New Kwong Weng Watch Shop

Opposite the mini stadium in Renggam, Johor, there is a row of antique single-storey wooden shops, New Kwong Weng watch shop inconspicuously situated among them for almost nine decades. As its light blue metal shutters slowly open, various grandfather clocks, mantel clocks, and wall clocks come into sight, the regular rhythm of ticking clocks bringing peace to the mind. This historic watch shop is the only place for traditional watch and clock repairs in Renggam, the 2nd generation successor master Chong Lin Kiam is hailed as “Clock and watch doctor” who rescues timepieces. Countless clocks and watches came back to life under his able hands, and there often are clients from Kuala Lumpur or even Singapore who send their collection of luxury watches for repair.

About 40 years ago, master Chong succeeded the shop established by his father in 1932, adding a “New” to the original shop name “Kwong Weng”. The senior Mr Chong used to be a farmer in China who lost his hard-earned savings during a locust disaster in the 1920’s, therefore he moved overseas to make a living in Johor Bahru. He learned the trade of repairing clocks and watches from his fellow hometowner who conducted him to Malaya, and moved to the rapidly developing Renggam by coincidence, setting up his own shop on the busy main street, in a row of the earliest buildings in Renggam town. The narrow space behind the shop which used to be a storeroom was turned into lodgings after being rented by the senior Mr Chong, who brought up several children with this mere trade.

In the earlier days, numerous estate managers and foreign business owners gathered at Renggam, having great demand for clocks and watches repair services, back then there were 2-3 watch shops in town including Kwong Weng. Despite the Japanese occupation of Malaya, the business of watch shops was not affected. The Japanese soldiers were honest and paid up promptly when they sent their watches for repair, only threatening the watch repairers with their weapons upon receiving poor service. Having cautiously operating for over two decades, the senior Mr Chong finally received a trade license from the British colonial government in 1955, as well as another zinc license plate from the Malaysia government in 1975, both well-maintained to date, as master Chong hung them in the shop in honour of his father’s hard work and toil in entrepreneuring.

Master Chong has been helping his father in the shop since teenage, gradually fathoming the mechanical principles of clocks and watches, subsequently inspiring an enthusiasm in repairing them. According to master Chong, beginners should start learning to repair alarm clocks which have larger parts, only switching to repairing watches after grasping the basics and becoming adept. Various tools available in the shop are heirlooms from his father, whereas the array of old spare parts were procured from outstation associates, as some of the watch shops conformed to the changing times to sell electronic watches therefore selling off obsolete mechanical parts. Even though electronic watches are trending, the unique charm of mechanical watches expand their value for collection, watch repairers who are savvy in mechanical principles and have exquisite craftsmanship are particularly sought after. Master Chong’s son also became a watch repairer under his influence, and is now working in the repair department of a luxury watch shop at Kuala Lumpur.

The process of disassembling, cleaning, repairing, and reassembling a luxury watch puts patience to test as well as time-consuming. Fortunately master Chong who has over 50 years of experience in watch repairing still has sharp eyesight and agile hands even though he is nearly 70 years old. Sitting in front of his workbench wearing a loupe, he steadily grips the tweezers, carefully arranging the petite parts on a small white tray, closely inspecting every single detail, striving to find out the exact problem to restore the watch’s functionality and accuracy. Among the luxury watches master Chong often repair are Rolex, Panerai, Omega, Longines etc. Their structures are complex and delicate, the original mechanisms might be accidentally fragmented. Therefore he often purchased European watch magazines to study their technical innovations as well as polish his own skills.

Helmed by two generations, its craftsmanship passing down to the third, New Kwong Weng watch shop stood witness to the changes in watchmaking technology over the years. Quality is upheld by dedication in reviving the heartbeat of mechanical clocks and watches. Watch repair skill is a timeless legacy, allowing mechanical devices to continue measuring time step by step.

Text: Daniel Lim & Pua Hui Wen

有你 UNI Production
Producer : Mok Yii Chek
Coordinator : Daniel Lim
Cinematographer : Amelia Lim / Evon Pang
Drone : Daniel Lim
Video Editor : Amelia Lim
Production Assistant : Michael Lerk
Music : Just Stay

COPYRIGHTS 2020 ECHINOIDEA SDN BHD

Attap Roof Weaving

Originating from Kuala Kubu Bharu dam, the 110-kilometres-long and winding Selangor River flows through Kuala Selangor into the sea. Under the blazing sun, on the riverpath along Kampung Kuantan in Kuala Selangor, Uncle Jamaluddin bin Zakaria could be seen paddling a small sampan against the tides, slowly approaching the stifling mangrove forests, starting his day’s gathering job.

