FOTOSTAT TIDAK DIBENARKAN
TOWARD THE UNDERSTANDING OF MALAY FORM AND CONTENT
IN MODERN MALAYSIAN PAINTING THRSIS
•thugian ...
This thesis has "been approved
for the School of Art
and the College of Fine Arts "by
BahagUn Perkhidmatan Pembaca & Rujuk...
This thesis has been approved
for the School of Art
and the College of Pine Arts by
Professor Robert D. Borchard
School of...
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
My personal experience in going through the study
program (September 1984 - March 1986) at Ohio Univer-
si...
IV
my wife, Sabariah, and my three children, Noor Aliza,
Ahmad Azdi, and Noormalis also deserve appreciation and
acknowled...
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Page
Acknowledgments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ill
List of Illustrations ............... vi
Ch...
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Illustration Page
1. Burung Petala Wall (The Mythical Bird) ... 5
2. Dongson Bronze Drum . . . . . ....
Vll
Illustration Page
19. Surface Painting—Ismail Zain . . . . . . . . 84
20. Kubunuh Cintaku (I Kill My Love)—Ismail
Zain...
CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION
1.1 Background of Problem
In order to keep the younger Malaysian generation
aware of their own cult...
collections and evidence of the existence of early
civilization from Neolithic age until present day.
All these items in t...
3
verses, embroidery in golden-thread, and underglazed
china-ware with Islamic calligraphy and geometric
patterns. In the ...
"bersilat" the Malay self-defence art,"Menora and Mak
YongJ1
the cultural plays of the east coast states of West
Malaysia,...
111. 1. Burung Patala Wall
( Th« «[ythical Bird )
COPYRIGHT © UiTM
6
who is skillful and responsible to perform this ceremony.
The annex platform of the ceremony of circumcision,
another pl...
FOTOSTAT TIDAK D1BENARKAN
7
appear in the puppets themselves, especially in the treat-
ment of the drapery design and body...
8
1958, when his excellency made his opening speech for the
fifth Annual open Exhibition of Malayan Artists, he
announced ...
the reality of the living culture (Balai Seni Lukis
Negara 1958-83, 198^).
Unfortunately, all these aspirations to have wo...
10
consequences of this action as it affected the younger
generation of artists around them.
1.2 Statement of Problem and
...
11
and tend to forget their own cultural heritage. The
situation becomes more complex and deteriorates when some
of them r...
12
Ohio, United States of America, the writer admits that
his research is "based on those available materials in the
unive...
13
with western art styles?
7- What type of education will stimulate the
interest of the younger generations toward a nati...
grinding or polishing them. These men knew nothing about
any form of agriculture.
The Hoabinhian people were then followed...
15
fact, "built their houses in the open, much like the nipah
palm thatched roof wooden or bamboo houses of the farmers
an...
16
111* 2. Dongson Bronze DTUR,
COPYRIGHT © UiTM
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TOWARD THE UNDERSTANDING OF MALAY FORM AND CONTENT IN MODERN MALAYSIAN PAINTING

  1. 1. FOTOSTAT TIDAK DIBENARKAN TOWARD THE UNDERSTANDING OF MALAY FORM AND CONTENT IN MODERN MALAYSIAN PAINTING THRSIS •thugian Perfchidmstan Pembaca & Perpustrfkcum Tun Abdul Razak Institiut Teknologi MAR& Shah Alom Selangoc. A thesis Presented to The Faculty of the School,of Art and College of Fine Arts Ohio University In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts Mohamed-Ali Abdul Rahman March, 1986
  2. 2. This thesis has "been approved for the School of Art and the College of Fine Arts "by BahagUn Perkhidmatan Pembaca & Rujukt* Perpustakaan Tun Abdu! Razak Institiut Teknologi MARA Shah Alam Professor Robert D. Borchard The Director, School of Art 11 COPYRIGHT © UiTM
  3. 3. This thesis has been approved for the School of Art and the College of Pine Arts by Professor Robert D. Borchard School of Art 11 COPYRIGHT © UiTM
  4. 4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS My personal experience in going through the study program (September 1984 - March 1986) at Ohio Univer- sity's School of Art has taught me at least one strongly felt philosophical fact of life: "No humanly possible accomplishment could be claimed as the work of only one person." Though obvious, an attempt to truly under- stand it may not always be that simple. It demands modesty and conscience more than just sincerity and sense of purpose. Contributions to my study accomplishment came from the many people who invested in me, directly and indirectly, intellectual insights, technical guidance, moral, inspirational and financial supports. For this reason, I extend my sincere acknowledgment and gratitude to my advisor, Professor Robert D, Borchard, Professor Clifford McCarthy, and Associate Professor Dr, Marilyn Hunt from Art History Department. The same gratitude for financial support goes to Associate Professor Nik Abdul Rashid Ismail, the Director, MARA Institute of Technology (MIT) who administered the MIT faculty scholarship which support my study in Ohio University, Ohio, U.S.A. The continuous inspirational support which came from iii COPYRIGHT © UiTM
