30 September 2012

Kufi: An Islamic Contemporary Art Movement


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"Art must contribute to the betterment of humanity and it has to be important" quoted by Shukor Yahya, the Kufi Rhapsody

ALAYSIAN DESIGN DEVELOPMENT CENTRE ('DDEC') Design Summit 2012 was held on 24 September 2012. There were many cool presenters at that seminar touching the different aspects of designs such as product designs, computer images, automotive and more. One presenter caught my attention: Mr Shukor Yahya, a true genius in Islamic Art who saw the potential in Kufi.

Shukor is Kufi Rhapsody. Shukor had travelled in many countries including Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, India, Bangladesh, South Africa, Greece, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, England, Wales, the USA, Switzerland and China. With such vast experience, Shukor has developed a profound love for art to the point that he quoted "Art must contribute to the betterment of humanity and it has to be important". When Shukor started painting seriously, he revived the art of Kufi square and quickly earned a reputation for his unique approach in painting. His individuality in style makes many art enthusiasts mesmerized by the contemporary works produced by him over the years.

Shukor shared the history of Kufi. Kufi is a font developed by Timo Khan, son of Kublai Khan, who ruled Samarkhand. The local (Samarkhand) culture back then was very diverse and rich encompassing many interactions between Arabs, Urdus, Chinese, Persians and many more. This exchange gave birth to Kufi whereby cultures of these different people were synergised into a simplified artistic font. Timo later embraced Islam and the rest was history as far as Kufi's development is concerned. It flourished. This history is evidenced by an ancient furniture that was found with Chinese lettering in Kufic style. It was a wonder about which one came first, the Arabic Kufic or the Chinese and how the two cultures had influenced each other to make up a Kufi square.

"Art is the ultimate expression of human soul. It tells the tales long past and dreams the future" quoted by Shukor Yahya, the Kufi Rhapsody

Shukor has now commercialised Kufi. He went further to expand the horizons of Kufi from a simple Islamic Art to product designs such as Caran'd Ache watches. His creativity landed him Eastern Art prizes (Annya Sand Pize) naming him one of the top 15 best emerging artists in Asia. Kufi is unique in that it requires some knowledge for its appreciation. One has to know arabic alphabets in order to read it phonetically. Arabic is read from left to right. This is the same for Kufi except that the left to right goes further spiraling inwards clockwise in the Kufi square.

Shukor is passionate and hopes that Malaysian culture will some day incorporate Kufi to a more pervasive manner. Until then, he will continue to drive Kufi with his sincere passion. He ended his presentation with "Art is the ultimate expression of human soul. It tells the tales long past and dreams the future". To give a final gimmick punch to this all, he cheekily added "Picasso, your time is out. It's Kufi's time now". For those who wants to experience Shukor's Kufi, The National Visual Gallery, Kuala Lumpur, is currently showing the "Power, Hope and Land" art exhibition, beginning from 7th August until 19th November, 2012, at Gallery 2B; featuring some of Shukor's work. Alternatively, you can visit his web site at shukoryahya.blogspot.com

He (Shukor Yahya Kufi Rhapsody) cheekily added "Picasso, your time is out. It's Kufi's time now"




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Ramli Ibrahim Gave New Life to Traditional Indian Dance


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TARIKAN by SUTRA DANCE THEATRE:
Sutra Foundation presents Tarikan. Redefining Contemp Modern Dance from Asian perspective. Date/Time: 29/8/2012 – 2/9/2012 8:30PM – 11PM; Venue: Pentas 2, klpac. For more information: www.sutrafoundation.org.my



AMLI IBRAHIM presents Tarikan, redefining contemporary dance with traditional values. This was what went on in my mind when I attended the Tarikan dance show at KLPac yesterday. I had never experienced an Indian traditional dance show and this was my first. Wasn't sure what to expect or feel, but afterwards, it all makes sense. Being an art advocate, I was obliged to experience the different flavours artists can offer, only to discover that that obligation presented a memorable delightful experience of a First Timer! It was as if I was tasting olives for the first time - mysteriously weird with a pleasant after taste. Let me tell you why.

I love performing arts but traditional dance did not get my attention in the past. My recent encounters with Ramli Ibrahim presented me with the opportunity to understand traditional arts further. In this case, Indian dances. Ramli quoted ".... this is serious art" and I went ".... ya Michael Jackson was also serious". Little did I realise that "serious" means richness in aesthetic value. This (aesthetic value), I find in Tarikan. Ramli was kind enough to extend me an invitation for the show. I thank you (Ramli). I took it upon myself from that point that I should never assume what I'd feel before I actually give myself the chance to experience it (whatever it may be). So for those of you out there who have never experienced a traditional dance show, give yourselves the chance and go for Tarikan at KLPac.