Two types of palm tree leaves are usually gathered by Uncle Jamal: Daun Nipah and Daun Sagu/Rumbia. Nipah leaves, also known as Attap leaves, are gathered from Nipah trees which grow in humid swamps, measuring 2-3 inches in width and a few feet in length. Also from the palm family, Sagu trees grow on the shores, with tall tree trunks and narrower but thicker leaves. These two types of leaves are local roofing materials gathered by Malay forefathers. Having good air permeability as well as dispelling heat, attap roofs are suitable for the equatorial climate, commonly used within Malaysian communities.

Upon arriving at his destination, Uncle Jamal ties his boat onto the wooden stump, taking out his parang knife for mandatory sharpening. Having been induced by his parents to this traditional trade since a tender age, Uncle Jamal has decades of experience in gathering, obvious from his adept actions in cutting down sheaths of leaves. Firstly, he stands two pieces of stem vertically to mark the collection point (Celung in Malay). Then, he separates the leaves piece by piece from both sides of the sheath. As the leaves pile up, he peels a fine strand of fibre from the sheath to make a natural rope, to tie up the heap. These skills are mastered and inherited by Uncle Jamal’s family for several generations, demonstrating ancient wisdom in utilizing natural resources.

Uncle Jamal then carries the pile of leaves to unload onto his sampan, and makes his way back with the receding river tides. On the other hand, 65-year-old Aunty Zainab binti Daud sits underneath the tree shades in front of her house, surrounded by Attap leaves and ropes, her nimble finger movements showcasing decades of weaving skills. Aunty Nab arranges and folds Attap leaves neatly onto a thin and long bamboo stick with her left hand, while threading a rope through the two layers of leaves with her right hand. Moments later, a piece of shelterable Attap roof is born under her deft hands.

Since childhood, Aunty Nab followed in her parents’ footsteps, being in charge of both gathering and weaving Attap leaves during her youth, hence she is proficient in the whole process of this traditional folk skill. In the olden days, forefathers ripped Bemban trees sheaths into fine strands to be used as ropes in weaving Attap roofs. As more forest grounds were developed, at present Bemban trees are almost extinct, being replaced by bamboo ropes or plastic ropes. Now that Aunty Nab is getting old in retirement, she still weaves Attap roofs in her free time as a side income. The majority of her life is interwoven with Attap leaves into a brilliant tapestry.

Similar to a giant-sized comb, the woven Attap roof requires one to two weeks of sun-drying. Neatly layered onto the roof beam, a canopy combining both natural and artistic elements is built. Although Attap roofs are durable and appealing, they require regular maintenance, as well as major replacement every few years. Therefore, sturdy and practical materials such as zinc and tiles gradually replaced Attap roofs. However, the lack of air permeability led to a stuffy interior. In this light, Attap roofs still have their unique attractivity, being constantly in demand. Recently trending homestays and themed restaurants employ Attap roof designs to create a sense of rural nostalgia, enabling tourists and customers to experience rustic culture, as well as embrace Mother Nature. Attap roofs are once again in the limelight.

Attap and Sago leaves used to be commonly found in the forests, alas they are increasingly hard to find in recent years, Uncle Jamal needs to travel far away to collect sufficient leaves to cater for orders placed. The development of forest grounds directly impacted the natural growth of plants, and he is forced to enter even more secluded areas to gather. Back to the shores of Kampung Kuantan, there still are 3 to 4 Aunties skilled in weaving Attap roofs who are all over 60 years old, yet persist in weaving 50 to 60 pieces of Attap roofs daily. Perhaps some years later, this centuries-old skill will fade away.

Text: Daniel Lim & Pua Hui Wen

有你 UNI Production
Producer : Mok Yii Chek
Coordinator : Daniel Lim
Cinematographer : Amelia Lim / Evon Pang
Drone : Daniel Lim
Video Editor : Amelia Lim
Production Assistant : Michael Lerk
Music : Dreamland

COPYRIGHTS 2020 ECHINOIDEA SDN BHD

Sang Lee Ironsmith

In the row of shops on the main street of Simpang Renggam, two ancient wooden shophouses stood out among numerous cement shophouses. Within the wooden shophouse on the left, charcoal ash could be seen floating in the air, alongside with the raucous ringing of hammering iron and sparks flying. Sometimes the ironsmith Mr Lee Sek Seng could be heard playing the erhu or singing folk songs. This is Sang Lee Ironsmith, ran by master Lee with about 60 years of experience, forging sharp and durable knives for the townspeople, as well as playing melodious music on the erhu. His shop name implies prosperity from making iron knives with unrivalled sharpness therefore being the king of shops, such is his expectations when setting up shop. The rustic original interior and furnishings are well maintained over the decades, the mottled plank walls bearing witness to master Lee’s toil in life.