  5. 5. IV my wife, Sabariah, and my three children, Noor Aliza, Ahmad Azdi, and Noormalis also deserve appreciation and acknowledgment. An expression of gratitude too goes to my wife, who patiently has lent her constant support and encouragement during the years of my graduate education. Additionally, she spent many long hours in typing this thesis as well as other grueling manuscripts. Finally, let Allah "bless all those who gave me the inspirational and moral supports in the completion of this study. Amen! Mohamed-Ali Abdul Rahman COPYRIGHT © UiTM
  6. 6. TABLE OF CONTENTS Page Acknowledgments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ill List of Illustrations ............... vi Chapter 1. INTRODUCTION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 Background of Problem . . . . . . . . . 1 Statement of Problem and Purpose of Study . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 Scope and Limitation of Study . . . . . 11 History and Civilization of Malay ... 13 History of Modern Malaysian Art .... 18 2. MALAY FORM AND CONTENT . . . . . . . . . . 30 Definition of Malay Form and Content .0 30 Source of Malay Form and Content . . » a ^0 3. MODERN MALAYSIAN PAINTING . . . . . . . . . 59 Malay Form and Content in Modern Malaysian Painting . . . . . . . . . . . 59 The Case Study . . . . . . . . . . . . . 66 4. CONCLUSION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 103 National Congress of Culture in 1971 • • 103 Activities Toward Realization of National Cultural Identity . . . . . . . Ill REFERENCES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . COPYRIGHT © UiTM
  7. 7. LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS Illustration Page 1. Burung Petala Wall (The Mythical Bird) ... 5 2. Dongson Bronze Drum . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 3. Islamic Calligraphy in Wood Carving .... 41 k. "Naubat" Royal Musical Band . . . . . . . . 51 5. Interrelated Concepts in Malaysian Art Style . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65 6. Menjemur Kain (Drying Cloth)—Patrick Ng Kah Onn . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6? 7- Mandi Laut (Bathing in the Sea)—Syed Ahmad Jamal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6? 8. Kelambu (Mosquito-net)—Dzulkifli Buyung . . 71 9. Semangat Tanah, Air, dan Udara (The Spirits of the Earth, Water, and Air)—Patrick Ng Kah Onn . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 71 10. Hanuman's Visit to Sita—Syed Thajudeen . . 74 11. Puteri Daun (Leaf Princess)—Mustaffa Haji Ibrahim . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 74 12. Menora (Traditional Play)—Hoessein Enas . . 77 13. Nobat (Royal Drum)—Hoessein Enas . . . < , « 77 14. Seni Melayu (Malay Arts)—Nik Zainal Abidin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ° .. 80 15- Wayang Kulit Kelantan (Kelantan Shadow Puppets)—Nik Zainal Abidin . . . . . . . . 80 16. Drupadi—Nik Zainal Abidin . . . . . . . . . 82 17. Boats—Nik Zainal Abidin . . . . . . . . . . 82 18. Siri Dungun—Jendela Terbuka (Dungun Series Window)—Ruzaika Omar Basaree . . . . * . . 84 vi COPYRIGHT © UiTM
  8. 8. Vll Illustration Page 19. Surface Painting—Ismail Zain . . . . . . . . 84 20. Kubunuh Cintaku (I Kill My Love)—Ismail Zain .... . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 86 21. Garuda (Mythical Bird)—Ibrahim Hussein ... 86 22. Hang Tuah dan Hang Jebat (The Duel of Hang Tuah and Hang Jebat)—Ismail Mustam . . . . . 89 23. Pak Utih (Uncle Utih)—Ibrahim Hussein ... 89 24. Gunung Ledang (Mount of Ledang)—Syed Ahmad Jamal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 92 25• Kelahiran Inderaputera (The Birth of Inderaputera)—Anuar Rashid . . . . . . . . . 92 26. Di Sebalik Awan Putih (Beyond the White Cloud)—Haji Omar Basaree . . . . . . . . . . 96 27- Oh Moon Where Art Thine Stars—-Ahmad Khalid Yusof . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 96 28. Jawi and Nature 1984 V—Ahmad Khalid Yusof , 98 29. Tulisan (Writing)—Syed Ahmad Jamal ..... 98 30. Waiting for Godot—Sulaiman Esa . . . . . . . 100 31. Islamic Geometric Pattern—Sulaiman Esa . . . 100 COPYRIGHT © UiTM
