About Halim

A Singaporean Malay male. 46 years old. Gay. In a relationship.

Painting with GIMP

I enjoyed the experience of creating an illustration with Inkscape so much last week that I decided to also finally give GIMP a proper try yesterday.

GIMP stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program. As the name suggests, it is like Photoshop, the photo editing software. Like Photoshop, you can also use GIMP to create your own artwork. GIMP is free, and is actually considered the best free alternative to Photoshop.

I learnt how to ‘paint’ the landscape above using GIMP thanks to the following tutorial video from an artist and illustrator named Ronnie Tucker on YouTube.

The video is just under 30 minutes, but I took hours because, just like with Inkscape last week, it was my first time trying GIMP to paint so I was struggling a bit. Also, I think some of the paintbrushes used were not available on my version of GIMP. I didn’t want to install plug-ins (additional features) just yet, I just wanted to explore further the basic tools, in this case the paintbrush, so I just ploughed through, following along to it step by step, making many mistakes and adjustments along the way. The effort was worth it as I had a lot of fun! It was fascinating to learn the basic idea of which elements go on first when it comes to constructing a landscape.

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Related:

  • gimp.org
    • To learn more about GIMP and to download it.
  • 40+ Best Free GIMP Tutorials for Beginners (Drawing and Painting)
    • An excellent resource. This is also where I found the Ronnie Tucker tutorial featured in this post.
  • The following video from Chris’ Tutorials makes a great introduction to GIMP, and also demonstrates using a few tools to edit a photograph or image.

Inkscape

I’ve been meaning to learn how to draw and paint for the longest time. The thing with living in a small flat is that there is simply no space for a hobby that will accumulate paraphernalia like paints, brushes, notebooks for sketches and especially canvases, among other things probably. As it is I have already given away so many books over the years, keeping only a few shelves of the most loved novels, the ones which for various reasons hold the most sentimental value. These days I borrow e-books from the National Library.

I’m actually fine with this. I like living in a small space because there are less housekeeping and maintenance. Having to think twice (or thrice or more) before I buy and add anything, including clothes, is something that actually makes me happy. It’s a big blessing in disguise because I believe the best thing we can do for our planet is to buy less, consume less, so we end up creating less trash.

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I discovered Inkscape, the free (free!) graphics software a year or two ago, but never got around to exploring it until recently.

I really enjoyed making the illustration below and I hope it will be a regular activity, a new hobby.

I learnt how to do it thanks to the following video from a YouTube channel called Draw Simple Things.

The tutorial is done in real-time but there is no voice over. The audio is just music and you learn the steps by looking at where the mouse cursor goes. Apparently this is common for tutorials in YouTube because it cuts down the duration of the video. I tend to do 3 things when I watch such videos:

  • The music tends to annoy or distract me, or both, so I set the audio to mute and listen to my own music from another source (haha).
  • Slow down the speed so I can catch the steps better. When you play the video, there is a ‘Settings‘ button at the bottom right corner of the video window, where you can access the ‘Playback Speed‘. I usually bring it down to 0.75 or 0.5.
  • Rewind it often anyway because I’m still too slow and keep missing the steps. Something very useful I just discovered for viewing YouTube videos:
    • To rewind 10 seconds, press J on your keyboard
    • To rewind 5 seconds, press the left arrow key
    • To pause or play the video, press K

The following tutorial by the channel Davies Media Design seems to be similar to the one above, but with its host Michael Davies guiding the viewer step by step. I haven’t tried this one yet.

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Related links:

Origami art sculpture

I came across this charming collection of origami cranes while on my way to meet some friends for lunch in the Tanjong Pagar area.

This installation piece is a ‘community effort’. Sometimes that sort of effort seems a ‘fail’ to me simply because it just looks horrid, and I suspect it’s actually just a low-cost way for some cheap, tightfisted space administrator to fill some space with ‘art‘ (as opposed to paying and supporting a working artist).