The smithing process is tedious, involving hammering the iron into shape in front of a forge blazing at high temperatures, therefore the prerequisite of being an ironsmith is good physical strength. 75-year-old master Lee is as fit as a fiddle, conversing in a lively manner, playing the erhu or singing during his free time to relieve stress. Master Lee is born in China, following in his father’s footsteps to make a living at Malaysia in 1958, picking up the trade of ironsmithing together with his elder brother. After serving eight years of apprenticeship, he set up his own shop when he was 25 years old, having market foresight to settle down in Simpang Renggam where the fast-growing local agricultural sector brought upon demands for iron tools.

Common tools which master Lee forged include palm harvesting sickles and curved rubber tapping knives. Coincidental with the advance of pineapple plantation in Simpang Renggam, he tailor-made three types of special tools to suit workers’ requirements —— long knives for slashing the tapered pineapple tree leaves, short knives for harvesting pineapples, and bullet-shaped digging tools for planting pineapple shoots. According to the workers’ description and requirements, master Lee manufactured lightweight and suitable tools so that they could perform their duties with ease. These special tools attracted workers from neighbouring regions such as Pekan Nanas who purposely came to purchase.

Music is an inseparable part of master Lee’s life, be it erhu or singing, he never gave up pursuing his interests. He learnt the basics of erhu from his father, and actively joined the Chinese orchestra organized by Simpang Renggam Welfare and Sports Association. Even though the orchestra inevitably disbanded due to constant loss of members, master Lee keep on practicing. Concurrently he is one of the founders of the Simpang Renggam Song Club. Passionate about singing, he sings Hakka folk songs inspired by those sang by hometown neighbours during his childhood. Being without opportunity to receive professional guidance, he attempts his own adaptations, showing his passion.

Mastery in ironsmithing and music is not gained overnight, but through experience acquired over the years. Master Lee’s attitude towards life is full of enthusiasm and patience, consistently learning and improving himself. The clang of hammer striking iron, sentimental erhu melodies, and canorous folk songs harmonize together in the symphony of master Lee’s life.

Text: Daniel Lim & Pua Hui Wen

有你 UNI Production
Producer : Mok Yii Chek
Coordinator : Daniel Lim
Cinematographer : Amelia Lim / Evon Pang
Video Editor : Evon Pang
Production Assistant : Michael Lerk
Music : Moondrops

COPYRIGHTS 2020 ECHINOIDEA SDN BHD

Aw Pottery

Driving along Federal Route 1, the oldest highway in Peninsular Malaysia, while passing by Machap, an eye-catching colourful castle-like building stands at the roadside. Both its interior and exterior are ornamented with vibrant ceramic pieces arranged in floral designs, a gorgeous restroom offering convenience to travellers passing by on their long journeys. Established 70 years ago, Aw Pottery Studio occupies about an acre, ceramic products are sighted everywhere, in the garden, restroom, workshop, till the showroom, the entire site is full of artsy feel.

Mr Albert Aw is one of Aw Pottery Studio’s current proprietors, his father the late Mr Aw Eng Kwang being the founder. Born in a family of potters, the late Mr Aw mastered the family trade as well as the architecture of wood-fired kilns from a young age. As he migrated southwards from TeoChew to Malaya during World War II in search of a living wage, he chose to settle down in Machap which has rich clay soil. Utilizing the abundant natural resources and his own skills, he built a pottery kingdom alongside the spectacular restroom with brightly-hued ceramics.

The range of colours projected on ceramic pieces are not from the clay itself, but a vitreous substance applied on the surface of unburnt earthenware. The glaze is made up of various minerals mixed together at a certain ratio, and then brushed onto the semi-completed ceramic ware. After the kiln firing process, the glaze will be fused onto the ceramic. Glazing is crucial in adding colour as well as increasing density in order for the ceramic to be more durable and attractive. On the other hand, unglazed ceramics such as flowerpots are porous, allowing water and air movement through the sides of the pot. Initially, the glaze was made from wood or rice bran ashes, nowadays powdered feldspar, limestone or granite are used with the addition of chemicals to lower their melting point. The mixture of different minerals result in different colours after chemical reactions during kiln firing.

