First Impressions

Posted on September 19, 2013


So, we have arrived and survived our first week in Malaysia with flying colours. As we left the Kuala Lumpur airport after our very early journey from Bali, we were greeted by the Malaysian humidity and the warmth of a friendly smile from Bilqis Hijjas. Biliqis is the co-ordinator of the dance residency program at Rimbun Dahan and our main contact during our time here.

After a 45 minute drive, we arrived at our home for the next three months. Rimbun Dahan is a 14 acre property located in Kuang, outside Kuala Lumpur. It features several visual art spaces, a dance space, artist accommodation, a main house, buildings designed by owner and a top Malaysian architect Hijjas Kasturi, an underground art gallery, traditional Malay bungalow houses and a lush, indigenous garden.

Our house is the Rumah Balai, a very cute studio style cottage. Complete with hand-carved four-poster bed and huge cupboard as well as an outdoor Jacuzzi (cold water only so great for a refreshing soak!). It felt instantly homely and we settled in quite quickly.

Most of the week was spent getting our bearings, setting up house and making preparations. We met the other artists currently in residence here: Sean and Claire with their two children Jonah and Astrid live in the Penang house opposite us. They are Australian installation and sculpture artists here on a one-year residency; Carlo Gernale is a Filipino visual artist coming to the end of his three months here and is heading home to exhibit his work; Julie Ryder is an Australian textile artist who is about half way through her three-month Asialink residency; and Sabri Idrus, a Malaysian visual artist undertaking a one-year residency who divides his time between living in the Studio Apartments and his home in KL. We are really looking forward to getting to know everyone, sharing experiences, meals (perhaps a gin and tonic or two) and learning about their practices.

Of course, high on our priority list, places to eat: There are lots of great local places, giving us the opportunity to experience the people, food and culture around us and also practice our Bahasa Malay. Our favourite discovery so far is probably Roti Canai, which is similar to naan but much lighter, served with fish curry. In total, for the both of us, it costs about $3.30 AUD. We have also learnt that eating with your hand, only the right, can be challenging to begin with.

Sean took us to a local night market with lots of fresh produce and cooked delights. We bought some prawns, Rambutan and Longan. We sampled some Nasi Lemak and an array of sweeties including Apam Balik, a folded pancake with a corn, sugar and crushed peanut filling. Everything was delicious, which is not surprising really considering most things contain sugar, bread or have been deep fried (or all three).

Inspired to dive head first into this new colourful cultural experience we decided to make a day trip in to KL. We were very thankful to go in with Julie who helped us to learn the ropes, getting familiar with trains, monorails and some local hotspots. We managed to find our way/stumble upon, Little India for dinner. The whole street is adorned with colourful archways, flower threaders, henna artists, and filled with the smells of incense, food and the sounds of Bollywood.

This all sounds like a lot of play and not much work, but don’t fret, we have spent a lot of time in the studio too. We have been working on our current 10 minute version of uncommon ground, which we will be performing on Saturday (the 21st) at Dancebox. We have been focused on getting this back into our bodies and although we are a little more damp in this humidity it feels great to get moving again! A perfect way to end our first week.

We have a few more stories to tell, but we will save them for next time.

Thanks for reading! See you soon.DSC00991

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