© Stephen Eastaugh, 2018. All Rights Reserved.
There is a bar in Kualar Lumpur located 34 stories up on the top of a building. Drinks can be had on the helipad with views of the city and all its funky architectural madness. A fine place for a lychee martini and a farewell to KL. I now work away in a temporary studio in a large but dated hotel in Melaka. A room on the 19th floor with a great view overlooking the town, the Melaka straits and if I look real hard Sumatra. Cargo vessels cruise past as it’s a very busy maritime trade route. I am a little anti-social the past weeks as solitude is sometimes a good friend of mine. Solitude is far from loneliness. An artist tucked away in an isolated cocoon called a studio gets to know solitude pretty well.
I draw and work on paper as I watch interesting clouds called Asperitas undulatas above me. Art is a form of glue that holds us together in some way. Humans are tribal and highly social creatures which means that even as I sit here mulling over ideas and crafty techniques all alone I am automatically and intrinsically connected to others. No person is an island.
The topics that run through my work could be seen as autobiographical and all about me, me, me but I am very much part of other people’s worlds. Wife, family, homelands, peers and friends are all groups I cannot disconnect from and I do not wish to. I certainly often use distance to try and get a better view of situations and travel aids this desire rather well but my concerns, interests and desires are not dissimilar to most people on the planet. Meaning - food, water, shelter, health, love, security, fun and a few other basics. Everyone is not always in tune but we are always related by these basic human needs.
I now tap away on an apple and nibble on a banana, soon I will peel a dragon fruit and then back to creating this salad of words that will spread over the digital vines of the internet. I sow these words with a desire to make a tasty word meal for anyone feeling like a snack and wondering where on earth I am.
Recently I was served a drink in a restaurant in a mega mall in KL that was half coffee and half tea. Yes! in the same cup. Do I look and act so cosmopolitan in style that the waiter thought I would like this blend? Did I actually order that mix? Did the dishwasher get lazy? My confused taste buds were shocked at first but then I gave up and drank it as I realized I needed liquid after walking for hours in very high humidity. I reminded myself that I have been known to consume other very mongrel or cross-cultural treats like - Lychee martinis, tandoori pizza, salted chocolate, durian coffee and watermelon curry so why not a little cup of Cofftea? In fact; what is not mixed these days in our global, mobile world where cultures continually collide and interact? Here in Melaka there are bits and pieces of many cultures that have been, gone, returned and blended over many centuries; Malay, Portuguese, Dutch, British, Chinese, Nonya, Indian, Japanese, Indonesian, Arab, Vietnamese, and the new massive flow of tourists that come from all over the planet. I enjoy the simmering smorgasbord of cultures especially when there is no bloodshed involved. I believe I watch a possible ok future when I stroll through these constantly changing cosmopolitan zones.
The modern state of Malaysia is a masala of cultures. A land busy trying to unite many elements under one flag. An increasingly old style of Islam, an unhealthy dose of corruption and the enormous pressures of the modern global world make the chore very difficult. To meld the bling of rabid consumer beliefs with an ancient monotheism will not be easy I feel. There is also environmental impact to consider. Nevertheless, the population races forward in all directions and along the way damage will be done. I just read that in the year 2016 there were 6706 road deaths, making Malaysia the 17th most dangerous place in the world to use a road. I hope that those who drive the country are not as insanely reckless as those travelling about in the traffic.
This morning I looked in the mirror and saw a sort of fluffy monkey or was it a veteran backpacker eating a banana with a very shaggy beard wearing a stained journalist vest with far too many pockets and zips. The beard I wear is far from the current hipster fashion as it is all white and reminds me more of my Polar experiences than a love for recent urban cultural trends. Am I permitted to be a backpacker at my age? Time to discard the ruck sack? Do I need to upgrade my facial fashion, my luggage collection and my rubber shoes that look like Dutch clogs but were designed in New Zealand and made in Vietnam? I better do some fine tuning on my well-worn style but first I must move to another continent.