Category: Architecture & Design, Sketchbook & Notebook Series, Travel
Located on the island of Borneo, Sarawak is Malaysia’s largest state, and home to a multitude of ethnic groups with rich and colourful material cultures. Its unique history as the land of the ‘White Rajahs’ means the state is also where one can find a varied architectural landscape: great colonial edifices stand alongside longhouses and handsome modern buildings.
Kuching, designed around the city’s lifeblood that is Sarawak River, is a showcase of colonial architecture, with Fort Margherita and the Astana vying for the title of ‘most photographed building’. In the Iban heartland, the simpler but strategically placed wooden forts are a living legacy of the ‘White Rajahs’, while along the coast, the traditional Malay fishing village and the Melanau tall house reflect the ability of Sarawak’s ethnic groups to adapt to their natural environment. In Miri, Sarawak’s ‘natural’ archictecture is the highlight, with the mighty pinnacles taking centrestage alongside great offshore petroleum rigs.
Artist A. Kasim Abas captures these many and varied scenes with brilliant swathes of watercolour and subtle pen-and-ink drawings. Accompanying the vivid illustrations are handwritten notes by the artist, which offer insight into the various structures depicted. Peter Kedit illuminates the whole with introductory chapters that cover Sarawak’s history and its cultural and structural backdrop, thus making the book a captivating read.
A. Kasim Abas, born in Port Dickson, Negeri Sembilan, is a documentary artist working primarily in ink and watercolour. His work reflects and records Malaysia's cultures through a study of its architecture, wildlife, plant life and material culture. Originally a teacher by profession, he became a full-time artist in 1992. Since then, he has had several solo and group exhibitions in Malaysia, Singapore, New York City and Washington DC.
Peter Kedit is the former director of the Sarawak Museum and was also its curator of ethnology. A respected researcher, he conducted a human ecological study of the Penan living in Gunung Mulu National Park as part of a Royal Geographical Society expedition, and has spent time as a research scholar at the Centre for Southeast Asian Studies at Kyoto University, Japan, and The Research Centre for Society and Culture at The Indonesian Institute of Science, Jakarta. His extensive knowledge of Sarawak's various ethnic groups has also put him on the lecture circuit, and seen his involvement with a number of papers and publications including 150 Years of the Anglican Church in Borneo 1848–1998.
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