I like this one though because it’s cute. I imagine kids have fun going around the poles with delight under the colourful cranes, and it’s certainly ‘Instagram friendly’ because it’s pretty.

 

 

Fast and simple 20-minute workout with dumbbells

I’ve probably said this before here, that I have not bothered to join a gym for years now. It takes me about half an hour to get to the nearest one. So that’s a full hour just for travel. And then if I factor in having to throw in my bag a change of clothes, towel, toiletries, and having to lug around my wet and used workout clothes and towel, especially if I have to go somewhere afterwards, ugh, it’s just too much time and trouble.

If I want to do some cardio, I just put on some running shoes and get out there for a jog. I take about 35 minutes to do a slow jog of 5K. For resistance training (weights with simple dumbbells) it’s so easy to just exercise at home by following a routine on YouTube.

There are so many videos there, for different types of workouts and fitness levels, that if we’re not careful we might end up wasting a lot of time deciding which video to use. Just pick one that looks reasonably suitable for what you want, and stick with it for a couple of weeks to give it a chance. And if you don’t like it, move on to something else.

The best part about working out at home is that you can just do it in any old pair of shorts and t-shirt. There’s no need to worry about looking nice or presentable. You can even be naked, who cares. (But just remember to draw the curtains!)

 

I like this one above because the routine is just 20 minutes, so it’s great for when I don’t have time (and, let’s face it, for when I do have time but am feeling kinda too tired or lazy to do more).

About the workout:

  • It is made up of 10 different exercises.
  • For each, work for 30 seconds then rest for 30 seconds. So that’s 10 minutes.
  • Repeat for a second round. So total time is 20 minutes.
  • The instructor in the video Scott Herman does the entire workout, so you’re guided all the way.
  • There’s a timer shown on screen so you don’t need to prepare your own.
  • Equipment: just a pair of dumbbells (or even just soup cans, bottles of water, etc. Whatever convenient you have around that you can use as weights.)

If you find an exercise is too hard, remember that you don’t have to do the whole 30 seconds each time. Depending on what you can safely do, aim for, say, 15 or 20 seconds, then build up slowly over the next few days or weeks to be able to do it for 30 seconds straight. That’s one way to modify a routine to suit your fitness level.

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Of course we’re not going to look like the instructor Scott Herman working out for just 20 minutes. But even if we are not seeking to build a muscular and ‘shredded’ body like his, it’s important to do some form of resistance training for general good health, with or without weights, regardless of age or fitness level.

You can read more about that online, for example in this article: Why Strength Training is a Must for Everyone.

‘Narcissus’ (2019) by Róisín Murphy and ‘Sing it back’ (1998) by Moloko

I came across again after such a long time, the song ‘Sing It Back’ from Moloko, on YouTube. It was first released more than two decades ago in 1998. I was in my 20s then. Listening to it again now, I thought to myself, “Wow, I remember this song, it still sounds fantastic after all these years.” Not everything in pop culture like songs and movies age well.

So that quickly led to a jaunt down memory lane, which can be dangerous on YouTube because it can suck up hours on end, so I had to be careful to snap out of it after around half an hour or so. But it was fun idling there, tickled pink by some of the other songs I liked so long ago.

Among the other videos I watched is ‘The Time is Now’, also by Moloko, enjoying the song all over again.

While I was listening to the song I read some of the comments, and one said:

Moloko still never got as much attention as they deserved. She is a wonderful singer.

I didn’t notice the ‘they‘ and was thinking, “Totally agree with that. Well, you can not let that happen to the current crop of talented but under-rated singers, by giving them more attention.

Start with this girl Róisín Murphy I saw a couple of times on YouTube. She’s amazing, and hmmm, incidentally she reminds me a lot of Moloko, come to think of it.”

In fact, I quickly realized that in the video for ‘Narcissus’ above, she sounds, and looks, a lot like Moloko in the ‘Sing it Back’ video. And both the songs and both the videos have a great sense of fun and humour.

