Thursday, November 6, 2008

Abang Li

I would like to dedicate this story to Kak Teh of Choc A Bloc Blog. It was Kak Teh who had been egging me on to blog about Abang Li which I mentioned in passing in my previous blog - The Old Cinemas of Pasir Mas. Kak Teh revealed that she did her thesis on Cinemas for her Master's degree, so I guess that is the reason she is anxious to find out more on anything that is related to the cinemas. Am I right Kak Teh?
Actually it was Pendita who sent me this URL and asked me to look into it. It was the blog whom I believe to be owned by a Kelantanese who came back for the recent Hari Raya holiday. Read more about what he wrote here.
Passing by Kedai Lukisan Ramli at Arked Mara was a common activities for me as I went to buy things like fish or vegetables at the pasar near to the bus stand.
Kedai Lukisan Ramli

For those who are not familiar with Pasir Mas, we have three pasars here. The main one is of course the one across the railway line opposite the railway station. The one near the bus stand is the second one and more often referred to as Pasar Mundok by the locals. The third one is supposed to be the pasar borong and is located by the riverside which is out of sight to most people who passes by the town of Pasir Mas.
I have often seen the painter doing banners of the old kind, you know the one using white cloth as the material. I had seen a couple of paintings too but since I never saw him doing the actual painting himself I just presumed that he was only doing it as a part time job

Abang Li multi tasking while doing a banner.

It was only after reading mfaka's blog concerning him that my curiosity to know more about him was aroused. After asking some friends around town who had never left town, they told me the man is affectionately called Abang Li and he was the artist working at Panggung Geroda or Gerda as the locals call it.
One fine day I went to interview Abang Li.I started by asking him about the art pieces around the shop and Abang Li opened up immediately. He said he was in the business of making banners of the old kind but the coming of computer generated banners at affordable rates has been slowly and surely chiseled his business away. Making banners is now becoming a minor business activity. Painting seems to be the one that is his bread and butter now. Abang Li is unable to join the high tech bandwagon of making computer generated banners due to the high capital outlay and above all he is computer illiterate and presume it to be too difficult to learn at the current age of 65.
Ramli Idris was born in Sungai Pinang, Kampung Laut, Tumpat just across the Kelantan River from Kota Bharu. At the age of 10 Abang Li went to live with his sister at Kampung Buloh Melintang, Kangkong Pasir Mas. There he attended Sekolah Rendah Kangkong when it was still made of wooden frames with bamboo plaited walls and attap roof. Yours truly attended the same school in 1957 but most probably Abang Li had left the school by then.
It was at this school that Abang Li learned his art lesson from the famous artist by the name of Chegu Othman Kangkong. I still remember reading Chegu Othman's comic about the 'Bah Besar di Kelantan' (Big Flood of Kelantan) which was known as Bah Air Merah (Flood of Red Water). Another of his comic was about Tok Janggut the great Kelantan Warrior who fought against the British(Some descendants of Tok Janggut resided in Kampong Kangkong). Chegu Othman is still living in that village after retiring from teaching.
So it is now established that Abang Li learned his trade from an old master who dabbled in arts of various mediums including water colors, oil paints and chalks.
After finishing his standard 6 in Kangkong Abang Li returned to Sungai Pinang. At a young age of 17, he returned to Pasir Mas to work as the resident artist at Panggung Geroda Pasir Mas. At the cinema, Abang Li was later given many tasks beside painting extra props to attract patrons. I distinctly remember his work of making the big gun that was mounted on a small lorry that went all over the district to announce the screening of The Guns of Navarone. Abang Li also sometimes double up as the the announcer and throw away pamphlets which children like me will run to collect them from the roadside to distribute them to the elders.
Another task that are often done by Abang Li at the cinema was to sell tickets. He mentioned that his brain became so adept at calculating the total cost of the tickets when several were bought by a single patron and the exact change to give to his patrons, he often wondered how he managed to do it without much mistakes and the money and the tickets sold often tallied.
After Panggung Geroda closed down Abang Li went to work at Panggung Rex. When that cinema closed down too Abang Li was out of job.
Sometimes in 1978, Abang Li went to Medan Indonesia to see how the artists there do their work. He had been wondering how on earth they could do it and sell each of them for around RM6.00. He told me the painters there paint 30 pieces in one go moving from panel to panel. That is the trick.
Abang Li needed a place to work and he found a small shop at Arked Mara at a rental rate that he could afford. Since now he needs a licence to operate, Abang Li used the name Kedai Lukisan Ramli to apply a licence whoch cost him only RM30 a year.
Mfaka bought a painting from Abang Li. When he asked his friends to guess the price of the painting, many guessed it to cost from RM200 to RM700. Depending on size, Abang Li sells his work around RM50 for a 2ft by 4 ft work. I asked him to do one for me of a waterfall which he copied from a poster hanging on his wall. He is charging me RM50 for it and the frame cost me another RM40 which was done by a frame maker a few doors away. I will be collecting the painting today. Abang Li never sign his paintings but for mine I asked him to sign it. I have yet to see how he signs it though I have seen how the painting looks like.
The painting Abang Li is doing for me will loook like this.