In coincidence with the rubber industry spurt in Peninsular Malaya back in 1949-50, Aw Pottery Studio started out manufacturing ceramic latex cups. Ever since, the pottery studio developed into supplying multi-coloured ceramic ware to restaurants and hotels. At its prime between 1960-70, Aw Pottery Studio employed up to 200 employees, working together in an orderly manner. Having the upper hand, the late Mr Aw exported ceramic ware overseas, at the same time gradually shifting the main production line into China due to considerations in environment and other factors. Furthermore, the entire family emigrated to the United States in the 80’s.

Apart from his commitment in advancing the pottery industry, the late Mr Aw was also a talented sculptor, having joined and organized exhibitions in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. His artworks are being exhibited in museums, among them his masterpiece, the bust of Tunku Abdul Rahman. In remembrance of the late Mr Aw, his daughter Miss Aw Lee Lang set up a museum in the studio grounds to showcase his remaining sculpture works, including a replica of his masterpiece.

At present the Machap studio is still in operation, however business is not as good as before, and even facing staff shortage, only a handful of senior staff remain on duty. A few years ago, Mr Albert’s youngest sister Miss Aw Lee Lang returned to Malaysia to restore and rebrand Aw Pottery Studio, promoting ceramic works as well as offering opportunities for the general public to experience hands-on pottery lessons where they may bring their handicraft home.

From utensils to artworks, Aw Pottery Studio’s journey of transformation depicts the innovative spirit across two generations in their pursuit of living culture and beauty. Through making pottery, one may slow down their hectic lifestyle to relax, finding pleasure in creating pretty and functional ceramic ware using their own hands. Succeeding their late father’s passion in pottery, the second generation of the Aw family revived Aw Pottery Studio to restore its former glory.

Text: Daniel Lim & Pua Hui Wen

有你 UNI Production
Producer : Mok Yii Chek
Coordinator : Daniel Lim
Cinematographer : Amelia Lim / Evon Pang
Drone : Daniel Lim
Video Editor : Amelia Lim
Production Assistant : Michael Lerk
Music : Angels Dream

COPYRIGHTS 2020 ECHINOIDEA SDN BHD

Fang Hui Coffee Shop

Peninsular Plantation Pineapple Estate at Simpang Renggam was pioneered in 1954, by philanthropist Tan Sri Lee Kong Chian under Lee Rubber Co (Pte) Ltd (formerly known as Nam Aik), cultivating up to 400,000 pineapple plants on over 6,000 acres of land. Pineapple planting was among the main source of income for the population in the area, during the 60’s economic boom, hundreds of plantation workers were being employed, not only local villagers but also labourers brought in from neighbouring regions. At the crack of dawn, as workers make their way to work via the narrow mud road, they inhale rich coffee scent wafting from Fang Hui Coffee Shop located within the plantation.

Being the largest scaled pineapple estate of the nation, the owner of Peninsular Plantation took efforts to make sure that workers from outstation could live at ease in this remote land, hence allocating part of the plantation land for building hostels, a school, temples, and shops, shaping a small yet complete neighbourhood. With their welfare being well taken care of, most workers are willing to settle down and secure work in the plantation while living in a helpful and harmonious community.

Among the two rows of old shops in Peninsular Plantation, Fang Hui Coffee Shop has been in operation since the pioneering of the pineapple estate, managed by two generations of the Wong family for over half a century, without being sold. The shop name “Fang Hui” literally means coffee aroma wafting throughout the plantation. 61-year-old Wong Swee Wan is the second-generation heir, who grew up and spent the better part of his life in the coffee shop operated by his father, from being a student to getting married and having children, he relied on inherited coffee-making skills and the shop in raising his four children.

The smooth and rich Hainanese coffee is made using pure white coffee beans specially roasted by Uncle Wong’s friend, processed without the addition of condiments such as butter or sugar. The homemade kaya sandwiched between crispy charcoal-toasted bread is personally cooked with care by Uncle Wong on his weekly day off, promising the best taste and quality. Regular customers could order takeaway coffees in metal tins instead of common plastic bags, which is an amusing sight. Apart from that, Uncle Wong also sells fresh fruits such as pineapples and guavas in his coffee shop.

Unlike most coffee shops in town, Fang Hui is situated within the plantation, not likely to be passed by unless going in or out of the pineapple estate. Initially the coffee shop catered for staff to have tea during their break time, familiar plantation supervisors show up daily regardless of the weather. Now that there are fewer Chinese workers and more foreign workers, other shops either close down or sell-off, however the coffee shop operation is not affected. To date, Fang Hui retains its simple and traditional style and features, for instance the original signboard with 60 years of history, as well as rarely seen classical heavy wooden plank shutters which Uncle Wong and his wife need to cooperate to move them aside one-by-one during opening, then place them back during closing.

