Ibrahim to follow Allah's command to sacrifice his son Ishmael.  As Ibrahim was about to kill his son, Allah stopped him and revealed that it was a test, and allowed Ibrahim to sacrifice a ram instead.  So Hari Raya Haji is also known as the Feast of the Sacrifice. During Hari Raya Haji, the sacrifice of four-legged animals such as lambs, goats or cows is performed to commemorate this event.  The animals are killed according to the proper religious rites and meat is then distributed to family, neighbours and to the less fortunate in the community.

In our kampung the sacrifice of around 10 cows happened outside the front gates of Rimbun Dahan, which occurs immediately after the morning prayers, around 9.30am. Families are dressed in their finest clothes and it is an important community event.  I walked to the front gates of Rimbun Dahan with Gabriel, one of the Asialink dancers here, just to have a peek at the (still live) cows, then I quickly went back inside and busied myself with mundane tasks such as washing clothes at the other end of the property, whereas  Gabe stuck it out and took photos and really bonded with the community. So no photos for the blog from me....I'll leave it to your imagination.

The rest of the week I have been stitching away and taking a few last walks around Rimbun Dahan.
I joked that most people will think this is a horticultural residency rather than a textile one, due to all the photos of plants on this blog,  but those of you who know me understand how inspiring nature is to me and my practice, and that it will all eventually evolve either as textile design, natural dyeing or ideas for sculptural objects. So here are a few more spectacular finds in the Rimbun Dahan garden. This Hibiscus mutabilis changes colour from white in the morning to pink in the afternoon and can turn a deep crimson, depending on the temperature.

Hibiscus mutabilis in the taman sari garden
Also found in the taman sari was this spectacular Dillenia philippinensis which is flowering right now.

Dillenia philippinensis front view
Dillenia philippinensis side view
We have had day after day of terrific thunderstorms which have interrupted internet accessibility and efforts to get out of the studio all week, but on Thursday Claire, Sean, their kids and I all piled into the car on an adventure to experience one of the amazing natural wonders in Malaysia - the firefly colonies in Kuala Selangor. I have wanted to see them for the whole three months since I have been here, as we often have several fireflies flitting about the Rimbun Dahan gardens very late at night.  Occasionally as you are walking up the drive from a late night out, you will think it is animal eyes shining in the dark, or something spooky, and then you realise its fireflies, gently dancing along with the moon in their bellies. So I was really keen to see them en masse.

Fireflies, kelip-kelip in Bahasa Malayu, are not flies at all but beetles which belong to the family LampyridaeYou can seen them in large colonies in only two places in the world - Malaysia and Brazil. There are around 2,000 species in the world, and three species live in the Berembang (Mangrove) trees along the Selangor River. Their bioluminescence is used to attract mates, and is a chemical reaction between  four main chemicals of Calcium, Adenosine Triphosphate, Luciferin and Luciferase in the presence of oxygen, inside their abdomen.  

We left Rimbun Dahan at about 5pm and it was starting to sprinkle.  Over the next hour driving north-west we experienced the worst thunderstorm I've ever been in, but Sean was a diligent driver and with Claire navigating in the front and me amusing the kids in the back we eventually made it to a great seafood restaurant to eat dinner (makanan laut) and wait for the storm to pass. Obviously you can't get in a boat to see the fireflies in the tell you the truth we felt the roads we were driving on were like rivers anyway! Wish we could send all this rain home to you in Australia at the moment.

Unfortunately you cannot use a flash to photograph them on the dark and peaceful journey we took on the battery-powered boat down the river, so I have included these photos from the internet.
We floated quietly down the river and as we rounded a bend we saw many trees on the banks twinkling and pulsating with tiny Christmas lights - the fireflies! A very magical experience for all of us.

And today I had the rare opportunity to walk through the gardens with Angela, on our way to hunt down an orchid which only flowers for one day. These are the Pigeon Orchids, or Dendrobium crumenatum, which is one of the most widespread species of orchids in Asia. Their flowering cycle is triggered 9 days after a sudden drop in temperature, by at least 5.5 °C or 10 °F, such as after rain.
The purse-shaped spurs on the flowers of Dendrobium crumenatum
It is such a rare treat to walk through the gardens with Angela, who not only knows the scientific names of every plant and tree here, but also its indigenous habitat and if it has medicinal or culinary uses. Outside the Rumah Balai where Gabe and Caitlin are living she pointed out this very strange fruit tree.

Cynometra mallacencis or kekatong
The fruit grow directly from the large trunk and lower branches, and once peeled have a lemony-apple kind of taste and texture, although there is not much flesh, as there is a large kernel inside.

With only a week to go here I have reached a milestone with my work - I have just completed the last of the four large naturally dyed, mordant printed, hand-stitched cloths for my upcoming exhibition. Now this coming week can be devoted to some final dyeing from the plants here for my textiles about Rimbun Dahan, as well as hopefully visiting an institution here that teaches natural dyeing, batik and other crafts.  I will post photos of my work next week, so stay tuned!

sehingga minggu depan

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