  9. 9. CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION 1.1 Background of Problem In order to keep the younger Malaysian generation aware of their own cultural heritage two institutions of art were set up immediately after the independence of Malaya (before Malaysia was formed) in 1957- The National Museum and National Art Gallery (later called the National Museum of Art) are responsible for the collection, documentation and conservation of all artifacts that reflect Malaysian values. Both museums have their respective responsibilities in addition to the common functions stated earlier. The former has the responsibility to excavate and restore traditional , artifacts and document the history of Malaysia. On the other hand, the latter is primarily responsible for collecting, organizing exhibitions, and evaluating modern artworks. Both institutions provide a wide range of objects and aesthetic dispositions (Sabapathy & Piyadasa, 1983). The National Museum or locally known as "Muzium Negara" has four galleries on both first and second floors. On the first floor in both east and west wings are located cultural, archeological, and historical 1 COPYRIGHT © UiTM
  10. 10. collections and evidence of the existence of early civilization from Neolithic age until present day. All these items in the collection are from three different areas which are considered to be the founda- tions on which modern Malaysia is built and they have been collected from all over Malaysia. In fact, in addition to this, the National Museum, there are many other smaller museums that are controlled by several states such as Malacca, Perak, Kedah, Negeri Sembilan, Johore, Penang, Sarawak, etc. They also have their own local collections of artifacts and exhibits. On the second floor of the National Museum, in the east wing is located information pertaining to all the economic resources of Malaysia. All species of vertebrated and invertebrated animals that inhabit Malaysian waters and jungles are located in the west wing. In the east wing of the National Museum (first floor) one may find a good collection of both arche- ological findings and historical documentations. Among those items displayed in the archeological section are artifacts such as megalith, potteries of Neolithic age, stone and bronze ornaments, brass-wares, swords and kris, models of traditional palaces and mosques, wood-carving, etc. The evidence of Islamic influences in Malaysia since fifteenth century A.D. are also reflected in various artifacts such as banners, wood-carvings of Koran COPYRIGHT © UiTM
  11. 11. 3 verses, embroidery in golden-thread, and underglazed china-ware with Islamic calligraphy and geometric patterns. In the historical section are arranged chronologically all evidence of the historical develop- ment of the Malay peninsula since the opening of Malacca by Parameswara in about the year of 1^03 A.D. until the formation of Malaysia in 1963• The most colorful section of the museum is the cultural heritage section in the west wing of the first floor. As one enters the main entrance of this gallery he is confronted with a life-size statue of a young royal couple in the "bersanding" or in the wedding ceremony position, right in the center of the gallery. This couple and the maid-servants who attend them are dressed in the actual colorful ceremonial garments that had been used by the royal family in Malaysia. They are dressed in "kain songket" the traditional golden-threaded cloth and jewelry. In conjunction with this cultural aspect that is inherited from the Hindu wedding ceremony (to sit in state both the bride and bridegroom as "Raja Sehari" or king and queen of the day)there are many other life- size and smaller statues of Malaysian Malays to the left of the dais. These sculptures are dressed in their special clothes in certain cultural dances such as "joget, inang and fishermen dance", in the position of COPYRIGHT © UiTM
  12. 12. "bersilat" the Malay self-defence art,"Menora and Mak YongJ1 the cultural plays of the east coast states of West Malaysia, and groups of young Malay lads involved in joyful activities such as in top-spinning games and kite- playing. Previously, on the right hand corner as some- one passes the entrance, there is a huge collection of "destar" the special royal headgear that are worn on the heads "by rulers in every state in West Malaysia. These head-gears are mostly made of "songket cloth" that is folded into certain floral twists and patterns. Every different fold and treatment of the cloth has a special name. As one moves along the right aisle passing the "Bersanding ceremony1 * on his left and head-gears and cultural dances by the commoners on the right, he will come across another ceremony of "Berkhatan" of the prince, or in other words, a religious rite to perform circumcision. This latter section is adjoined to the bersanding section. This ceremony is also depicted with the figure of the prince riding a wooden "bird "Burung Petala Wali", the mythological big bird that is about twenty feet in height (Illustration 1). This bird sculpture is used as the transportation to carry the prince from his palace to another platform specially made for the purpose of performing the ceremony of circumcision by the "Tok Mudim diraja" or the person COPYRIGHT © UiTM