Take a seat in the classical shop front, take a sip of the Hainanese coffee made by Uncle Wong, savour not only the rich aroma but also the unique sensation of life in the plantation.

Text: Daniel Lim & Pua Hui Wen

有你 UNI Production
Producer : Mok Yii Chek
Coordinator : Daniel Lim
Cinematographer : Amelia Lim / Evon Pang
Drone : Daniel Lim
Video Editor : Michael Lerk
Production Assistant : Michael Lerk
Music : Happy Memories from FeltMusic

COPYRIGHTS 2020 ECHINOIDEA SDN BHD

Yuen Choon Rattan

Utilising raw materials available locally, amid semi-completed and woven rattan products, long, thin rattan strips are neatly arranged on the floor. In the workspace, 80-year-old Grandma Lai Ah Moi attentively weaves rattan products using both hands and feet. Chop Yen Choon in Simpang Renggam, Johor, is the originator of the local rattan industry, operated by Grandma Lai and her husband Mr Chua for decades while raising their children. The old Mr Chua passed away 3 years ago, his son Chua Boon Ho succeeded the rattan workshop, while large and complex items are crafted by an Indonesian lead worker with more than a decade of experience.

In the 1950’s, pineapple planting was initiated in Simpang Renggam, thus derivative industries blossomed, such as pineapple processing manufacturers, iron smiths, and rattan weaving. Due to strong demand of rattan baskets during harvest in the pineapple plantations, the local rattan industry developed rapidly. From hand-carried baskets in the earlier days to baskets being worn on the back nowadays, pineapple plantation owners order thousands of rattan baskets annually, being a long-term regular customer of Chop Yen Choon. The rattan industry in Simpang Renggam flourished in the 70’s to 80’s, woven rattan products were being widely used in all sorts of trades. For instance, the extensive usage of rattan dustpans besides being a daily necessity, breeders can use it to scoop chicken droppings, while construction site workers can use it to scoop sand and soil. Since rattan products were greatly sought after, local housewives weave rattan products during their free time for side income. Even though plastic products then gained popularity and gradually replaced rattan products, customers still prefer the better flexibility of rattan dustpans.

Grandma Lai and her husband took over the rattan workshop from their brother-in-law 40 years ago, she was also a rubber tapper therefore she weaved rattan in the afternoon upon returning home. Without receiving any proper training, she took apart rattan products woven by others in order to research and gain insight on how to weave, putting in painstaking attempts to acquire this self-taught skill. Initiating a business is always challenging, when Grandma Lai first started selling rattan products, she went door-to-door convincing others to purchase her rattan dustpans at RM1.50 and rattan baskets at RM6. The amount of efforts she put in were greater than revenue, it was difficult to make ends meet, however she did not ever think of giving up. She continued to strive, working hard together with her husband. Their business improved, employing dozens of workers during its peak.

Under the influence of his parents, Chua Boon Ho mastered the basics of the rattan industry from childhood. Afterwards, with familial support, Boon Ho and his brothers went outstation during their youth on a journey of learning and broadening horizons, venturing into different industries or even starting their own businesses. Thanks to the stable operation of their parents’ rattan workshop, the Chua siblings have sufficient time and space for progress beyond, therefore Boon Ho truly appreciated the solid endeavors of his parents. Due to their advancing age, Boon Ho decided to return and take up the family business. Demands for traditional rattan products dropped over changing times, declining business volume and lack of staff are among the dilemmas which Boon Ho overcame. In honour of relationships over decades since the previous generation, Boon Ho did not implement drastic price increments, he simply maintains breakeven without causing financial burdens to his clients. Being brought up by weaving and selling rattan products, the affection of familial bonds aspired Boon Ho to share and spread the precious experience and knowledge inherited from his parents, transforming rattan products from daily necessities into decorative items, so that younger generations still get to recognize and admire rattan products.

In the historical trail of Simpang Renggam’s development, pineapple plantation and the rattan industry are closely interwoven into magnificence showered by laboring sweat. Sweet remembrance of his late father entwined like rattan vines, Boon Ho thankfully gives back to his parents’ nurturing grace, persevering to sustain the family-run rattan workshop.

