In the Dari Pusat Tasek performance, I was assisted by Sang Nabil Utama who is musician, sound engineer, sonologist and a committed Malay culture activist. We were introduced by Azizan Paiman the afternoon before the event at which time we first discussed the underlying ideas and possible controversies of the performance. We refined and rehearsed the performance that night, and went on to execute the event the next afternoon (25 Dec 2019).
This intervention in the public space of the Lumut Waterfront, which was based on a Perak Malay cleansing ritual, was grounded and given poignancy by the fact that Sang Nabil Utama is a native orang Perak. It was also great working with Nabil as he showed great sensitivity to my approach and generously offered his own ideas about Malay ritual form in a way that brought the best out of the performance.
According to researcher Ariffin Mohd Dahlan, in 1528, on the request of some Perak nobles, Sultan Mahmud Shah, the deposed Sultan of Malacca, sent his son Raja Muzaffar to take over the Sultanate. As he made his way with the Malacca Royal accoutrements such as the nobat (drum), naifiri (woodwind), pedang Chura Simanjakini (sword) and the cop mohor halilintar (seal) and several other tools his vessel was hit by a storm as passed Pusat Tasek (Navel of the Seas) which was near the Beting Beras Basah at the mouth of the Perak river, and his vessel ran aground on the sandbank. They discarded all many weighty items and even the acctruments, but the vessel would not move. Finally, the Jin of the Navel of the Seas instructed the Raja to, throw his crown to the sea. Only when the Raja obliged the Jin, did the storm subside and the vessel move on to its destination.
According to some versions of this dynastic legend, the Raja had to dive into the sea at the Pusat Tasek and spend 7 days and 7 nights in negotiations with the Jins and other supernatural beings before this arrangement was arrived at. The prince was installed as Sultan and to this day the air to the throne of Perak is known as the Raja Muda (Young Raja) and not the Raja Mahkota (Crown Prince). It is also known that mysteries still abound in the area of the Beting Beras Basah which is a place where any new Sultan of Perak must perform a rite of passage (Istiadat Mencecah Kaki) in order to take up the throne.
In connection with my show at Percha Artspace titled Dari Pusat Tasek, which runs till 5 Jan 2020, I ask the obvious question – where is the Pusat Tasek Pauh Janggi (Navel of the Seas)? The performance carried out on the Lumut Waterfront was based on a Perak Malay cleansing ritual that purports to wash all the sial jambalang (ill luck and malevolent spirits) away to the Navel of the Seas.. Many sources on the location of the Pusat Tasek place it somewhere in the South China Sea or Southwest thereof. According to Antonio Pigafetta, a mariner on Ferdinand Magellan’s pioneering voyage of ‘discovery’ (1518-1522), there were local tales of an island surrounded by whirlpools, somewhere north or south of Java Major (Borneo), called Puzathaer(Pusat air?) . The location of this Pusat Tasek varies, however, with the source of the myth. According to a Perak legend associated with the installation of its first Sultan, Mudzaffar Shah I, the Pusat Tasek is located somewhere off the mouth of the Perak river, beyond the extensive sandbanks there. This area, named Beting Beras Basah or Beras Basah Sandbank, is known as a deeply magical place – one filled with all manner of makhluk ghaib (supernatural beings).
The Dari Pusat Tasek performance (View my draft for the 13th Koboi series DARI TUBUH NEGARA) was held at the Lumut Waterfront, under the auspices of Percha Art Space at 5pm on the 25th December 2019. The exhibition will run till 5 Jan 2020 (EXTENDED TILL 19 JAN 2020) . The Naan Anaiyttalflag presents an image that was shot in Kampung Indian Settlement, Batu Caves, in the wake of Malaysia’s 14th General Elections. The Koboi stands before a 12.2 m hoarding of the once jailed politician who is now Malaysia’s prime minister in waiting, Anwar Ibrahim. This flag was raised on a portable flag stand, accompanied by a performance based on a Perak Malay cleansing ritual performed with cut lime.
After my body was ritually rubbed with lime, I faced the East and spit seven times. I then threw the remains of the limes in the Westerly direction saying, Pergi-lah semua sial jambalang dari badan aku, dan dari pada tubuh negara; pergi lah ke Pusat Pasek Paujangi, (‘Misfortune and spirits of evil begone from my body, and from the corpus of the nation, begone to the whirlpool of the of the Pusat Pasek Paujangi!) Water was then poured over me to complete the cleansing. All the waters of the world are ultimately received at the Pusat Tasek, bringing to its swirl all of the flotsam, jetsam and refuse of the world. The Pusat Tasek of myth seems to coincide with the contemporary swirl of the North Pacific Gyre– a place at which the worst of our contemporary sial jambalang reside.