14 May 2014: Simple Fieldnotes of a Mama

A collection of sketches representing the diverse yet complex cultures of Malaysia.

mamacoll-1We are happy to present a new addition to our catalogue – Simple Fieldnotes of a Mama. This remarkable book is a woman’s search for the understanding of different cultures, ethnicities and life experiences, and expressing these through  charming watercolours and interesting little anecdotes. Hung Wan Lu weaves a tapestry of urban Malaysian and Penang life!

Jazz connoisseurs may liken Hung Wan Lu’s Simple Fieldnotes of a Mama to Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain, a series of improvisations which the jazz trumpeter derived from the Spanish folk and classical tradition. Though Davis wasn’t even remotely Hispanic, he captured the nuances and lyricism of Spanish melodies in “a work of unparalleled grace and lyricism.” The same can be said of Fieldnote’s author Hung Wan Lu. Hung isn’t a Malaysian, having only moved to Penang in 2008 from Taipei. Yet the consummate skill and familiarity in which she uncannily encapsulates the cultures, religions, trades, foods and historical sites of Malaysia, particularly on Penang, is simply amazing. Not since Lat’s Kampung Boy has a series of illustrations and short descriptions unveiled such a rich tapestry of homegrown history, anecdotes, food, facts and insights. Don’t let the innocent simplicity of the drawings or the tongue-in-cheek remarks fool you, for behind the visage comique lies a sensitive artist.

mamacoll-2Fieldnotes is presented in the form of a journal – the bilingual (Chinese/English) jottings shaped by the writer’s keen observational insights on religious festivals, houses of worship, superstitions and traditional trades. The writing is styled so as to inform as well as to amuse, and each ‘entry’ is accompanied by equally poignant watercolour illustrations.   There is plenty in the book that will keep readers entertained – literal translations of Chinese idioms, among them “gods are happy and human beings are happy, and both of them are happy together” and rituals like the ‘villain hitting’ ceremony where one’s enemies are magically cursed. There is plenty here that is entertaining yet educational. It is available from Areca Books now.