Anyway, the lights went off and a buzzing sound (Hindu/Buddhist style) started getting louder by the second simultaneously followed by defined lighting that gets brighter every second at positions highlighting dancers. And they started to dance. Very gracefully. Moves that you don't think humans can make. It was as if an invisible giant child was playing with a doll flexing the arms and legs in unimaginable directions a human body could do. The dancers were not in traditional Hindu dresses but in contemporary costumes. This was the first departure from my perception of what this lot was all about. At this stage, the moves following the traditional Gamelan tunes were still quite within my expectations of a traditional Indian dance.

Then I realised that the series of dances performed seem to tell a story. You can almost create a story of your own by choosing the different dancers as different characters in your imaginary saga. This is possible because in the ocean of synchronised movements, ad hoc break ups by each dancers performing their unique movements gave character to each dancers. You can almost fit in a love story into the whole set. The choreography further metamorphosed from ethnic-influenced movements into a more passionate, exotic and erotic movements. A hybrid of traditional, gymnastics and contemporary dancing. This added flavour and meaning to it all. Ever watched Philadephia? The scene when Tom Hanks was appreciating the opera song while Danzel was observing him? Yeah! I was Tom Hanks practically - "appreciating".

In the midst of all that anticipated traditional Indian dance movement which was rejuvenated by the contemporary fusion of modern and sensual movements, suddenly, a rocker with an electric guitar appeared by the side! Wow! In my mind, what is going on here? Kurt Cobain just woke up from being dead? The rocker started to strum and play mini solos with distortions enough to preserve the rock elements but yet flowing nicely alongside the rhythms of the Gamelan. The dance moves seem to evolve into an interesting recipe of accommodating the influences of the battling Gamelan and electric guitar. Imagine trying to dance Salsa with a Metallica tune? It's a paradox really. It sounded impossible but hey! Indian traditional dance with electric guitar rocky music elements! It works! Fantastic!

So in conclusion, Tarikan is an eye opener. It is an evolution. An aesthetic value that truly upholds the need to move in the same wavelength with the changing environment. It epitomises the spirit of contemporary art and gives new life to ancient creation. It is simply refreshing. A surprise even. It is creative - Full Stop. Syabas! Ramli and his crew.





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Quit Ciggy


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My boy, aged 7, once said "Daddy, why do you smoke? Do you know that people die because of smoking?" I then remembered when I was 7, I said the same thing to my Dad. He quit. So I quit.

UITING smoking (cigarettes) is not the easiest effort around. For a non-smoker, it may seem a no brainer. For smokers, they suffer beyond words battling against their addiction, their psychological corrupted state of mind and against pleasure that they enjoy. I suppose many bad habits are pleasures in life - to name a few: alcohol, fatty food, carbonated drinks and many more. To give up something that you actually have pleasure in is definitely soul suffering endeavour. It is a puzzling phenomenon indeed. Why did God create these pleasures when they are forbidden? Let's not get into this religious debate right now and concentrate on the "efforts" to quit smoking. But if you must (answer the question), perhaps accept this as a closure for the time being: The cosmic needs to be balanced, Good vs Evil, Ying and Yang,.. and the like.

I smoked cigarettes for 24 years since the age of 13. I tried to quit 10 years ago but lost the battle. Smoking was too good to be sacrificed. What more when you go clubbing and socialise with friends, artists and youngsters. Also when it help calms you down when stressed at work. This year, after running the 10km Standard Chartered KL Marathon, I decided to quit. It was a natural decision. The first 5km of the run was easy but the final 5km was torturing. There was only one reason, my lungs were unfit with capacity limited to the remaining alveolus (not quite sure how to spell this). I had just upgraded my runs from 5km to 10km. I aim to improve further to 21km and hope to climb Mount Kinabalu. None of these can be achieved if I don't expand my lungs' capacity. That will power that I was lacking 10 years ago had found a new recipe: the urge to be able to run and climb.