The more I watched and listened to both, the more I’m intrigued by the similarity, until finally I Googled “Róisín Murphy Moloko” to see if anyone else noticed it. And of course that’s when I found out they’re actually the same person, haha. *light facepalm*

Or rather, the lady is the same. Róisín Murphy is her name. Moloko however is the name of a musical duo, made up of Róisín and her former partner Mark Brydon, that was active between 1994 and 2004.

I was really surprised they were not two different people because it meant she hardly aged, to look really similar to her younger self of 1998, even after two decades. Maybe she’s a vampire or something, I don’t know, (a disco-dancing booty-shaking one) but the face and the body are practically identical.

I also find it so incredibly cool that she’s still singing, and with the same vibe and spirit. Obviously I can’t call myself a fan as I didn’t even know she’s the same person as the singer in Moloko, but I think it’s so great she’s still going strong, doing her thing, putting out entertaining songs still and such fun and humorous videos.

Like this one called ‘Overpowered’, for example. Her outfit immediately made me think of Lady Gaga’s crazy outfits, but this was from 2007, before Lady Gaga’s first single was released the following year.

I really should start listening and enjoying Róisín’s discography and check out her past albums.

Creepy sombre men

So creepy. That was my first thought when I first saw these men. But even then I was drawn to them, these men in their dark, drab suits, lugging their cases and umbrellas like they needed to be somewhere.

But they looked lost. They were just milling about, unable to decide which was the right way. This guy looked like he wanted to ask for directions.

I was a little freaked out, so I pretended not to notice his eye contact and walked on by to get a bit more space between us. That wasn’t very nice of me.

Who were these men? They had obviously walked out from someone’s dream or nightmare but a literal misstep had landed them into the wrong plane. The blinding sunlight was a dead giveaway.

“I’m sorry, I can’t help you. I can barely help myself,” I said to another guy who looked like he wanted to ask for assistance. “You aren’t the only ones who don’t belong here.” I spoke gently, in a low voice I kept from shaking. I didn’t want to be rude. I just didn’t want to talk with him.

I think he understood my growing distress, because like his friend earlier he backed away too.

What a cool water feature. I tried to push my mind away from the men So pretty, the way it cascades.

I turned around and they were still there. I hurried away.

It occurred to me only later that maybe they weren’t trying to ask for directions, they just wanted to offer me some.

Oh well, too late now. I’ve just never been good with strangers. I avoid them like the plague, especially when they make me think of me.

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Related:

Gerard Byrne art exhibition at the Singapore Botanic Gardens

Heading home after visiting the Botanic Gardens the other day, I noticed and was struck by the beauty of some paintings displayed right beside the Bukit Timah Gate of the gardens, the access point located beside the Botanic Gardens MRT station.

'Tropics' by Gerard Byrne

‘Tropics’ by Gerard Byrne, National Botanic Gardens of Ireland, Fine Art Print on canvas, 60 x 120 cm

The artist is a Gerard Byrne from Ireland. I’ve never heard of him because I don’t ‘follow’ art, but I absolutely love the joy and life in the six works I saw. There is an exhibition of his works called Botanical Fusion ongoing at the Botanic Gardens across 3 locations, one of which is the Bukit Timah Gate I mentioned above, since 6th September until 10th November.

According to the NParks website:

Botanical Fusion is a series of works painted by GERARD BYRNE, a Dublin born artist who is one of Ireland’s leading contemporary artists; of modern impressionist style.Titled Botanical Fusion, this is birthed from an artist-in-residence partnership with the Singapore Botanic Gardens and Gerard Byrne, supported by Embassy of Ireland.

 

Info Panel - Gerard Byrne Exhibition

I thought “Damn, how daring to display these paintings outside the garden grounds, along a public walkway, unguarded. What if they are stolen or vandalized?” Or, you know, just touched and generally handled by itchy, oily, sweaty fingers. It turned out they are prints, according to the labels. Still, though. I hope no harm comes to them.