You maybe wondering why Abang Li is selling his paintings so cheaply. Well for starters Abang Li paints on plywood panels of 2 mm thick and uses ordinary paints not the Goyas or Artists that come in tubes that may cost several ringgit a tube. Expensive paintings are drawn on canvass. Abang Li found it hard to work on them as he said they are too soft and difficult to work on. Well now you know the differences and thus the reason why Jaflam will not mind paying RM10,000 for a piece of art or Pakpayne will buy a painting of a cockerel on ebay at 1000 Dirham.
The situation in small town Pasir Mas is such that the market can only absorb paintings that are priced within the range offered by Abang Li.
A yet to be finished job.

A completed job up for sale.

Higher priced paintings will only sell if art connoisseurs from other states are willing to come and buy. Maybe the Pasir Mas art scene may change if true blue Pasir Mas artist Fauzan Omar who is lecturing at UNIMAS will come back to paint in laid back Pasir Mas after his retirement which I guess will never happen as has has not come back to Pasir Mas for a long long time. Maybe the 40th year reunion on 27th December 2008 may see his foot prints in Pasir Mas again?
The mention of Abang Li in my previous post has rekindled the memory of another son of Pasir Mas who is now residing in Australia since 1969. He has this classmate of the same name and asked me if Abang Li could be the same Ramli Idris that was his classmate in Sultan Ismail College in Kota Bharu from 1967-1968. I did a check and found out that his Ramli Idris was the late Dr. Ramli Idris who passed away last year. Dr. Ramli Idris had a clinic somewhere in KB Town.
The son of Pasir Mas who is residing in Australia had been cut off from his other relatives in Malaysia. His uncle had been asking his friends in Kota Bharu should any of them knows of his whereabout. Thank Allah. In the process of looking for his friend the artist, I managed to get the contact number of his uncle, thanks to the help of a mutual friend.
Blogging certainly helps to bring people of the world together. God has his ways of determining how people will reconnect lost ties again.


Kak Teh said...

Zawi, thank you so much!! I did just a unit of cinemas in SEA and SEA on screen for my MA - so, really not much as I did syaer for my dissertation.

The story of Abang Li is so interesting and I cant believe that the newspapers have not found him.
There cannot be many people like him left and his experience and contribution to Malaysian cinema must be documented, while he is still alive.
and his teacher - cik gu othman kangkong was also well known? these are the legends of continue.

and once again - thank you.

Zawi said...

Kak Teh,
Sorry for my ignorance about such things as thesis and dissertation. I never had the opportunity to experience them myself.
Maybe such people as Abang Li do not carry significant news value compared to other artists whose work will be sold at a certain reserve price. Hopefully stories by bloggers such as mfaka will make him better known among lovers of paintings who cant afford expensive paintings from the work of Ibrahim Hussein or Latif Mohideen. For such people paintings by Abang Li will be good enough to grace their walls.
I consider Chegu Othman Kangkong was the early story tellers via cartoon of note. He used Jawi to tell his story.

Sang Kelate said...

Abe Awi:

Thanks for your writing abt Abe Li, hopefully one day we can go and see him together in P.Mas.

Kelantan has produced so many great artists like Khalil Ibrahim Yusoff Abdullah, Mokhtar Ishak, Yusuf Sulaiman, Nik Zainal Abidin,Ismail Mat Hussin dan Wan Ismail Wan Jaafar.

I am indeed very lucky to collect a few paintings by Yusoff Abdullah who was my father's uncle (but i was really stupid for not buying more of his paintings - The most treasured one that I have is the batik painting about mini tsunami in Changgong Bachok -(done a few days after the event in 1967)

One of his oil painting is currently hanging at the departure hall (upstairs-waiting area before boarding the plane-the big one abt Kelantan culture) in Pengkalan Chepa Airport.

Last month I was at the library at the back of Petronas gallery in KLCC and happened to be told a story by one of its stuff how an ex diplomat told him that he did saw Ismail Mat Hussin's painting was hanged in Bill Clinton's office.

