I will be having an exhibition at the Percha Art Space in Lumut over the Christmas and New Year period. The show, titled Dari Pusat Tasek, will open on 25th Dec and run for 2 weeks (EXTENDED TILL 19 JAN 2020). There will be an impromptu street performance, carried out as part of this exhibition, based on the malay myth of the ‘navel of the seas’. According to Malay folklore, far out in the deep ocean, there is a great whirlpool known as the ‘Pusat Tasek’. At the centre of this whirlpool, there is an enormous tree known as the Pokok Pauh Janggi. The name janggi, probably, derives from the Toroja word ‘djjandji’ which means ‘fruit’. ‘Pauh’ is the Malay word for ‘mango’ and it is likely that ‘Pokok Pauh Janggi’ is, in fact, a mango tree and not a coco de mer palm as the contemporary usage of the name would suggest.
In the Hikayat Jaya Langkara, a quest for the healing saffron flower leads the Princess Ratna Kasina to a mountain at the pusat tasek where the rising tide brings the miraculous flower up within her reach. While there is no mention of the Pokok Pauh Janggi in this fable, the buah Pauh appears twice in the list of similes used to extoll the beauty of Princess. Princess Ratna Kasina is said to have cheeks like sliced mango (pipi-nya saperti pauh di-layang), and heels like turned (or peeled) mango (tumit-nya saperti pauh di-larek) –
“dahi-nya bagai bintang timor, hidong-nya bagai melor jantan, pipi-nya saperti pauh di-layang, telinga-nya saperti telepok laboh, rambutnya saperti mayang mengurai,kening saperti taji di-bentuk dan gigi-nya saperti saga merekah, dagu-nya saperti telur burung, pinggang-nya saperti pingang-nya kerengga, kaki-nya saperti kaldai dan tumit-nya saperti pauh di-larek, lengan-nya buntaran, dan betis-nya bagai bunting padi”.
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