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Sunday, 19 November 2017


Yang diwariskan oleh seorang guru bukanlah kebijaksanaan akal utk menunjuk2 pandai, tapi belas-ikhsan dan kasih-sayangnya terhadap ilmu yg membawa kesejahteraan manusia.

Ini petikan dari blog entry saya yg lepas. 


The term ‘guru’ or ‘sifu’ reverberates with a sense of reverence in me. My father was a guru. Despite his vast experience, he used to humbly remind me, “I can teach you how to read the Quran, but only Allah can open your heart.” How true (for me), especially NOW.

My late father also used to advise me, “Hasnul, chose to be a lecturer.” He uttered the advise despite knowing (and acknowledging) how much I love to engage in many forms of creative practice. I chose to become a lecturer partly to honour him. Yet I continue to engage in creative practices. Later in life, I came to realize what he was trying to imply – knowing, making and teaching the arts are complimentary parts of ‘living’ and ‘being’ the arts.  

I have a deep respect to those who deserve to be revered as a guru like my father, and other gurus who have been highly instrumental in opening the path of my journey into the arts. Even the annoying ones, in retrospect, should be respected, because they came into my life for many reasons, some of which might not be apparent when they appeared. 

We are all connected, remember. Mental-emotional relations between humans are far more complex and intertwined in a complex web of quantum interconnectivity, beyond all the superficial boundaries that we can normally politicised, intellectualized and discoursed.

Underneath all the bragging, politics and dramas of charting a career path, is the cycle and lineage of guru-disciple that needs to be respected, honoured and revered, regardless of whether one is a superstar full-time artist, an angry man, Mat Rock pencen, a public servant, a bureaucrat, a renegade, a professor or not (yet).  

Today, such a revered cycle of guru-disciple that forms a lineage of teaching-learning has at times being obscured by other more populist discourses and immediate forces of contemporary art practice, especially those driven by the ebb and flow of the art market. 

At times, I felt as if the ground underneath is shifting beyond the ‘rule of play’ that I’m used to. It makes me ponder the fate of the early generations of artists-gurus especially in honouring the significant roles that they have played in laying the foundation of visual arts education in Malaysia.

Let us retrace. 

The writings of Syed Sheikh Al-Hadi around 1920s, Lim Hak Thai and Nanyang artists in 1930s, Abdullah Ariff and A.B Ibrahim, Peter Harris and Specialist Teachers Training Institute (STTI) in 1950s, writings by M.Ashraf, Abdul Ghani Hamid, Adi Mas dan Abdul Kadir Ahmad in 1950s(2), Tay Hooi Keat and Penang Art Teachers Council in 1950s, Syed Ahmad Jamal, Anthony Lau, Yeoh Jin Leng and the Malayan Teachers Training College at Kirby in 1950s, Jolly Koh, Redza Piyadasa, Sulaiman Esa and Hornsey College of Art in 1960s, Ismail Zain and Slade in 1960s, Malaysia Institute of Art, School of Art & Design, ITM and Kuala Lumpur College of Art in 1960s, all these can be considered as key figures and institutions that formed the historical and theoretical grounding for visual arts education in Malaysia. One can also trace the cycle of guru-disciple as well as the lineage of teaching-learning through these key figures and institutions, and how they have critically influenced the successive generations of visual artists.(3)  
The successive and linear tracing of teaching-learning lineage may have been further diversified by the offerings of visual arts programmes in local institutions of higher learning, with their own interpretations and versions of visual arts education embedded in their syllabus and curriculum. The teaching-leaning lineage has bifurcated into various trajectories, forming a web of multi-dimensional and interconnecting influences. Today, numbers of visual arts lecturers with Phds have increased, though I am not sure whether such increment indicates rise of quality artists-gurus.     

Yes, we can brag about our success stories, degrees we have collected, accolade, awards, purchased and collected works, successful solo show, strong collectors and followers, big house complete with a studio, workshop and gallery, fancy cars and so on. We can even belittle those who have chosen to dedicate their life to teaching. Or we can demean them by implying that they can’t survive ‘in the real world’. I’ve witnessed several stolen souls who like to demean their ex-teachers/lecturers such way. Sadly, even teaching itself has become a ‘profession’ quantitatively measured by KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) that may have very little to do with being a ‘guru’. No surprise there. After-all, we are living in a competitive age that stresses on not only ‘getting’ and ‘having’, but also ‘appearing’ and ‘showing’, especially on the internet.
Yet, true success for me begins with pacifying and calming the ripples (or even tsunami) of our own inner-net, in order to see our ‘true reflection’. Only a real guru can help us pacify and calm our ripples, open our path and guide us in seeking our true reflection. Ya I know, I sound like an ustaz, couldn’t help it, my late father used to be one okay.

Let us honour and revere the cycle of guru-disciple and the lineage of teaching-learning that have shaped us to become who we are NOW, and every NOW in our life.

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