I do envy Dato Kapt Jaflam who does collect Kahlil Ibrahim's work. I tried to persuade my late 'Ayah Soh' to sell one of Khalil's oil painting but he refused it was Khalils gift to him.

An avid collector of the works some Kelantan born artist is Henry Bong the founder of 'Koleksi Pucuk Rebung'(the shop is located on 3rd/4th floor of Suria KLCC.

I am sorry that I look a lot of space in yr comments section today since I was really bored spending my night here in Guangzhou. Will only be back in KB on 11th Nov and will try to give u a call so that we can go out for coffee.

Do you still keep some of the works by cikgu othman kangkung?

Sang Kelate

Akmal said...

So beautiful painting, RM40 only? Aiya, mana lagi nak dapat kat atas dunia ni?
Bak kata mfaka, if he is to have his gallery at central market, tak menang tangan ni.

Zawi said...

sang kelate,
I will be too happy to take you to see Abe Li. Maybe you can give him some advice on how to improve on the quality of his paintings so that he can get better income from his effort.
I am so happy to read your lengthy reply because it contains so many facts that I haven't managed to find. The names of the famous Kelantan artists is a case in point. I may have met Khalil Ibrahim himself when he was painting with Raja Azhar at Perhentian Island Resort in 1995. At that time he was painting landscape using water colours (Does he do water colours?). So Yusoff Abdullah is your grand uncle. At least you have one of his best work then. I will visit the airport soon to photograph the oil painting that he did. To know that an Ismail Mat Hussin's painting is hanging in the office of Bill Clinton speaks volume about our artists quality of work. We are often awed by the works of foreign artists but never value our own peoples work. I won't be surprised if it was a Latif Mohideen's work but this is Ismail Mat Hussin!
It is right for your "Ayah Soh" not to part with his Khalil Ibrahim's piece as it was a gift to him but you better make sure that you buy from his children otherwise that masterpiece may just vanish when collectors who knows about it start hunting it down. Datok Jaflam collects art pieces as an investment and he knows what to collect. He is wise to choose Khalil's works since it is of known quality.
Now that my interest in art is rekindled, I will visit Koleksi Pucuk Rebung to see Henry Bung's collection.
What are you doing in Guangzhou? If you have time please get me a pen drive with the capacity of above 8 GB. Things are cheap there. Will pay you online right now if you could just tell me the amount. I have yet to go to Guangzhou and would love to go there one day as it is the business capital of China.
Actually I haven't collected any art pieces. The only oil paintings that I have is from a French Friend who gave them to me as a token of our friendship. Sad to tell you I don't have anything from Cikgu Othman Kangkung. I will take you to meet him when you are back from China. After the 12th will be fine with me as I will be coming back from Gua Musang on the 12th. Maybe you can commission Cikgu Othamn to do a piece for you. He is old but the last time I met him he was still in the best of health.

Zawi said...

Are you interested in paintings? If you are we will get him to do a piece for you. Upon my insistence he started signing his work. You can even have the one he did for me as my wife can't seem to find a space large enough to hang a 2 x 4 ft painting. The painting is already framed so it costs RM90 now. Still cheap as valuated by mfaka hehehe.
Abang Li is comfortable where he is now. Thanks to all this publicity by mfaka, I think his business is picking up albeit slowly. His four children aren't picking up after him so he will be the last painter in the family unless his grandchildren follow suit.

cappuccino said...

salam ziarah abe awi..nice org pasir mas duduk di meranti..suke baca blog abe awi ntp loni ade kt sheffield..tgk kedai ne ingat zmn2 dok ulang alik naik bas balik asrama kt sek.faris petra dulu2..slalu ngintai2 kedai ne dr jauh jah..

salam dari sheffield, england

Azmy Omar said...


If you were to ask Abg. Li about another artist who helped him at Geroda theatre... it would be Wan Ali. He was the uncle to Suhaimi Hussien our classmate. Together they drew large posters of the current movies being screened then.

By the way, yesterday November 6th at about 10:00am I met Ah Ho the ticket seller at REX. Still walking barefooted, he walks rather slowly and stops once in a while but otherwise still healthy. I managed to talk to him. He is a little hard on hearing but still OK. He is not staying in Kg. Kasar but around Ibrahim Hussein's (Ebhus) house near the river.

True...If Abg. Li was to get more money for his painting, he must change the medium for his art.

Good piece, See you.

Zawi said...