Text: Daniel Lim & Pua Hui Wen

有你 UNI Production
Producer : Mok Yii Chek
Coordinator : Daniel Lim
Cinematographer : Amelia Lim / Evon Pang
Video Editor : Evon Pang
Production Assistant : Michael Lerk
Music : Morning Dew from SerenityStudio – Youtube

COPYRIGHTS 2020 ECHINOIDEA SDN BHD

Liong Yu Barber Shop

Along with the snipping sounds of scissors, cascades of hair fall onto the ground, the barber deftly maneuvers a pair of small scissors, cleanly clipping from beside the ears, in front of the forehead, and the back of the head. In a row of half-century old shops situated near Simpang Renggam Wet Market, spot Kedai Gunting Liong Yu with clear glass panes on its wooden walls and door. The interior of the shop is simple and inelaborate, consisting of two barber chairs which are over 50 years old and all sorts of barber tools, among these a wooden plank used for elevating children on the seat, unchanged since the opening of the shop. However the traditional manual hand cutting method using scissors is replaced by electrical shears.

Traditional barber shops are commonly found in small towns, with an economical modest price, offering honest service ranging from half an hour to one whole hour. It is entirely different from 15-minute speed haircut shops found in shopping malls which offer convenient and fast service for city folk leading a hectic lifestyle. In recent years, branded hair salon chains blossomed, with ornate interior furnishing and advanced equipment, hair stylists on duty all graduated from vocational colleges. Besides hair wash, cut and blow dry, they also offer services such as dyeing, perm, hairstyle design, and even hair treatment and nail decoration, at a startling exorbitant price. In comparison, customers of traditional barber shops enjoy a more substantial service, not only obtaining a neat and clean hairstyle, there are also additional options such as facial hair removing, beard trimming, as well as earwax removal, an exceptional service rarely seen in barber shops.

83-year-old Master Yu Yee Kong still has eyes like a hawk, carefully performing earwax removal by the dim lighting of a yellow light bulb, with antiseptic liquid and a set of tools made of silver consisting of an ear pick, extraction forceps, and ear rake. In the case of accidental injuries, silver tools would not cause infection. Mr Yu has been performing haircuts on up to four generations of local residents, he is especially eloquent when talking about the barbering industry and the treasurable tools used. Among his regular customers, there are some whose father brought them for a haircut since childhood, till now they work overseas and still visit his barber shop whenever back in their hometown. At present, the main customers of Mr Yu are local Malays and Chinese, mostly of the older generation, just a handful of children.

Reminiscing his life as an apprentice at Singapore in his teenage years, Mr Yu endured financial hardships with his constant persistence, working hard throughout his 18-month apprenticeship. In the earlier days where there was a lack of job openings, by picking up a skill Mr Yu mastered a trade which enabled him to work independently and support himself financially. Back then barbering was one of those rare jobs which does not require hard labour, no exposure to extreme weather conditions, able to generate a stable income and address essential needs. Often moving around since he started working, Mr Yu came across an opportunity to establish his own shop in his hometown. The original price list during setting up shop in 1968, a piece of calligraphy by Mr Yu’s friend, is well kept until the present, memorabilia of his challenging journey of being a barber, as well as a witness to the changes in the barbering industry.

With the passage of time, humane touch and warm memories fill the old shop front. From the ever-competitive past of traditional barber shops, to the decline in market demand causing barbers to relocate or switch careers, till now barbers within the same generation as Mr Yu eventually retire or pass away. Although the operating days are getting shorter, the relationship with customers become longer.

Text: Daniel Lim & Pua Hui Wen

有你 UNI Production
Producer : Mok Yii Chek
Coordinator : Daniel Lim
Cinematographer : Amelia Lim / Evon Pang
Video Editor : Evon Pang
Production Assistant : Michael Lerk
Music : Ivory Dreams from SerenityStudio

COPYRIGHTS 2019 ECHINOIDEA SDN BHD

Lady Worker in Pineapple Plantation

At 6A.M. before dawn, Aunty Liew Chiew Moy is well prepared, carefully riding her motorcycle from her house towards the pineapple plantation in Simpang Renggam. Rows of pineapple trees forming a vast, boundless sea of pineapples welcome her. Aunty Liew proceeded slowly but steadily on the yellow mud road until the center of the plantation, gathering with her colleagues. Before starting the day’s work, they prepare their tools and protective equipment, for instance sharpening knives, wearing gloves and sunhat, get ready before starting to harvest pineapples. Not only is Aunty Liew the most senior worker in the plantation, she is also the only remaining Chinese lady worker.

