| Documentation by Koh Maan Lin |
26 September 2020, 11am - 2pm
At the start of the workshop, everyone sat in a circle and introduced themselves, starting with Nhawfal and Valerie, who were the facilitators for this workshop. Nhawfal then asked the participants about their memories of Geylang, and there was a lot of consensus that Geylang used to be very “unsanitised”, due to the presence of gangs and the high crime rates. One of the elderly, Fauzi, recalled a time when he saw someone on the street fully naked while doing drugs, and Rifie, another elderly participant, agreed and said he had witnessed many gang fights too. Majmin had a strong memory of going to the market as a child and wanting something very badly, but not being able to get it because her father would not buy it for her. She was also sad that many of the old buildings were gone and the architecture is no longer recognisable to her. Because of this, she lost the sense of nostalgia for Geylang. Nhawfal also shared that though he did not grow up in Geylang, he used to belong to a gang who had regular meetings in Geylang. Iskandar then briefed the participants on the day’s activities, and showed them the textiles that were worked on during the previous workshop, and told them the stories behind each textile. These textiles would then be used to wrap the benda, or objects, offered by merchants from Geylang Serai in the next workshop, and the individual packages would be used in the final performance.
The participants were then allowed to choose the textile that called out to them the most. Somehow, many of the participants chose the textiles that were responding to their soundtracks - Majmin chose Norlisa’s textile, Anwar chose Liyana’s textile, and Firdaus chose Umairah’s textile. It was an almost magical moment for Iskandar and I because we had been attending the workshops from the start, and to see it all come together like this without the participants even knowing was so powerful. The moment really embodied the idea behind 7kalibah, which was the passing on of intangible things like sentiments and memories from person to person through physical objects. Afterwards, the participants broke off to make markings on the textiles individually. Fauzi and Anwar both started painting on the textile immediately, whereas Majmin had decided to sketch out her design on paper first. Rifie kept saying he didn’t know what he was doing, but Iskandar told him that as long as he trusted the process, he would find a direction eventually. Firdaus took some time to consider what he wanted to do with the textile he chose, and had a discussion with Iskandar and Bai about the meaning and emotions that Umairah had put into the textile. The participants continued to work on their markings for about an hour, and Nhawfal, Valerie, Iskandar, and Bai checked on their progress from time to time.
Once everyone was done, Nhawfal and Valerie invited the participants to share about their work and the meaning behind it. Firdaus went first, and he painted a green and gold circle around the thread that Umairah had stitched onto the fabric, as well as some arabic words which represent the soul in the sea of the universe, and the 3 realms in the Islamic world. He wanted to demarcate the small stitching using green to pay respect to Umairah and her mother, and green represents the prophet - all these motifs were in line with the theme of life and death that carried across from Firdaus’ soundtrack to Umairah’s textile to Firdaus’ markings again. Majmin went next, and she painted the scene of her experience going to the market and her father refusing to buy her something she really wanted. She also painted rain all around the scene to represent her tears and sadness at that time. Rifie wrote terms of endearment on Seha’s textile, which was very sweet and endearing because Seha’s work represented her grandmother’s tough love and harsh words, but Rifie mellowed it out with words of love - showing that the love between family members is undeniable, even though they might not show it in the best ways. Anwar, who studies visual arts, made a beautiful painting on Liyana’s textile by following the pattern that was already on the fabric. The paint was like sand and water flowing around the flowers. Lastly, when it came to Fauzi, he admitted that he just painted whatever he liked without thinking much of symbolism or meaning. He just knew he wanted the cloth to be square, so he cut it, and painted symmetrical geometrical markings on the textile.
Once the sharing was over, the facilitators started cleaning up the supplies. The participants took photos together and of each other’s works and split for the day.
Disclaimer: As much as we will attempt to record the process, this journal does not necessarily reflect the artistic direction or intention of the work. This is our interpretation as we experience it with the artists and collaborators.