Poetic world of Malay fables captured in Jalaini Abu Hassan's new book

Jalaini Abu Hassan's 'Jebat Pulang Bersyarat' (2022), which is featured in his new book 'Catan Sopan'. Photo: Kamarudin Diran

Contemporary artist and educator Jalaini Abu Hassan's first book of poetry, Catan Sopan, will be launched together with an art exhibition of the same name, next week.

The exhibition, from Dec 5-10, will showcase the bitumen and acrylic paintings, as well as the watercolour works, featured in the book. It will be held at the Old Quarters at Lightcraft’s premises on Jalan Chan Sow Lin in Kuala Lumpur, set in the former workers’ quarters of the historic Federal Bakery.

Jalaini, or better known as Jai, has seven poems, seven canvas paintings and seven watercolours in this book.

"As a hybrid form of expression, my new body of work called Catan Sopan (2022) combines poetry and painting using Malay fables and allusions in addressing contemporary socio-cultural, political narratives," says Jai about the publication and art direction.

The cover image of the 'Catan Sopan' book, featuring Jalaini Abu Hassan's new poems and artwork. Photo: RogueArtThe cover image of the 'Catan Sopan' book, featuring Jalaini Abu Hassan's new poems and artwork. Photo: RogueArt

"As poetry, it functions in a variety of ways – as a form of storytelling, as social realist critique and expression, and as a reflexive monologue supporting the visual agenda of the paintings. It is directed toward a subtle criticism in the manner of the Malay sopan (courteous) approach," he adds.

These poems, written in Bahasa Malaysia, have been translated into English by National Laureate Muhammad Haji Salleh.

“His canvases take us to a nest of symbols that resonate with meaningful proverbs and traditional thinking, while defining our times. These paintings comment on what is happening in his society," writes Muhammad in his welcome note.

Jalaini Abu Hassan's painting 'Si Pemikul' (2022). Photo: Kamarudin DiranJalaini Abu Hassan's painting 'Si Pemikul' (2022). Photo: Kamarudin Diran

The book is a bilingual presentation.

On Dec 10 (4pm), Wacana Catan Sopan: Melihat Puisi Mendengar Catan will be held at the exhibition venue.

This discussion is open to the public. The book is available for purchase at the exhibition for RM80.

Jalaini Abu Hassan: Catan Sopan will be held at Old Quarters, Lightcraft, Jalan Chan Sow Lin in KL from Dec 5-10. Opening hours: 12pm to 5pm (Monday to Friday), 11am to 6pm (Saturday), by appointment. Contact 016-308 5037.

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