According to the same webpage linked above, a selection of the original paintings completed during the artist’s residency can be viewed at the Nassim Gate Visitor Centre of the gardens.

Gerard Byrne

I don’t know what this one is called because there was no info label I could see. Maybe it dropped to the ground and got lost or something. So very pretty. I especially love the sky depicted.

'Tropical House' by Gerard Byrne

‘Tropical House’ by Gerard Byrne, National Botanic Gardens of Ireland, Fine Art Print on canvas, 65 x 120 cm

'Tropical Jungle' by Gerard Byrne

‘Tropical Jungle’ by Gerard Byrne, Botanical Abstract, Fine Art Print on canvas, 60 x 115 cm

'Forest Flower' by Gerard Byrne

‘Forest Flower’ by Gerard Byrne, Wood anemones blossom, Lublin, Poland, Fine Art Print on canvas, 60 x 60 cm

Forest Flower above is easily my favourite among the six works exhibited at that Bukit Timah Gate location. So stunningly beautiful, and it reminds me of some of my favourite paintings by Gustav Klimt, the Austrian painter known for The Kiss and many other works.  I just love the company of trees.

'Endless Summer' by Gerard Byrne

‘Endless Summer’ by Gerard Byrne, National Botanic Gardens of Ireland, Fine Art Print on canvas, 60 x 120 cm

Definitely have to go back soon to see the other works exhibited at the other two locations in the Botanic Gardens.

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Related:

No.394 Alexandra Road

Adjacent to HortPark is a charming little colonial building that had long caught my eye. Recently I visited the area again for a long walk and was intrigued to see it has now been restored, complete with gorgeous landscaping. So naturally I had to have a closer look.

I adore it, it’s such a sweet-looking house. Here is some fascinating information from the ‘Media Factsheet‘ provided by NParks:

Alexandra Road No. 394 is a colonial house that was built in the early 20th century to serve the staff of the Former States Railway at the height of rail transportation for trade and commerce and emergence of rail corridors in the Malay Peninsula, where Singapore served as a primary trading port. Spanning 0.7 hectares in size, the bungalow consists of a two-storey main building (257.5 m2) and an outhouse (98.03 m2). Owing to its large size, the building was believed to have housed a high-ranking official, possibly the railway superintendent, and his family.

The house was designed in the Arts & Craft style, with its steeply-pitched tile roof and gable wall. Its unique asymmetrical arrangement of architectural features with brick skirting around the base exudes a 1930s country cottage charm. An example of Singapore’s domestic architecture and of buildings and structures tied to Singapore’s rail history, Alexandra Road No. 394 was gazetted as a conserved building by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) on 6 June 2014. The building was restored in 2017.

So it’s now called HortHouse. I would have loved to have a look inside, regardless of whether the original layout of the rooms are still there. No chance to find out if I could, as it was closed that late Saturday afternoon I was there. But that’s alright, I’m just thankful that the building was turned into a facility accessible to the public, instead of, say, a private residence. That would had been made gated and I wouldn’t get to admire it so up close.

A quick check online shows that CUGE, the Centre for Urban Greenery and Ecology, is a division of the National Parks Board (NParks) that provides training programmes and research in the landscaping industry. They also have training venues at the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

View from the back. Really too bad about the selection of this particular design of lamppost scattered around the house, to me it’s just way too minimalist and contemporary.

The landscaping though is just gorgeous, and really complements the dreamy cottage feel of the property. I also love the emerald green of the doors and windows.

For some interesting photos of what it looked like before its restoration just two years ago, click here for a few photos from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).

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Related:

  • URA – Alexandra Road No.394 – History
  • The Smart Local – 10 Queenstown highlights from Singapore’s WW2 era that still exist today.

