I have touched on varied topics in my previous writings but sadly I have missed out on things that have been close to me not recently but ever since I could remember when. These are items or collectible pieces which one can count them as antiques or treasure pieces. For one thing it is hard to find a duplicate of any one of them unless you go searching all over the country or outside. You may be lucky if you could find one through EBay, a popular market place now.
Firstly how do you define an object as antique? It is an item which is at least 100 years old and is collected or desirable for its rarity, condition, utility or some other unique features. Motor vehicles etc due to vigorous use may be designated antiques (in US) if older than 25 years. For purposes of distinctions items may be classified as antique, vintage and collectibles.
No doubt you can scout in the flea markets such as at Rope Walk in Penang or Am Corp Mall Petaling Jaya and come home happy with one two extraordinary pieces but nothing can beat the possessions that have been alongside you since ages. The few things that I have as my collection dates even from the time I was still unborn. These are items kept by the family and luckily continue to be around as family heirloom.
I can remember times during my early primary school days when the silver ware pieces especially one that looks like an Aladdin lamp captured my imagination and I would polish hard till shinning bright dreaming and hopefully expecting a genie to jump out. Frightening yes but who does not want a genie to be around and you can fly off on his magic carpet. Those were the innocent days when movies of course provided candid adventure into the never-never land. Then there was a smaller version of the 'keris' recognized as 'badek' which became my constant companion as I practised targeting it on the soft banana trunk hoping I would be an expert such as the knife thrower that made his appearance in the circus that came to town almost annually.
I always remember the time when my father reprimanded my cousins for breaking the back of one teak lounge chair which he had just imported from Thailand. That incident happened almost sixty years ago. Yet the evidence is there. The old teak chair is still around repaired and a vogue of the then current furniture design of Thailand. Coincidentally in many Bangkok homes and even hotels the same design and quality furniture remain as showcase till now.
Many of us would have old treasured items stocked behind cupboards or lying unknown somewhere in the house especially if you are living in a family home several decades old. They may not be large items like antique furniture but instead such pieces as dinner plates, copper trays, silver spoons, old books, lamp shades, door locks, clocks etc. Not to forget old photographs. Their discovery and acquisition will certainly enhance our knowledge of the family's interest and standing. Even the old house you are living in has a story of its own to tell. The wood, the pillars, doors, floors and windows with their quality and characteristic design plus craftsmanship would tell of the labor and cost to build such homes then. Alas we miss out such observation but instead look to modernity and the conventional design or whatever 'masterpieces' we designated as extraordinary and worth adopting as collection pieces.
The heirlooms given a good scrub, polish and attended to with tender care will be sights to behold when they are up on the shelves or beautifully framed in the living room for you and visitors to adore.
I am happy that many of the items I value and adore are still around kept safely for others to appreciate and realise their authenticity and richness in design. Yet remembering of course those who purchased or had them as practical and usable every day items had the family close to his or her hearts and wanted for them some small luxuries in life.
I can look back and admire with much pride those collectibles which hopefully my family will continue to treasure and some unknowingly may reach the table of Sotheby if they are perfect antiques. Through them I recognised that my grandparents, father and mother who have all departed ( Al Fatihah) had left behind valuable crafts and collectibles which must have also endured their likings and fondness and yet remembering that we would continue to appreciate their intrinsic values and beauty.
More items naturally have been added since.
It will become a process of elimination when the number becomes bigger or the addition of space to accommodate the increased collections. Nevertheless displays and procedures adopted by museums or historical sites may help us in no small way to keep our collections perpetual.
It is without doubt the early attraction and familiarity with old things that have cultivated within oneself the onus to see and admire all things around and appreciate their being and hence their creativity and the people who brought them around. I count myself fortunate having lived and brought up in a family home which until today stands sentinel devoid of the destructive elements of nature and flood. Thus the collectibles being where they were.
Antique shops have yet to emerge in greater numbers, especially in smaller towns and thereby the interest will explode. Currently Malacca and Kuala Lumpur provide the connoisseurs of things they desire to keep for prosperity while indulging in all the intricacies, skills and know how of a rewarding and not necessarily expansive hobby.
In Britain the BBC has been running an 'Antique Roadshow' for years with the appraisers visiting towns throughout the country to meet collectors who bring their pieces to be judged or appraised. This perpetuate greater interest while adding knowledge and value. If only such a program can be organised in Malaysia. It is transmitted in Australia too. Hopefully this interest catches on and we will preserve our richness while guarding its transmigration.
P.S View below some of my collections and hopefully those who have not been bitten by these exciting bugs will start looking in the crevices and corners of your grandfathers' homes and discover to your greatest delights some 'treasures'. Good luck.
(1) A handmade Thai offering bowl with design motifs very much duplicated in conventional bowls found in markets and shopping malls now. It is estimated that this has been in the family since the Thai period in Kedah much before the 2nd World War.
(2) A heavy iron ball with a hole in the centre. I was told that it is a cannon ball and very much used as a 'tungku' by the women folks. Now what is a 'tungku'? It's any moderately heavy iron piece, heated and wrapped with cloth used to massage especially after delivery. One with a cannon ball piece is understood to be more 'effective'. Will be glad to receive further info.
(3) This is an Iban 'Parang Panjang' with ornate carvings on its sheath and handle. Known also as parang ilang it is a much treasured piece by the Iban of longhouses fame. I was at Marudi, a small town up river along the Baram from Miri way back in 1961 to witnesse the famous Baram Regatta and fortunately came across this piece. The parang is sharp with several design pieces inlaid.
(4) " Ketam"a piece of tool which has disappeared. Carpentars now use electronic plane for all their works which previously require labor intensive attention. Other tools used by our carpentars during the last decades or so are now collective items because they reveal the intensity and mode of works.
(5) Last but not least of course the ever popular 'kopitiam'. As such as many coffee shops have sprouted out lately to cater for the taste of good coffee, nothing I believe can beat the quality of grinded coffee that came out from such machine as our mothers and grand-mothers labor to get the powder after the coffee beans have been roasted. Oh! the good home cooked food.