MIND THE GAP: NEW PERSPECTIVES ON RESEARCHING & WRITING MALAYSIAN HISTORY by MAHEN BALA
Saturday, 20 July 2019, 2-3pm
Hikayat, 226, Lebuh Pantai (Beach Street), 10300 George Town, Penang
✆ +604 261 9001 / 8001
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© MAHEN BALA
The first railway line in Malaya was built in 1869 by the ambitious Maharaja Abu Bakar of Johor. Two decades later, the British built an extensive network to facilitate the transport of tin, and later rubber, to the ports. This network remains in use today as a passenger line, stitching together three corners of the peninsula. For more than a century, the railways have remained a mainstay in the lives of all Malaysians, a romantic symbol of nostalgia, industry and Imperial ambition.
The railways are socio-technical systems, simultaneously a means for communities to connect with their past, as well as a catalyst for renewal and development. As agent of mobility for a large part of Malaysia’s modern history, it is impossible to separate the human element from these complex systems. There is a need for Malaysians(extraordinary or otherwise) to be able to locate themselves in our reading of history and see themselves as active agents and not just bystanders.
Postcards from the South (2018) is a multi-lingual, experimental history book, retracing the historic Southern Line, giving voice to the railway, the people and the places they call home. A parallel narrative explores new perspectives on a century and a half of railway history and its role in nation-building, using previously unpublished photographs, documents and maps.
During this talk, Mahen Bala will be sharing insights into the project, lessons learned, challenges and future plans.
Mahen Bala is a documentary photographer and filmmaker based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. His projects focus on memory and the role it plays in our construct of historical narratives at various levels. In 2018, he published Postcards from the South, a comprehensive documentation of memory and history of the Malaysian railways. He is currently working on Elders of Our Forest, a multimedia Virtual Reality(VR) experience on the Malaysian tropical rainforest. At the end of every year, he returns to the East Coast to photograph the monsoon.
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