Rattan Dreams

Breezy days lazing at the farm on Grandpa & Grandma’s rattan sofa set.  Fighting my cousin for a ride on her rattan rocking horse.  My childhood days were made of these.  I have a soft spot for this natural material of our jungles; so suited for our balmy tropical climate.

It breaks my heart to hear younger relatives choose to throw out the old favourites in favour of “minimalist look” sofa sets, perhaps to impress yuppie friends.  The flashy new seating are invariably hot, latex contraptions that require air conditioning for any semblance of comfort in our hot, humid weather.  Rattan, on the other hand, reminds me of gentle breezes, sun-dried laundry swaying on the line and the softest well-worn cotton fabrics.

Older relatives know to call me when they hear of heirlooms being thrown out.  The old treasures somehow always find their way to our house.  In my room in Singapore, I sit on a rattan chair castoff from a granduncle who moved to the Philippines.  In Kuching, I sleep in a teak bed that used to be a cousin’s childhood bed, complete with tacky blue formica and peeling, faded stickers intact, and lounge in Grandma’s discarded rattan sofa set.

And so this clip commissioned by the National Heritage Board for their Heritage in Episodes project so captured my heart, I just had to pay the craftsman a visit.

I finally managed to drop by Hak Sheng and had a little chat with the 72-year-old founder, Mr Goh Kiok Seng.  He was sunning feather dusters today and told us that the feather dusters were new old stock from 15 years ago.

“These feather dusters are 15 years old and still so good.  They just don’t make things like they used to.  These are made of rooster’s feathers; they last longer than hen’s feathers.”

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These feather dusters were made in the “珠江羽毛制品厂” (Pearl River Feather Factory) in Guangdong Province, China, sometime in the late ’90s.

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I loved seeing these upcycled dustpans again.  We used to use them to sweep the class during class duty in my primary school in Kuching.  Our form teacher, Cikgu Benita, once used the big cooking-oil-can-dustpan (on the lower right hand corner) to sweep up a stray monitor lizard that had wandered into our Primary 1 classroom one morning, then in her matter-of-fact manner, dumped the fella outside our class and resumed teaching.

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