Folding artistic bridge across cultures


  • Metro News
  • Tuesday, 19 Nov 2019

(From left) Yap, Yeoh, Embassy of Japan (Malaysia) first secretary Sugita Mitsuhiko and Ch’ng going through the showcase of Malaysian-themed origami. — Photos: RAJA FAISAL HISHAN/The Star

IN celebration of World Origami Day, Malaysia Origami Academy took the opportunity to represent the fusion of culture between Malaysia and Japan by exhibiting origami creations with a local touch.

Some of the pieces showcased at Publika, Kuala Lumpur, saw our national treasures represented in beautiful folds such as the wau bulan and mangosteen, as well as “sculptures” of Tunku Abdul Rahman and a durian.

The durian origami’s artist, Malaysia Origami Association art director Sam Yap said, “It took us almost six years to figure out the best way to bring the durian to life and once I got the right technique, three weeks was spent completing the whole durian.”

Yap also featured his recent work, an origami shuttlecock which had an interesting twist in its creation.

“In my attempts to create an origami ‘gasing’, I ended up producing a hibiscus and a shuttlecock instead,” said Yap regarding his serendipitous turn while attempting to create these unique designs.

When asked about his main inspiration to create local-themed origami, he said it started from his Wau Bulan origami which he came up with last year.

The remarkable piece gained him recognition by the Malaysia Book of Records in making the largest Jalur Gemilang with Wau Bulan origami.

As for Tan Chia Wen, 20, who has been folding origami since the age of nine, she displayed origami of local delicacies such as the sugar biscuit, teh ais ikat tepi, nasi lemak, kuih seri muka and kuih lapis.

“I truly enjoy Malaysian cuisine. Food is an intrinsic part of our culture,” Tan said when asked about her inspiration.

This year’s celebration was made more special thanks to the presence of Japan Cultural Envoy in Origami, Professor Dr Jun Mitani, who is a world-renowned pioneer in the art of curved-folding or 3D origami.

Prof Mitani said, “It is an honour to represent Japan as an ambassador to promote Japanese traditional culture, although the origami I created are modernised.”

The computer scientist had created curved-folding origami involving mathematical equations with the aid of his custom-developed software.

His works have been a reference for many intellectuals, organisations and scholars for research.

Malaysia Origami Academy founder and director Kenneth Ch’ng was heartened by Prof Mitani’s presence at this year’s exhibition.

“The people of Japan do not simply come down to have a look at another origami identical to theirs,” he said.

“It is considered prestigious that we are selected for their visit, now that we are presenting our very own Malaysian origami, which is unlike anything else in the world,” added Ch’ng, who believes in cultivating Malaysian authenticity.

The Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry sees the academy’s move as helping to promote Malaysia as an Asian melting pot. The ministry’s International Relation Division (Culture) secretary Jaime Yeoh said, “Cultural exchanges such as this are important for us to attract people to come to our country.“We can serve as an outlet for tourists to explore Japanese culture here in Malaysia,” Yeoh added, while lauding the programme as a form of cultural diplomacy which benefits both countries.

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