 

Cloudy with a chance of crystal fabulosity

I was mesmerized by these clouds at the new Jewel shopping mall at Changi Airport, obviously drifted straight out from a fairy tale, looking like they were about to bestow us all with some serious glamour. But since we’re talking fairy tale, the shower of crystal rain would be gentle and in slow motion, glittering serenely and madly all at once. As opposed to cutting and slashing us all to death, that is, haha.

Couldn’t hang around to find out, though. Had to tear my eyes away from the gorgeous sight too soon. I was at the airport to send off a friend. We strolled around a bit earlier to catch in the new attraction, then after he was gone I had to rush to grab the last train back home. Would love to be back soon to admire them again. So very pretty.

Looking at these photos got me thinking just now “they’re gorgeous but how the hell are the maintenance people going to clean those things?” But hey, if they really are supposed to represent dark clouds that are about to unleash rain, then those clouds will just look better with age as they get greyer and greyer over time, haha :-)

 

A visit to the Asian Civilisations Museum for the Raffles exhibition

I saw these ads last Thursday, and recalled reading about how there is to be an exhibition of Sir Stamford Raffles, regarded as the founder of modern Singapore, as part of the Singapore Bicentennial which marks the 200th anniversary of his arrival in Singapore. The eyebrow-raising posters reminded me that the exhibition was to showcase ‘another side of Raffles’, one different and less flattering than the usual narrative we learned about in school.

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But why, though? I don’t understand holding an exhibition on somebody considered a giant in Singapore’s history just to slag him off? Okay maybe not to slag him off but to point out shit he’s done, along with the good, and as the poster says, for us to make up our own mind about things he did, 200 years ago. But why hold an exhibition just to do that? Is he, and for what reason, suddenly on trial in the court of public opinion suddenly after 200 years?

Is it something to do with, or inspired by, the white supremacy or white privilege discussions going on in western countries that are on trend for some time now? They are long overdue and I’m glad they are talked about now, and I hope it’s not just talk but will lead to actual equality for the ordinary regular folk of the world, as vague as that sounds. For better or worse I don’t follow them, though. Not ‘woke’ enough and too busy and blissfully ignorant being sheep I guess, working to earn a living and worrying about my future and living my life simply (working hard. Treating others how I expect them to treat me, with kindness and respect. Ignoring and avoiding assholes and other toxic people. Simple things like that.)

I’m not for or against Raffles but just curious about the point of the exhibition. It’s not like anyone among the public worship him or particularly care about him and put him on a pedestal. Well yes, but just a statue, like any country’s more noted historical figures.

Not to disrespect the dead but I think for most of us he’s just a name in history textbooks, and on some touristy places and things. Do members of the public take history all that seriously, anyway? I don’t think so. I certainly don’t. I think most of us know that history is written according to the writer, the victor, the ruler. So yeah, while partaking in the subject, it’s “wow that’s interesting… so fascinating…“, but once I’m done reading, it’s ‘ok, whatever‘. Back to other things.

I wonder if museums in, say, England hold similar exhibitions for, say, Winston Churchill where they present the bad things he is said to have done along with the good. I have read about some seriously appalling things Churchill had allegedly done, this man said to be regarded by many there as the greatest Briton ever.

I think I’m just annoyed mostly because the posters worked on me. Just two days later on my first day off from work, I went to the venue, the Asian Civilisations Museum. This was yesterday.

THE NEOCLASSICAL BUILDING

I’m so glad I went. It’s such a beautiful building and the museum inside is very well done. I found it very interesting and am now keen to make time to visit our other museums.

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Coming from Raffles Place MRT station, I could soon see the museum which was located on the north bank of the Singapore River. Many times I have crossed Cavenagh Bridge and walked past the beauty, and finally I was going inside. I don’t remember when was the last time, if ever, I had gone in.

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Previously the Empress Place Building, it was completed in 1867. Originally planned to be used as a courthouse, it housed instead government offices until the late 1980s. It was gazetted as a national monument in 1992.

