Lion head maker prides himself as a master in a Chinese tradition

JOHOR BARU: Master Siow Ho Phiew produces about 500 lion heads for sale locally and overseas every year.

He said that creating the lion dancing heads remains very much a labour of love.

“I feel incredibly blessed to have been able to marry my career with something that I continue to be passionate about,” he said.

Siow held an exhibition recently at Jalan Tan Hiok Nee (Heritage Walk) here in conjunction with the 8th Johor Baru Arts Festival, and shared with a crowd of about 100 about his experiences.

“Ever since I was young I have been fascinated by arts and culture and I even remember one time when I missed my bus and had to walk back home because I was watching a lion dance performance,” he said.

He added that his workers are able to produce about two lion heads every day, but would need at least a week if it was being done individually as each step required utmost care.

“Throughout the years I have faced many hardships and pitfalls, but the important thing was to be able to accept challenges and learn from failures,” he said adding that success would not come without hard work and determination.

Siow, who has also been teaching lion dance for 30 years, is also the coach of the world-renowned Kun Seng Keng troupe from Muar.

He was recognised as an accomplished craftsman during the National Craft Day 2011.

“People often tell me that my lion heads are the best, but that does not mean that there is no room for improvement and we should never rest on our laurels,” he said.

Siow added that it was important to promote the art of making lion heads and other cultural and artistic pursuits, as they would die out if not preserved.

“The younger generation must be exposed to history, culture and art if we don’t want to lose these rich and meaningful traditions,” he said.

He lauded the Heritage Walk for continuously organising Chinese cultural activities, saying that such efforts enriched the lives of the people and were rare in Malaysia.

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