Arts Fair enlivens a slow Saturday in Miri

A FRIEND called to say the Sarawak Cultural Arts Fair was at the Miri Piasau Boat Club on March 25. What better than such a lively show — plus the sea breeze — to animate an unhurried and slow Saturday in Miri?

People drifted slowly into the club at 10.30am as the stall owners were putting up their wares for display.

For more than half an hour, there were noticeably more uniformed wait staff than customers. Only seven stalls were ready to operate. Perhaps, Mirians are not yet used to the idea that the Piasau Boat Club is now open to the public.

The tattooists had also not arrived. But at one stall, five artists, one probably in her late teens, had put up their paintings and various art forms for sale while an indigenous album provided background music.

The paintings at the stall of Sim Choo Heng soon attracted several patrons. A local doctor said he had bought quite a number of Sim’s paintings. While the good doctor was showing his appreciation of the paintings on display, Sim’s wife stood calmly beside a long table.

The couple were quiet and humble people, sort of like a scholarly and traditional Chinese couple. When approached, Sim kindly explained to me his paintings and even allowed me to take a photo of one depicting the Niah Cave. His wife stood by smiling.

Meanwhile, the young artist’s oil paintings in vibrant colours had attracted the attention of younger art fanciers. Natasha, a geologist from Peninsular Malaysia, told thesundaypost, “These are really nice paintings and I am getting two.”

She had actually gone to a bank to withdraw some cash to pay for them.

A friend suggested, “Perhaps future art fairs should advertise their prices so that we could make arrangements to pay online.”

Another potential buyer chipped in, “That’s very true. The Piasau Boat Club is rather far from the city centre. The nearest banks are in the Boulevard area, about 8km away.”

Looking for bargains

The groups of customers, coming in as families or as couples, seemed interested in not just browsing but also looking for some bargains.

Cikgu Malek, who has a stall at the Miri Handicraft Centre, was on hand to explain to the visitors about his art pieces. He had paintings of hornbills, flowers and scenery in different sizes on display.

A customer was interested in his batik piece on nature — to bring back to Kuala Lumpur — and had arranged with the artist to have another look at it. This is what an art fair is all about — bringing artists and patrons together.

Cikgu Malek’s hornbill batiks are really outstanding and would look good on the walls of local restaurants.

He has also been teaching batik painting at the old Miri Community Centre, now under renovation. Many expatriates have learnt the art from him. He hopes to get back to his batik painting classes after the renovation.

The atmosphere at the fair was ‘cultural and artsy’. Set in a fairly big colonial bungalow, the Piasau Boat Club is ideal for a small art fair. Sape music, and at times, just gong music, filtered through the air with oscillating fans to cool the hot open area.

The soap and fragrance stall, run by three young ladies, was a point of interest. Jenn, one of the soap makers, told thesundaypost, “I hold lessons in making soaps at my home. I am also a home maker. School children can come and learn about making soap. Most of my products are natural — no chemicals. My customers are usually discerning and knowledgeable about allergies.”

Hand-made soaps are produced from natural ingredients, leaving zero chemical residues and burdens to the skin. Hence, no matter the skin type or personal preferences, these soap makers will always try to create the right blends.

According to a customer, her skin has improved after using handmade soaps. She is now relieved of itchiness and dry skin conditions.

Apart from soaps, the three ladies also make skin care products as well as beauty and healthcare products.

Owing food truck

Mohammad Putit owns an artworks business. Many of his products are in the form murals. He is also looking forward to owning a food truck which will definitely add to the variety of the food businesses in Miri.

Mohammad said he also enjoys doing home maintenance.

Near the beach, a few young men were cooking bamboo chicken for RM55 per stem. The charcoal fire, blending with the fragrance of the cooking, did work up an appetite for many.

Beachcomber’s laksa at RM8 per bowl was a bargain. Many of the visitors and customers stayed for lunch — to savour the delectable menu. A lot of them also enjoyed their laksa under coconut trees on a fairly sunny day with a good view of the sea. Snacks were also on sale. It was altogether a good morning for most.

As the sun climbed higher in the sky, the sea breeze started to blow in and cool the area. Children and their grandparents stood in the shade of coconut trees to have their pictures taken.

A conspicuous purple flag with the image of a jellyfish fluttered in the breeze. This flag seemed to be the only one on the beach although Miri has one of the longest soft and sandy beachfronts — from Beraya to Luak Bay and all the way to Kuala Baram.

We often wonder why only the Piasau Boat Club flies a ‘jellyfish flag’ during the bubuk season even though jellyfish are known to swim with the crustaceans. It would be useful to have more of these flags at some of the beach outlets.

In the 70s and even 80s, many holidaymakers were stung by jellyfish at Luak Bay. Some deaths from the poisonous stings of the box jellyfish had also been reported.

In any event, it was, overall, an interesting Saturday morning for senior citizens, adults and their children — even before the live band came around — with a good clean beach, open space and a grand sea view.

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