I haven’t visited a museum in years, and the more recent visits were all on holidays overseas, like to Italy or Thailand. Well, last December I did pop into the National Museum here for a couple of hours but that was for a specific and small exhibition organised by the Embassy of Italy. I did not take the time to explore the rest of the museum after that.

When tourist friends and acquaintances visited Singapore, none so far had wanted to visit museums and for many years neither did I think to suggest it to them. I think that was due to me bringing an Italian former friend to a museum here a long time ago, with such pride because I love our National Museum, but the rude bugger was snickering and rolling his eyes at a lot of the stuff we consider old here. That was probably 20 years ago but his assholic behavior probably traumatised me or something because no more museum suggestions to tourist friends since then.

EXPENSIVE

I think I read some years ago that our museums are now free for Singaporeans and permanent residents. I must be mistaken. Imagine my surprise when I was asked to pay S$12 for the exhibition, and my partner Bert who was with me and who is neither Singaporean nor a permanent resident, was to pay S$20. Fortunately the kind lady at the reception, seeing our hesitance, gave us a tip that between 1pm and 5pm there would be a flat rate of $5 for each of us, a special promotion for that day. So we decided to come back a while later for that discount. In the meantime we took a stroll around the beautiful historical area which turned out to be such a pleasure, being a Saturday near the business district area. Very few people around and therefore very pleasant.

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Check out the prices for the exhibition without discounts above. Both Bert and I are working adults with no kids to support and we already balk at the prices. Firstly, how the heck are locals, especially from low-income groups, supposed to be interested to explore our museums when the entrance fee of particular exhibitions are expensive. I myself was drawn to visit one after many years only because of that particular Raffles exhibition. If one is prejudiced enough to say that low-income folks are not interested in museums and other cultural stuff anyway because we are not educated enough, well the high entry fee would dissuade even those with interest to visit.

And what about low-wage foreign workers like our hundreds of thousands of domestic helpers and construction workers. Why can’t we share our museums with them, by having the museums promoted to them and made accessible to them with free entry or a small token fee of a couple of dollars. These people help to build our country, too. Anyone from any economic background, let alone the poor, would appreciate affordable places to visit when off from work, whether they are interested in art or culture in the first place or not, when forced to work in a foreign land just to send money home to families because there is no work in their home country.

And secondly, I remember visiting the Vatican Museums in Rome, which are MASSIVE!, as in MASSIVELY HUGE!, and just about some of the most important and most revered museums IN THE WORLD, for obvious reasons. How much do they charge? According to their Prices and Tickets page, €17.00 for the whole museum complex and the Sistine Chapel, which is like Singapore $26.00. Compare that to the Singapore $20.00 for the Asian Civilisations Museum here for foreigners’ entry. It’s very expensive.

EXHIBITION: “REVISITING THE SCHOLAR AND STATESMAN, RAFFLES IN SOUTHEAST ASIA”

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A portrait of Sir Stamford Raffles greeted the visitor at the entrance of the exhibition. He was 36 when he sat for this portrait in 1817 at the end of his governorship in Java. He was born on 6 July 1781, off the coast of Jamaica on board a ship under the command of his father Benjamin Raffles. At 14 he became a clerk of the East India Company in London, and in 1805 at the age of 24 he was posted to Penang to serve as assistant-secretary.

If you have any interest to learn about the guy, two sites to start with that have short basic summaries of a page each are Encyclopedia.com  and Britannica.com.

The exhibition, which has been running since 1st February and lasts till 28 April, is in collaboration with the British Museum in London. It consists mostly of Javanese and Sumatran objects he personally collected.

