Last Monday, December 1, 2014, will forever be etched in my mental and emotional database as one of the most precious and special days in my life. It was a beautiful day indeed.
I was kindly invited, or 'given the honor' to be an official witness for a 'nikah' (marriage) between two very special individuals, Leila and Mustaffa, at the Registrar of Muslim Marriage building, Singapore.
I had been to many marriage ceremonies before, but never as an appointed witness. For the first time in my life, I had my signature on a marriage certificate of a married couple. Proud of course. And ya, I felt 'old', even though I would like to think of myself as a proud brother, rather an 'uncle'.
It was a very simple and private ceremony, attended only by another witness (Mustaffa's ex-boss, mentor and friend, Ahmad Mashadi) and two friends who came to take photos. There was a room, with small elevated plinth and two chairs at one corner, about three rows of chairs (maybe for family members), and a table with two chairs for signing of some documents and the marriage certificate. The 'kadi' came in, very polite and professional, gave his instruction, short sermon and conducted the ceremony in clear and perfect English. Two very dear friends of mine are now officially married, husband and wife. Syukran, and congratulation!
One of the blessings of life is to be the witness of love and union between a man and a women. To witness such love is to be a part of higher cosmic energy that connects all of us. The connection cuts across all the superficial boundaries that we normally use to hide our own insecurities. The 'connection' cuts across not only race and nationality, but also, in today's age of globalization, across oceans. This is so true in the case of Leila and Mustaffa.
Mustaffa is from Sri Lanka, while Leila hails from Iran. Mustaffa has been for the past few years based in Singapore, and is currently working as a curator at the National Art Gallery of Singapore (NAGA). Leila used to be a graduate student in USM, Penang, Malaysia, where she received her Masters of Visual Art and Design. She is currently based in Penang.
I was blessed to be part of their 'synchronicity', or how they first met. They met during a conference that I coordinated at the Museum & Gallery Tuanku Fauziah, USM Penang, under an unofficial banner of University Museums Network, Southeast Asia (UM-NET). Mustaffa was invited to present a paper, while Leila was one of the participants. Two souls , one from Sri Lanka, another from Iran, met at an unsuspecting place, Tuanku Fauziah Museum & Gallery, USM, Penang. That would be one of my best KPI's. Who would guess? Subhanallah.
I came to know Mustaffa from several visits to NUS Gallery where he used to work as a curator under his boss then, Ahmad Mashadi. We also met several times during UMAC (Universiti Museums and Collections) conferences in Shanghai and Singapore, Curators' Forum in Kuala Lumpur, as well UM-NET (Universiti Museum Network, Southeast Asia) in Manila and Penang. I suspect, Penang has been Mustaffa's 'third home' so-to-speak, for the past few years. True global citizen and migrant professional indeed. I admire his writing flair, his sharp insights, his grasp of difficult as well as current theories and concepts, and mostly, his curatorial works when he was with NUS Museum. His inventive curatorial approach towards 'archival' materials, especially in deploying them together with modern and contemporary art objects as means of instigating new readings of historical 'artifacts', are 'delicious'.
Leila for me, is one of the best graduate students that the newly offered mixed-mode Masters in Visual Art & Design program, by the School of the Arts, USM, has produced. Her project and written thesis are truly inventive, taking a 'road less taken', especially in regards to converging 'ambiance advertising' with 'public sculpture' and 'social commentary'. I've seen few other projects done by the following masters students, most of which didn't manage to reach the level of 'difficulty' that Leila had set. I am proud to have her as one of my students (actually there were only two students) in my 'Convergence of Art and Technology' 400 level class, which I think is now 'defunct'.
I wished I could make a documentary on such 'cross-cultural' union between these two special individuals. Perhaps I should (and could, insyaAllah). Ceremonies will be organized in Tehran, Mumbai and Sri Lanka, I was told.
To Mustaffa and Leila, thank you so much for the honor, and for generously sponsoring my flight and accommodation. I have never been given such an honor before, so u should know how deeply-touched I am. Thank you also for the delicious Arab lunch. Sorry for not bringing anything, for I am rather clumsy with schedule, dates and appointment since taking myself off from several 'duties' for the past one year. That's not an excuse anyway. I owe u both a gift, perhaps I may deliver when both of u are in Penang.
I am forever honored and blessed to be the witness of your union. My prayer for both of you, may both of you have a wonderful life together.