Terima kasih kerana mengunjung. Suka hati Pak Zawi mendengar anak-anak diperantauan yang terkenang kampung laman mengimbas kembali peristiwa semasa di PM. Jangan lupa juga melawati My Pasir Mas - The Land of The Golden Sand yang lebih merupakan berita-berita mengenai P Mas.
Sila kunjung lagi ya.

Zawi said...

Tuan haji Azmy,
I am quite surprised Abang Li didn't mention about Wan Ali as being his co artist at Panggung Gerda. Maybe it was because Wan Ali stopped being one quite early as I remember by 1968, he wasn't involved anymore. I remember Suhaimi telling me that his uncle was an artist at the cinema too.
Yes I know where Ah Ho is now located after I made inquiries in Mekasar a friend told me that he is now working somewhere next to Cheng Motor not far from Pohon Chelagi.
As to Abang Li, he is within his comfort zone at the moment. His 4 children are all working so I guess he is happy with whatever he is making at the moment. He lives frugally and at the rate he is painting (and selling) I would say he is living a comfortable life. After all one doesn't need much to live in Pasir Mas. All the more so if one doesn't indulge in a life of luxury.

U.Lee said...

Hi Zawi, I love that padi field sunset scene.
Old days I used to love and admire paintings by Hussein, known as the man with the golden arm.
Well posted this, Zawi.
Have a great weekend, Lee.

Zawi said...

Did you mean Ibrahim Hussein? He is the one who has an art gallery in Langkawi. If you have one of his pieces, you are holding a fortune. Another one is Khalil Ibrahim. Another great painter from Kelantan. Someone mentioned that his work hangs in the office of Bill Clinton.


elo uncle. my hubby sure will love tis entry :) he's into arts, mb once we return we'll pay abe li (or shud i adress him uncle li) a visit...
btw, we r leaving soon, 13/11 to be exact. finally, the family will b reunited again. the lil one's sooo excited!

Zawi said...

little dewa,
Please come over to Pasir Mas. We will visit Abe Li together.
I am happy to hear he is coming back. The little one will definitely be very happy.


he's not coming back, not yet done wit his pursuance... instead we r gonna join him there :)
we'll return 2011 year end, or mb early 2012...

if u happen 2 visit indo, do leave a message @ my comment box, we'll b more than happy 2 entertain u :)

Zawi said...

little dewa,
Sorry for the misunderstanding.
InstaAllah, I will inform you if I get to visit Indonesia again. We are contemplating visit Jogja one day. Could be next year.
Take care and enjoy the reunion.

Anonymous said...

assalamualaikum,Pak zawi,ambo lamo jugak dok kije d bangunan MARA P.Mas,sekitar th 19800an,rajin benar dok gi bual dgn Abe Li tu,kalu Pak Zawi ingat kedai gambar Puji Colour Foto,tokey dia Wan Sulaiman, tapi dia dah meninggal, arwah ni lamo dok kije dgn Seni Budi,skali dgn Wak Sir,
ambo de tengok cerita BOBBY tu teket samah,masa tu ambo darjah 6,ado promosi harga teket d sekolah
ambo sekolah d sek keb,seberang Pasir Mas Salor...

anisz said...

pak zawi,
mfaka tu pelakon filem budak kelantan... sangat real dia berlakon..mengalahkan danny

Zawi said...

Terima kasih la kerana menginjung. Ambo tak perasaan pasal Arwah Wan Sulaiman tu. Nanti ambo tanya Mat menngenai dia dan arwah Wak Sir. Berminat juga nak tulis mengenai arwah Wak Sir.
Sempat tengok Bobby teket rego samah? Best tu.

Zawi said...

Saya dah agak begitu juga tapi kerana saya tak mengikuti filem tersebut saya tak dapat confirm. Nanti saya akan cuba tonton cerita tu dan tengok bagaimana hebat lakonan mfaka.
Terima kasih kerana menceritakannya.

jebatiejan said...

teringat jugok maso sekoloh mulo..
habih sekoloh, naik bas dari Lemal g ko Pasir Mas, tempat lepok, Kedai abe li ni la saloh satunyo. Makan mee celop kedai belakang stesen bas..
Lepas tu baru balik Lubok Kawoh..

jauh dok tempat org, cari makan

Memori tu takkan berulang lagi walau pon ia terlalu manis..

Pak Zawi said...

Terima kasihlah kerana mengunjung ke blog yang telah lama tak update.
Kalau pulang singgahlah di kedai Abe Li kerana dia masih lagi beroperasi.
Selamat berpuasa.

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Pak Zawi said...

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