  13. 13. 111. 1. Burung Patala Wall ( Th« «[ythical Bird ) COPYRIGHT © UiTM
  14. 14. 6 who is skillful and responsible to perform this ceremony. The annex platform of the ceremony of circumcision, another platform is erected so as to place various types of Malay traditional musical instruments such as "Gendang Raya"i the big drum, "Kecapi", a string instrument, "Nafiri"; a woodwind instrument, etc. Among these one may also find some Chinese and Indian musical instruments that are commonly used by these latter communities in their cultural ceremonies such as "dragon dance" and in religious rite. In the section that is opposite the mythological bird image one may find various Chinese and Indian cultural activities and artifacts such as a traditional Chinese bedroom in ancient Malacca, examples of Chinese opera, Indian dance, etc. Finally, on the right hand side of the left aisle as one moves toward the exit after passing all those aforementioned items, a rich collection of shadow-play puppets is displayed. From these varieties of puppets one will find that the stories depicted are of Indian origin and they are derived from the "Indian Mahabrata" epic and several other stories about local rulers, especially in the east coast states of West Malaysia (Kelantan and Trengganu). From these shadow-play puppets one can also find that the cross-cultural influences from other neighboring countries such as Thailand and Indonesia COPYRIGHT © UiTM
  15. 15. FOTOSTAT TIDAK D1BENARKAN 7 appear in the puppets themselves, especially in the treat- ment of the drapery design and body postures with elongated arms attached to the shoulders and heads in the profile positions. With this brief sketch of our cultural heritage that is situated on the west wing of the first floor gallery of the National Museum of Malaysia, one can feel how rich the Malaysian culture is and at any moment a creative art student may easily choose and derive some ideas from this wide range of cultural heritage motifs, and thus render them into his own contemporary artwork. Modern painting of Malaysia with cultural motifs to reflect Malaysian identity can be displayed and viewed in the next complex that is just on the other side of the road that separates the National Museum of Art and the east wing of the National Museum. The National Art Gallery, (the first name of the National Museum of Art) when it was temporarily part of the Dewan Tunku Abdul Rahman building, began in 195^ with the idea nurtured by the Federation of Malay Art Council (Balai Seni Lukis Negara 1958-83, 198*0. In his opening speech of the Third Annual Open Malayan Artists Exhibition in March 1956, Y.T.M. Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra (then Chief Minister) approved in principal that Malaya should have its own National Art Gallery (National Art Gallery Report, 1963) and again in March COPYRIGHT © UiTM
  16. 16. 8 1958, when his excellency made his opening speech for the fifth Annual open Exhibition of Malayan Artists, he announced that the Federation Government would set aside part of the Dewan Tunku Abdul Rahman building as a temporary premises of the National Art Gallery. Accord- ing to the foreword to the catalogue for the exhibition the building was a temporary home for the nation's work of art which would offer "enjoyment and inspiration to the general public and instruction for students", and that "art expresses and reflects the spirit and personality of the people who make a nation"j and that it is the responsibility of the present generation of Malaysians to build a nation which will gain some inspiration from a fine collection of works of art, worthly housed and accessible to all (National Art Gallery, 1958). Syed Ahmad Jamal, present Director of the National Art Gallery in the introduction of the catalogue of the National Art Gallery Exhibition 1958-1983 emphasized that the National Museum of Art must be a model institution of its kind, a cultural agency upholding a tradition of serving society yet setting trends, a preserver of the heritage and catalyst of the new, working within the framework of responsibility and integrity of its social role, leading with knowledge and courage, aware of changes in society, in context of COPYRIGHT © UiTM
