Sama-Sama caps the Iskarnival series

In October, someone named Hardesh wrote me and said, “I’m curating a magazine for Iskarnival and was referred to your blog (it’s actually way more than a blog!)”

Festival magazine for Iskarnival Sama-Sama collected
from the Info booth during the festival
[Photo courtesy of MAGistrate]
“I would really like to feature you and your work – to get a sense of how Johor has changed through the decades and some cultural viewpoints.  Yours must be the unofficial guide to all things Johor,” and he ended with a simple, “Hope to hear from you soon.”

I’m deeply humbled that someone wanted to feature My Johor Stories in a publication but it was weird how Hardesh was turning the tables on me and now instead of me asking the questions, I was to answer his interview questions?

In the course of my busy-ness, I failed to reply this message until much later.  Then Hardesh Singh introduced himself as the festival’s magazine editor.

The Green Market at Iskarnival Sama-Sama
As he explained the need for speed so that the publication may be out on time for Iskarnival’s Sama-Sama festival, I understood the pressure about deadlines.  While I was rather reluctant, Hardesh was very persuasive.

He explained that a magazine was published to commemorate each of this year’s Iskarnivals that happened in a series of three festivals– Kreatif, Naratif and Sama-Sama - held over three months, ending with Sama-Sama at Puteri Harbour.

Looking back on Sama-Sama that happened last November, I must congratulate the organisers for out-doing themselves in the finale of this year’s Iskarnival.  With such an eventful programme, my only regret was that I couldn’t be at more places at one time!

An intriguing bamboo art installation
in Konstruk
The first thing I did on arrival at Puteri Harbour that Sunday morning was to study the poster displayed with the day’s programme of activities and figure out what was happening, where and at what time – and get my priority on where to go next.

While I was still studying the schedule, I heard a “Hello” greeting and turned to see my friends, K K Lew and Shirley of MAGistrate, who had also just arrived.

It was good to see them again even though we recently met for a food trail with Tony of Johor Kaki fame to distribute their Find Dining with Johor Kaki book to several vendors in the city. [See photo at bottom left, page 74 of Iskarnival Sama-Sama magazine!]

A surge of activity happening in the Puteri Harbour centre court was drawing a crowd so we joined them to watch an artiste in a slick Face-Changing performance.

Then we spotted the INFO counter where a queue was waiting in line.  We saw people coming away with a magazine each and realized that this was where visitors could collect their complimentary copy of the festival magazine!

Guiding children in the art of handmade
traditional slippers or chapal
KK and I quickly joined the queue for our own copy of the magazine and when we picked it up, we lost no time in flipping through the pages.

While I was enjoying the scent of fresh ink on new pages, I heard KK’s enigmatic comment, “You are behind the sultan.”  And I was puzzled.

I was still perplexed by his comment and wondered what KK was trying to say.  Then he said Tony Johor Kaki was on page 64 and MAGistrate was on page 72, and I realised that he found the pages where these subjects were published.

So I opened the magazine to the contents and turned the pages from the front until I saw how Hardesh had placed his piece on My Johor Stories literally “behind the sultan” under the magazine’s intro section, About Johor

KK Liew [Centre] and I with Hardesh Singh [Left]
[Photo courtesy of MAGistrate]
So that was why KK made such a strange comment!

We had a good laugh and having agreed to track down Hardesh – who was somewhere in the festival – to share this funny episode with him, we went our separate ways to explore and experience the many exciting activities happening in Sama-Sama.

My first priority was to head into the open fields to see Konstruk, a collection of bamboo art installations by ASEAN artists and architects.

My Johor Stories featured "behind the sultan"
My strategy was to do as much as it was possible in the outdoors – while the sun was still shining – because in this monsoon season, the weather might suddenly change!

I was trekking along the promenade when I received a phone message from KK, saying that he found Hardesh and asked me to join them for a coffee.  

Thanks, Hardesh, for making this Iskarnival more memorable for me!  

It was indeed my privilege to be in the pages of the festival magazine alongside some of the local talents who are doing their part to make a difference in the Johor we know and love.

Here are some of the happenings at Sama-Sama that made me pause and look closer:

Awood handcrafted eye-wear by Mohd Faisal Sulaiman, a local talent from Kota Tinggi
The art of traditional beading embroidery
Deaf-Mute artist, Jessica Chia, guiding youngsters to create their own art pieces
Sheila Fendy with some of her art pieces using the quilling technique

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