You may get to visit Lat's 'Kampung Boy' house in Perak soon

Lat standing beside Rumah Lat Dan Galeri, a project near Ipoh in Perak that has been delayed by the pandemic outbreak. A launch date will be announced in the coming months. Photo: Handout

Remember the house in Lat’s beloved graphic novel The Kampung Boy?

The actual house in Batu Gajah, Perak, is long gone, but a reconstructed version – located some 30 minutes away from the village the artist grew up in – will be open to the public later this year.

It was supposed to launch in July but the pandemic outbreak has scuppered those plans.

When it eventually opens, Rumah Lat Dan Galeri, on the outskirts of Ipoh, will offer a glimpse into the life of renowned Malaysian cartoonist Datuk Mohammad Nor Khalid, better known as Lat.

At Lat’s house, you can travel back in time, complete with various odds and ends from his childhood as well as furniture, mostly from the pre-World War II era.

This includes a dressing table, a set of table and chairs “so heavy that you need two people to lift each one”, a framed mirror, a rack for hanging clothes and a cupboard he remembered from his childhood that ended up as storage space for his beloved vinyl records and shirts when he about 19.

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The cover of Lat’s 'The Kampung Boy' graphic novel, first published in 1979. The cover of Lat’s 'The Kampung Boy' graphic novel, first published in 1979.

“I put a lock on that cupboard because my housemates would look through my records and even wear my shirts when I wasn’t home. These were among my prized possessions at that time, you save up for ages to buy records and my shirts were really very nice because I believed in looking dashing at that age, ” says Lat with a laugh as he recalls this memory.

Lat, 69, is looking forward to having visitors come to Rumah Lat, describing it as a very personal project, which has been supported by the Perak state government.

“I drew the house from memory for The Kampung Boy. When you are nine, you remember every single detail and I have very fond memories from those times. There was no electricity and no water, but to a kid, it was a big treat to grow up in the kampung, ” he says.

The idea for The Kampung Boy, first published in 1979, came from his travels to the United States, when he realised that many people didn’t know Malaysia. Inspired by his childhood, the book tells stories set in a typical Malaysian kampung. Rumah Lat is modelled after that same house.

Lat hopes that Rumah Lat will stand tall and proud for years to come, capturing a sense of history and nostalgia for the current generation, and beyond, to appreciate.

At the gallery, expect to see a selection of works spanning some four decades of Lat’s career, dating back to 1964. For fans who have been following his work for decades, it will be great to get reacquainted with his signature drawings and illustrations of everyday Malaysian scenes.

“I am very excited to show all of this to people. It will be a familiar sight to the older ones, but I think it will be something new and interesting to some of the younger generation. As much as I am enjoying putting this project together, at the end of the day it is not for me – it is for the future, ” he concludes.

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