Simpang Renggam is located in the mid section of Johor, close to the North-South Expressway, where the largest pineapple plantation in Malaysia is. The soil in the region is peat, formed from decomposed organic mass, having the advantages of being loose and good air circulation. Moreover, plentiful rainfall makes it an ideal place for planting pineapples. Pineapple plantation industry in Simpang Renggam started from the 50’s, achieving its peak in the 60’s to 70’s, becoming the main economic activity of the local population. Among them, Peninsula Plantation Sdn Bhd where Aunty Liew is attached, is the largest plantation in the vicinity, its surface area over 6,000 acres, with up to 400,000 pineapple trees.

Since a teenager, Aunty Liew has been working with pineapples for over half a century. Under the influence of her parents, she started working at 15 years old, having experience in grass-cutting, sowing pineapple seedlings, until focusing on harvesting pineapples as of now. At the age of 68 years old, she is still as fit as a fiddle, carrying a 50 kilograms basket on her back without any problem. Aunty Liew gets along well with her colleagues, always greeting each other warmly and showing concern for each other’s well being. They work diligently together as a team for three to four hours a day. Back then during peak seasons, they sometimes work for 8 to 9 hours per day. Even though the weather is extremely hot, they could still be seen harvesting pineapples from the low pineapple trees.

Pineapples grow in different positions on the tree, therefore the job of harvesting is difficult to replace by machinery, having to rely on traditional manpower. Aunty Liew grabs hold of the golden yellow fruit, with a swing of the knife, the fruit is separated from its stem, she then throws the harvested pineapple into the rattan basket on her back, developing deft “back air shot” skills over the years. Although the job itself is not difficult, there are several risks, including stumbling upon low leaves, which may have to be pared off on the way into the plantation to ensure a smooth journey. In the earlier days the plantation is adjacent to forests, bumping into pythons and wild hogs from time to time is a scary experience. Aunty Liew still trembles when reminiscing that she once accidentally cut a beehive, luckily her colleagues alerted each other to run for their lives, no harm was done.

Aunty Liew has been through the rise and fall of the pineapple plantation industry, witnessing on her own the plantation staff changed from a majority of Chinese to now mostly Malays and foreign labourers. As her friends eventually retired, she became the last Chinese lady worker in the plantation. Defending her duty for the most of her life, yet still passionate about her job, Aunty Liew’s dedication is much admirable.

Text: Daniel Lim & Pua Hui Wen

有你 UNI Production
Producer : Mok Yii Chek
Coordinator : Daniel Lim
Cinematographer : Amelia Lim / Evon Pang
Drone : Daniel Lim
Video Editor : Amelia Lim
Production Assistant : Michael Lerk
Music : Dancing Star

COPYRIGHTS 2019 ECHINOIDEA SDN BHD

Prawn Fishing

Early in the morning, when moist fogs still permeate the air, the old house surrounded by tall and straight palm trees, 64-year-old Seah Tiam Chai sorts out his tools in front of the doorstep, packing them onto his motorcycle and rides to the small jetty nearby in preparation to go out to the sea for prawning. Dozens of small fishing boats are parked in the intertidal zone of the estuary, with mangrove forests all over, the rivershore is not deep, Mr Seah races against time to steer his boat out of the estuary before the tide ebbs. As a layer of golden rays pop up from the horizon, and the sky gradually brightens, the motor of the boat is already ignited, sailing towards the unpredictable sea.

Since his childhood years, Mr Seah has a close relationship with the sea, accompanying his elder brother in deep sea fishing at the age of 10, picking up fishing skills and knowledge from his two elder brothers. When he was 13, he went out to sea alone in a sampan, without an engine in the olden days, rowing manually and cast a net to catch fish and prawns. Mr Seah is much experienced in sailing at sea, in his 50 years of fishing he used fishing nets of various sizes, catching different fishes according the different mesh sizes. In his youth he used to steer a fishing boat with medium horsepower, often witnessing and experiencing pirate attacks, being robbed off the fish that he worked hard to catch, the industry having a high degree of risk. Among all risks, natural hazards especially storms are beyond control.

The opposite shores invisible across the boundless blue sea, the five-metre long fishing boat seems extremely meagre, unable to withstand slightly stronger waves, even more at a loss against the sudden occurence of natural hazards. Any storms or strong waves cause direct harm to a fisherman’s production, and even life. Mr Seah’s fishing boat is not big, with sufficient room for three persons, with the addition of fishing tools and operation, the narrow boat has barely room for one to two persons to move about. Hence usually Mr Seah works alone, fishing at sea on his own.