  17. 17. the reality of the living culture (Balai Seni Lukis Negara 1958-83, 198^). Unfortunately, all these aspirations to have works of art that reflect a cultural identity of Malaysia has rather gradually diminished. The traditional motifs, whether those which have already "been salvaged and have been kept in several museums throughout the country or those which have not been recovered, are becoming alien to the younger Malaysians. Both institutions, National Museum and National Museum of Art which provide a wide range of object and aesthetic despositions are generally ignored and not fully realized. Ironically, cultural motifs that were sustained and accumulated since about 3,000 - 4,000 years ago are gradually being engulfed and relinguished by the modernization and influences brought into the country by the British colonialism. The British intervention into the politics of Malay States in about the year 1?86 A.D. and the introduction of western art styles about forty years ago had changed considerably a large number of artist's attitudes toward their roots. Some of the younger Malaysian generations were easily influenced and adulterated their own cultural heritage with all these western influences as well as the so-called modern art-style. They tended to forget their own cultural motifs and values, totally adopting western values without considering the COPYRIGHT © UiTM
  18. 18. 10 consequences of this action as it affected the younger generation of artists around them. 1.2 Statement of Problem and Purpose of Study Those two institutions, namely the National Museum and National Museum of Art, which provide a wide range of cultural heritage and aesthetic dispositions have generally been ignored. These sources of ideas and expression for contemporary work of art have not fully exploited by modern Malaysian artists. Wiser artists are very selective with the new trends of art and sensitive with their own cultural values, many of them have still been carried away into the swift current of the western norms. While the former study and keep to their cultural roots, the latter, especially those younger artists who underwent art training in Western countries no longer recognize traditional form and content. They have either poked fun at the society from which they have removed themselves or have become so self-centered and individualistic that they too have lost contact with their own society. They also feel that those motifs and symbols that appear in traditional art have no materialistic gain. Without judging the "essence" and "context" they define "Fine Art" as superior than "Applied Art" or traditional art. Gradually, they are influenced by western values COPYRIGHT © UiTM
  19. 19. 11 and tend to forget their own cultural heritage. The situation becomes more complex and deteriorates when some of them rail against the implementation of "National Cultural Identity" that is based on the homogeneous culture. This serious problem is due to the ignorance and lack of understanding of Malay form and content in art. It is the purpose of this research paper to help to find or suggest a solution, or possibly a means whereby the form and content of traditional art, with special interest and emphasis on Malay form and content will not be forgotten but be understood, not only by the artists themselves, but also other audiences of modern Malaysian painting. It is also the aim of this study to identify those artists who cleverly use modern technique and media in order to highlight and upgrade the traditional cultural heritage of their country. By referring to their works, it is hoped that Malaysian values, especially those which relate to traditional Malay art and culture will be understood. They are not only known as the "rivivalists" in the Malaysian modern art movement, but also they are the artists who set up certain standards for other newcomers into modern Malaysian painting. 1.3 Scope and Limitation of Study Since this study is executed in Ohio University, _________.—-——•— FQTOSTAT TIOAK. DIBENARKA* COPYRIGHT © UiTM
  20. 20. 12 Ohio, United States of America, the writer admits that his research is "based on those available materials in the university's library, personal experience and through other general readings about relevant theories of art. Although he is a Malay by origin, he will never admit that he knows all aspects of Malay art and culture. His statement may not be the opinion of any Malaysian Cultural association or any higher learning institutions. He will agree, however, that his comments and suggestions may be considered for improving the betterment of the traditional Malay form and content in the Modern Malaysian art scene. This research's scope which is limited within the Malay form and content in modern Malaysian painting is based on the answers obtained from ten questions listed below: 1. What is Malay form and content? 2. Is there any Malay form and content in modern Malaysian painting? 3- What are those sources of Malay form and content in modern Malaysian painting? 4. Are new media used suitable enough for the exploitation of Malay form and content? 5. How do Malaysian artists use the new media to attract audiences to appreciate Malay form and content? 6. How do artists entwine Malaysian cultural values COPYRIGHT © UiTM