6 million people die each year due to the global tobacco epidemic, of which, 600,000 will die from second hand smoke. If the tobacco epidemic continues, by 2030 it will kill 8 million people globally

There are many other motivational reasons to quit. Your wife and kids who share the same house with you breathe in the second hand smoke. You expose them to a risky environment. If they get lung cancer, I don't think you can live your life peacefully (mentally) for the remaining pathetic life of yours. My boy, aged 7, once said "Daddy, why do you smoke? Do you know that people die because of smoking?" I then remembered when I was 7, I said the same thing to my Dad. He quit. So I quit. Here, we establish that not only the health of your family is at stake, you own life is at stake as well! Recently I read in an article that the Guinness Book of World Records declared that the rubbish most littered by humans are cigarette butts. With that declaration, smokers not only pollute the air, they also pollute the landscape. Not good for the environment. Conclusion would be: Love your self. Love your family. Love the environment. Love life itself.

Recently I got a pamphlet from the National Cancer Council, MAKNA, that revealed some interesting facts about smoking as researched by the World Health Organization ('WHO'). Some of the facts are:

1. Tobacco use is one of the leading preventable causes of death
2. 6 million people die each year due to the global tobacco epidemic
3. Of which, 600,000 will die from second hand smoke
4. If the tobacco epidemic continues, by 2030 it will kill 8 million people
5. Direct smoking doubles the risk of heart attack
6. Second hand smoke increases the risk by 30%
7. Banning smoking had been proven to reduce threat of heart attacks

It is a criminal offence to smoke in these areas (designated non smoking areas) whereby non compliance can result in fine up to RM10,000 or 2 years of imprisonment

The World Tobacco Day 2012 celebrated on Thursday 31 May 2012 was a platform to train policy-makers and the public to fight against tobacco industry on centre stage to have a better control on the epidemic. Currently the tobacco industry is unwilling to support efforts to fight smoking habits such as the pictorial health warning on cigarette boxes. They even opted to sue countries under bilateral investment treaties that claim the warning is intruding in their branding.

What other ways can we do to stop this bad habit (smoking)? Banning? A study done by the American College of Cardiology published in a journal on 29 September 2009 revealed that banning can reduce threat of heart attacks by 26% which is approximately 15,400 heart attacks annually (in the USA). In Malaysia, banning started in the 1980's and has gradually taken momentum. To date, areas where smoking is banned are: work offices, hospitals/clinics, lifts and toilets, air-conditioned restaurants, public transport, government premises, educational institution, petrol stations, internet cafes and shopping complexes. It is a criminal offence to smoke in these areas whereby non compliance can result in fine up to RM10,000 or 2 years of imprisonment.

In 1604 King James I of England published an anti-smoking treatise that had the effect of raising taxes on tobacco. In 1633 the Ottoman Sultan Murad IV prohibited smoking in his empire

The act of banning smoking is not new. It is only natural that a responsible government ban smoking critically. In the past, many precedent cases suggest that this is not a new battle. In 1575 the Mexican Ecclesiastical Council forbade the use of tobacco in any church in Mexico and Spanish colonies. In 1604 King James I of England published an anti-smoking treatise that had the effect of raising taxes on tobacco. In 1633 the Ottoman Sultan Murad IV prohibited smoking in his empire. In 1590 the Pope Urban VII also prohibited smoking in the Church, followed by Urban VIII. With such regulatory enforcement in place, some smokers still openly reject the ban on smoking in enclosed public areas. Perhaps the police force is busy fighting other crimes such as narcotics and bank robberies?

For years cigarette companies have been claiming that there are no scientific evidence that smoking causes cancer. This can now be put to end. Shocking new research (from the MAKNA-WHO pamphlet) reveals that a specific type of lung cancer many smokers develop comes from tiny tears in their lung tissues caused by microscopic glass fibers, also known as glass wool, found in many conventional cigarette filters. These rips in the soft tissue fuel the development of tumors and cancerous cells due to the constant overload of toxins, namely pesticides, nicotine and ammonia, contained in commercial cigarette smoke.

So you smokers out there. Have I adequately convinced you that you ought to quit smoking? I have used various motivational reasons ranging from hobby to family and from history to scientific discoveries. Perhaps the next step is to seek devine intervention - simply put, no religion in this world allows its followers to commit suicide. Smoking cigarette is, technically speaking, committing suicide. A friend whose wife works at a cancer research organisation once told me "The biological battle when quiting cigarette smoking is only for 2 weeks, after which, there are no more chemical reactions that can cause withdrawal syndroms. Therefore, any craving beyond 2 weeks is just in the mind.". So guys, just try it (quiting smoking). Once you breach the 2 weeks barrier, you should be able to sustain your efforts. I know you can do it - because today, I have quit for 3 months and I feel good!


The biological battle when quiting cigarette smoking is only for 2 weeks, after which, there are no more chemical reactions that can cause withdrawal syndroms. Therefore, any craving beyond 2 weeks is just in the mind






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