After deciding on a suitable spot, he starts to cast prawning nets piece by piece into the sea. Twenty pieces of prawning nets forming into a fishing net, laying horizontal in the sea, the half-kilometre long shaped net drifting along with the tides, when fish and prawns pass through they will be caught in the mesh, this traditional and widely used fishing method is named: Gillnetting. Due to the fishing net being set up on the migration pathway of the schools of fish, catching them all regardless of size. An hour afterwards, Mr Seah draws up the net, keeping the prawns that are entangled on the mesh fresh by freezing them with ice, the rest of the fish will be further processed upon returning to the jetty.

Besides the unpredictable natural factors, industrial development in recent years brought upon environmental damage, endangering the fishing industry in Chuah area, especially with the construction of two power stations at the seaside. The lessening of mangrove forests and the changes in water quality caused reduction or damage to the natural habitat of prawns, directly impacting Mr Seah and his livelihood, the amount of his catch declined more than a half from usual. The fishing industry which faced higher risks than the general industries on the ground is dealt with a heavier blow.

The open-minded and optimistic Mr Seah does not wish for riches, nor did he encourage his children to work in the fishing industry. He leads a rustic life in the 50-year-old cottage which houses three generations, enjoying delightful family times with his wife and granddaughter.

Text: Daniel Lim & Pua Hui Wen

有你 UNI Production
Producer : Mok Yii Chek
Coordinator : Daniel Lim
Cinematographer : Amelia Lim /Evon Pang
Drone : Daniel Lim
Video Editor : Michael Lerk
Production Assistant : Michael Lerk
Music : Peder B. Helland – Our Journey from YouTube

COPYRIGHTS 2019 ECHINOIDEA SDN BHD

The Ferryman

The Ferryman. Sailing on rivers, cruising across two shores, ferrying people across the Sepang river, handling a small ferry, closing the gap between two states, and ease countless passengers who cross the river. The Tang family has been operating at this jetty for three generations, never ceasing in maintaining this travel passage for inhabitants from these two shores.

The Sepang river flows between the states of Negeri Sembilan and Selangor, a work of nature separating two states. Not only is Sepang river the source of living for neighbouring villagers, it also bridges economical activity for residents from both ends. Transportation via water plays an important role, especially between Sungai Pelek located in the southeast part of Selangor and Bukit Pelanduk located at the northwest of Negeri Sembilan.

In the earlier days where land transportation were not developed, the inhabitants in the proximity are dependent on the boat service, where students go to school, housewives go shopping, farmers go to work, and more on. The scene back then was extremely busy, with plenty of boats crossing to and fro the river. In the golden era, there were plenty of boat and ferry services along the riverside, with some running their own independent business by building a simple jetty in their own territory. Since the traffic system connecting with the city were developed and roads were built, for now there is only one remaining ferry service.

The 63-year-old ferryman, who goes by Tang Kah Chai, navigates the small ferry skilfully over the shores of Negeri Sembilan (Bukit Pelanduk) and Selangor (Sungai Pelek) on a daily basis, fetching batches of passengers across the river. The family business is now in the third generation. During the Japanese occupation, Tang’s grandfather initiated the business with a small sampan rowed manually. It was hard work. In the recent decades, evolution of technology made life easier for boatmen and ferrymen, as the boats and ferries are powered by engine. This also boosted the safety of passengers, as well as increases the number of passengers each trip.

The river surface is about 150 metres wide, the trip across the shores only takes a couple of minutes, yet it employs the services of three generations of ferrymen for almost 80 years. They even earned the regard of the local community. A short encounter on the ferry daily makes passengers familiar with the ferryman, chit-chatting while on the ferry makes them more close knit, and illustrates a warm affection for each other.

Even though nowadays the traffic system is completed, the communion between Bukit Pelanduk and Sungai Pelek on the opposite side since settling in for half a century, where their living and economy has long been inseparable, however there is still no news about a bridge construction plan that the local residents were looking forward to for ages. The main communication and transport channels are travelling 20 minutes by land or two minutes by water.

Since ferries powered by engines replaced manual rowing, the tickets inflated from just a few cents to 50 cents. As the last ferryman in three generations of the Tang family, Tang Kah Chai remains committed steadfastly, crossing the river daily from early morning to the evening all year long.

For now, the two families of Tang and Chong taking turns weekly to be in charge of the jetty.

Text: Daniel Lim

有你 UNI Production
Producer : Mok Yii Chek
Coordinator : Daniel Lim
Cinematographer : Amelia Lim / Evon Pang
Drone : Daniel Lim
Video Editor : Evon Pang
Production Assistant : Michael Lerk
Music : Touching from Ashamaluev Music

COPYRIGHTS 2019 ECHINOIDEA SDN BHD