  21. 21. 13 with western art styles? 7- What type of education will stimulate the interest of the younger generations toward a national identity in art? 8, Is the present Malaysian school curriculum in art education promoting the cultural values amongst the students? 9- What is the contribution of Malay form and content in the implementation of the National Congress of Culture's resolutions? 10, What are those steps taken in promoting the cultural heritage in modern Malaysian painting? 1.4 History and Civilization of Malay In the Paleolithic age, from sometime after 10,000 years until about 4,000 years ago, the Hoabinhians, the people who were at that stage of culture as hunters and food gatherers inhabited the Malay Peninsula before they travelled further southward as far as New Guinnea, Australia and the Islands of South Sea. This race of people, having physical characters suggesting affinity with the present day Melanesians, left traces of their cultures, especially in caves and rock-shelters in Malay Peninsula (Tweedie, 1957)• They made rather rough stone tools by chipping river pebbles to produce a jagged cutting or scraping edge on the tools themselves, not by COPYRIGHT © UiTM
  22. 22. grinding or polishing them. These men knew nothing about any form of agriculture. The Hoabinhian people were then followed by another group or race, namely, the Proto-Malays and the Deutero- Malays. The migration of these early Malays from the northern part of Southeast Asian region, especially from Yunnan in Southern China, down to the Malay Peninsula took place between 2,500 B.C. and 1,500 B.C. According to Sardesai, this latter group of people is the largest population group in today's Southeast Asia, inhabiting Malaysia (Malay Peninsula and East Malaysia), Indonesia, and the Philippines (Sardesai, 1981). This group of people who are universally known as the people of the Neolithic age in this region, brought along with them an advanced material culture including the technique of making pottery of high aesthetic, as well as utilitarian merit and great skill in selecting and working stone to make tools and ornaments (Tweedie, 1957). They also brought along their animistic beliefs and cultures. These Neolithic people, especially the Deutero- Malay, were already peasants and produced an assured food supply by some sort of cultivation. They settled down once they found suitable places to cultivate their crops. At the same time, they also domesticated animals and formed some sort of community organizations. They, in COPYRIGHT © UiTM
  23. 23. 15 fact, "built their houses in the open, much like the nipah palm thatched roof wooden or bamboo houses of the farmers and country people before the Second World War. These simple communities consisted of parents and their children which then grew in size as the numbers of this population increased. Among them they were skilled and specialized craftsmen. They made pottery of excellent quality, dark and sometimes red in color, with smooth and polished outer surfaces that could be produced by the application of a clay slip before firing (Tweedie, 1957)• The Malays also made contact with other groups of Malays, who settled or shared the same rivers. Possibly they began the barter-trade business once they had the knowledge of how to carry their goods in their simple dug-out boats. The Deutero-Malay, the more advanced people of the two Malay ethnic groups was also responsible to introduce bronze and iron to this part of the world, in about 300 B.C. According to Tweedie (1957)> in the introduction of his book entitled Prehistoric Malava; the transition period from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age culture, which is also known as the Dongson Culture, was gradual. The only artifacts definitely referable to this age were three bronze bells and two drums. The evidence of one of the latter were found in Klang, Selangor (Illustra- tion 2) and the other bronze drum was found in Tembeling, COPYRIGHT © UiTM
  24. 24. 16 111* 2. Dongson Bronze DTUR, COPYRIGHT © UiTM

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