The ‘less flattering’ bits highlighted about Raffles vary in severity. For example, at the beginning at his portrait, the guided tour I was on talked about how a sculpture had been painted differently (the actual sculpture the depiction was based on was featured beside the painting), for example, the position of its left arm was different, and so ‘artistic license’ had been taken. That made me go, ‘Huh?‘. Even today when it comes to artistic license, it is taken liberally, like when films based on books are made. Some purists of the book may get angry, and then discussions on the alleged transgressions may be had. So to me it seems like such a stretch to highlight the painting of the statue. UNLESS of course, if according to the religion, Buddhist statues MUST strictly be represented only in a certain way, and the artist failed to do so, then yes I would agree it was wrong.

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A seriously shocking and horrifying thing Raffles had done that I took away with me from the exhibition was when the British invaded Java in 1811.

Reading more about it when I got home, I came across a review of a book called ‘Raffles and the British Invasion of Java’ by Tim Hannigan which included how the British army of 10,000 redcoats and Indian sepoys conquered the Dutch colony.

…They would remain there for five turbulent years. (The) history-cum-biography explores the bloody battles and furious controversies that marked British rule in Java, and reveals the future founder of Singapore, Thomas Stamford Raffles – long celebrated as a hero, a liberal and a visionary – in a shocking new light, showing how he crushed dissent, looted palaces and incited massacres to further his own insatiable ambitions. The book features the dramatic Battle of Batavia, the sinister British expedition to Palembang, the 1812 sacking and looting of Yogyakarta, and various fights between soldiers and civilians, buffaloes and tigers, and Englishmen and Javanese.

Yep, definitely didn’t know that about the guy.

A review of the same book from Toko Buku also said that it:

tells the story of how the British attempted to bring the full force of European colonialism to a tropical island where Muslim sultans claimed descent from Hindu gods.

…Major histories only give the period a few paragraphs at most.

The whole book starts out with the assertion, often heard even by educated Indonesians, that they would’ve been better off if they had been colonized by the British and not the Dutch. …(It) reveals Raffles – long celebrated as a hero, a liberal and a visionary, ‘the last colonialist it’s OK to like’ –in a shocking new light. Indeed, Raffles made for a very strange sort of hero.

This history features the dramatic Battle of Batavia, the sinister British expedition to Palembang, a series of bloody battles between soldiers and civilians, fights between Englishmen and Javanese and a gut-wrenching duel between a buffalo and tiger. The crux of the literary narrative is the clash and deep irreconcilable abyss between nascent European colonialism and the old courtly culture of Java. In an effort to impress the people of Java with the might of British power, Raffles attacked, wrecked, cowed and humiliated Java’s most powerful and influential native court.

Not only did the British break the power of the venerable Javanese kraton, but introduced opium to Java on a large scale, entrenched the position of Chinese middlemen, set up a strong sense of racial separation between the rulers and their subjects and created the concept of extracting maximum agricultural wealth from the island. One of the most enduring myths about Raffles during the strange half-decade that he spent on Java was that he hated slavery. Actually, the man was not an abolitionist and allowed the trade of slaves under the age of 14 and even kept 77 slaves in his own home.

GUIDED TOUR

I was on a guided tour with another 15 or so visitors. It lasted an hour and I thoroughly enjoyed it (and not because it was free-of-charge, haha). From now on when I visit other museums and galleries I will try to time visits to guided tours, if details are available online. The tour I had here was wonderful because my volunteer guide was good and engaging. She wasn’t just rattling off facts in a monotone, but it was more like friendly banter, more like sharing juicy gossipy tidbits with a group of friends. It was fun (despite being distracted by noisy kids at some points) and made the exhibits she touched on come alive a bit, and far more interesting when reading and squinting at their captions in tiny letters later after the tour had ended.

I’m sorry I didn’t catch my guide’s name. I wish I did. She was a middle-aged Chinese lady. My tour was the 1.30 pm one yesterday, Saturday the 30th.

SOME PHOTOS

To close off this post, here are some photos from the exhibition. Sorry some of the text aren’t clear. I’m just terrible with photography, with any camera but especially with phone cameras.

 

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