1. I was born 16 years after Malaysia gained her independence from the British in a small town off the coast of Peninsula Malaysia where fishing and agriculture were the main preoccupations.
2. My childhood memories of this languid town included following my mother to the wet market on weekends; taking walks on the beach at night under the light of the full moon; being lulled to sleep by the sound of the gentle waves; catching tadpoles and dragonflies; and wading in the flood water during the monsoon season.
3. Learning English for me meant reading English nursery rhymes, Aesop Fables, Fairy Tales, Enid Blyton’s ‘The Famous Five’, and Jane Eyre. Aside from English being spoken in the English classroom, it was not a language of communication for the wider community. The local dialect prevailed over the sounds of lapping waves and falling rains.
4. Aside from English being spoken in the English classroom, it was not a language of communication for the wider community. The local dialect prevailed over the sounds of lapping waves and falling rains. Learning English for me meant learning other people’s history and culture, where nothing of myself is reflected in what I read.
5. I learned about the value of standard British English as spoken by Professor Higgins, the status it accorded Eliza Doolittle at the expense of her sense of belonging, the language of power and injustice of the colonial and slave masters. As opportunity to speak in English was fairly limited, learning English for me had been mainly in a culture of silence.
6. After independence English functioned as a tool for gaining control of our own resources. For example, we gained ownership of the company Guthrie, after a raid in 1981 at the London Stock Exchange to buy the company’s shares, which resulted in at least 200,000 acres of land returned to Malaysians, twenty three years after independence.
6. To be colonized also means that we are aware of how our own image as defined through the eyes of another more powerful person. It means understanding our subjugated position in relation to him or her. No more is this evident than in the writings of Sir Frank Swettenham the first Resident General of the then Federated Malay States.
8. Sir Frank Swettenham was the representative of the British Empire to Malaya from 1896 until 1901. While acting as the resident General, he lived in this palatial residence he had designed himself, which was equally as fitting for a Malay Sultan.
Sweetenham had written a number of books on his experience in Malaya. Two books in particular, ‘British Malaya’ and ‘Malay Sketches’ were written accounts of the British political and economic influence on Malaya and the Malays.
10. Of Malaya he says, "Malaya, land of the pirate and the amok, your secrets have been well guarded, but the enemy has at last passed your gate, and soon the irresistable Juggernaut of Progress will have penetrated to your remotest fastness, slain your beasts, cut down your forests, 'civilised' your people, clothed them in strange garments, and stamped them with a seal of a higher morality". (1895, p.x)
11. "Education and the contact with Western people must produce the inevitable result. isolated native races whose numbers are few must disappear or conform to the views of a stronger will and a higher intelligence. The Malays of the Peninsula will not disappear, but they will change, and the process of 'awakening' has in places already begun." (p. xi)
12. He describes the Malay man, “The real Malay is a short, thick-set, well-built man, with straight hair, a dark brown complexion, thick nose and lips” (1895, p. 2). He goes on to discuss ‘Malays inherent laziness’ as “...a climate which inclines the body to ease and rest, the mind to dreamy contemplation rather than to strenuous and persistent toil.” (Alatas, 1977, p. 45).
13. Of the Malay girl, he describes her as “ proud of wealth of straight, black hair, of a spotless olive complexion, of the arch of the brow - ‘like a one-day moon’ - of the curl of her eyelashes, and of the dimples in cheek or chin” (1895, p.7).
14. In reality, there is no singular or real Malay. There are many Malays of mixed races from Chinese, Indian, and Arab descents. There are various Malay ethnic communities like Bugis, Javanese, Minangkabaus, and Achinese who had lived in a “history of ... cross-cultural fertilisation and cultural hybridisation” (Noor, 2009, p.69) long before colonization.
16. At times I am uncomfortable with efforts at writing counterstories to colonial discourse because in doing so I feel we are acknowledging our subjugated position. If all our efforts are focused on dispelling myths and writing counternarratives then will we ever be in the position to be creators of our own theory and knowledges.
16. At times I am uncomfortable with efforts at writing counterstories to colonial discourse because in doing so I feel we are acknowledging our subjugated position. If all our efforts are focused on dispelling myths, writing counternarratives then will we ever be in the position to be creators of our own theory and knowledges.
17. But it does speak to the harm that European researches have had on the colonized. We are still trying to dispel the myth of the lazy native and dislodge the stereotypes that accompany us to this day and detrimental effects on the relationships between communities which had led to the racial riots between the Malays and Chinese in 1969 resulting in 196 dead.
19. In response to the question on why colonialism is still relevant, Linda Tuhiwai Smith argues, “….. The reach of imperialism into ‘our head’ challenges those who belong to colonized communities to understand how this occurred, partly because we perceive a need to decolonize our minds, to recover ourselves to claim a space in which to develop a sense of authentic humanity.” (p.24)
20. But amidst the voices of the colonizer and the postcolonial scholars, I wonder what of the silence of the many colonized locals, whose voices remain irretrievably lost.
Pecha kucha Postcolonial lens on images of Malaya and the Malays
Postcolonial lens on the images ofMalaya and the Malays Azlina Abdul Aziz