A Journey to the Heart of Malaysian Culture
In January 2006 a small team of British film-makers led by Yasin Salazar and Louis Caraz and with the help of Citi Yousoff documented a young British artist named Adam Williamson, embark upon a journey to learn techniques of indigenous Malay wood
carving. The cultural encounter is the first episode in a potential future series,
in which Adam will travel to five other locations throughout the world
including the study of Totem Poles of Native American tribes, ceramic art of North
Africa and textiles of Central and South America. The first
step on this journey began in Malaysia’s Kelantan province.
As a relatively new nation incorporating aspects of Asian and European cultures, Malaysian indigenous crafts such as batik, songket, and woodcarving are given crucial importance as a cultural anchor. Indeed, they forge a link between the dynamic reality of a fast-evolving modern polity and the early civilizations of the Malay Penninsular. Malaysian material culture, and wood carving, in particular, ranges from lone master craftsmen dedicated to the pursuit of creative excellence and mastery of the traditional, to large-scale industry that utilizes machinery and modern techniques of the twenty-first century. The enduring relevance of Malay culture in the modern setting is easily recognisable to a foreign visitor observing a traditional wooden façade, adorning a bank at the heart of Kuala Lumpur’s futuristic commercial district.
The documentary was filmed with the help of 'Kandis Resource centre' and Citi Yousoff who translated and orginized this association. 'Kandis Resource centre' have sought to preserve and cultivate the traditional practice of the master wood-craftsmen of the developing region of Kelantan.
In Kelantan Adam undertook two apprenticeships in remote villages surrounded by ancient jungle. The first was under Norhaiza Noordin, and covered a diverse range of complementary wood carving techniques, the second was under Hij Nik Rashiddin, who taught him how to carve keris, the hilt of ceremonial weapons. The importance of relative isolation of these artisans respective locations has ensured the preservation of the spiritual, and continuing importance of the esoteric nature of their craft.
The aesthetic beauty of their ancient technique is preserved only through the strict adherence to traditional techniques, and also through the continual evolution and originality of the artist’s experience.
Adam’s journey served as an arena, a microcosm, in which the wider aspects of Malaysian culture where explored, and the function of craftsmanship and art in its broader cultural setting.