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Malaysian-Born Maestro: James Wan’s Cinematic Journey from Saw to Aquaman

Malaysian-born filmmaker James Wan has gained prominence primarily in the horror genre, co-creating the successful Saw and Insidious franchises and establishing The Conjuring Universe. Despite his horror roots, Wan expanded his repertoire by directing Furious 7 (2015) and the superhero film Aquaman (2018), along with its sequel Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (2023), both grossing over $1 billion worldwide.

Wan credits Saw as the film that significantly impacted his career, marking him as the first Asian director to achieve a billion-dollar box office success. The 2004 horror became a global hit, grossing over $103 million worldwide. Wan continued his success with horror releases, such as Insidious (2010) and The Conjuring (2013), earning him the title of the king of the horror genre.

His inspiration for horror stems from Asian ghost stories heard during his childhood from relatives, particularly in the rich cultural context of Asian traditions. Before achieving widespread success, Wan directed his first feature-length film, Stygian, which won “Best Guerilla Film” at the Melbourne Underground Film Festival in 2000.

Born on February 26, 1977, in Kuching, Sarawak, to Chinese-Malaysian parents, Wan moved to Perth at the age of 7. In a recent visit to Malaysia, he expressed joy at being back, indulging in his favorite Malaysian foods like laksa, chicken rice, and durian. Wan’s cinematic journey showcases his versatility and success across various genres, solidifying his status as a Malaysian-born maestro in the film industry.

Siniawan’s Unique Dragon Lantern Illuminates Sarawak

In a remarkable demonstration of creativity, Siniawan in Sarawak distinguished itself by setting a record for the longest-hanging dragon lantern decoration in Sarawak at 298 feet for the Chinese New Year.

Siniawan is a small town in the Bau district with a population total of about 3,600 people, with the majority being Bidayuh. Located 21km away from Kuching city, it is famous for its Siniawan Night Market, where they promote their traditions and cultures.

This achievement, as announced by Serembu assemblyman Miro Simuh, underscores the town’s unique identity. He also emphasized the town’s exceptional unity despite its diverse ethnic and religious background, stating, “Here lies the uniqueness of our Siniawan town. Despite our diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds, we come together to celebrate every Chinese New Year, Christmas, and Hari Raya. This is our uniqueness—a small place where we strive to give our best to every visitor.”

The ceremony, witnessing traditional performances such as lion dances, marked the official inauguration of the locally crafted dragon head and decoration, which took a month of preparation.

The community was encouraged to capture the moment through photos and share them widely to inspire more people to witness the beauty of the dragon and lantern decoration, which stretches to the cricket field. Siniawan’s record-setting dragon lantern decoration not only stands as a testament to the town’s creativity and dedication but also serves as a beacon of unity and celebrations, bringing people from diverse backgrounds together in the joyous spirit of festivities.

Malaysia’s Karipap Ranked Fifth Best Pastry in the World

TasteAtlas has ranked Karipap, a popular breakfast and afternoon snack, as the fifth in top 100 best pastry globally. It has rated Karipap as the #2 best deep-fried dish globally, the #5 best pastry worldwide, and the #8 best snack globally.

A comment on the website praises it as “one of the greatest Kuih in the world! Savory taste that excites the taste buds.”

Also known as curry puff, this small, deep-fried, or baked pastry shell is filled with thick chicken and potatoes. Its popularity extends beyond Malaysia to neighboring countries like Singapore and Thailand. The famous pastry can be found anywhere, especially on the side of the road being sold by the locals

Renowned for its flavorful and straightforward profile, Karipap offers a variety of fillings, including tuna, sardines, and beef rendang, in addition to the traditional potato and chicken curry.

This is not the first time Malaysian food has been ranked globally in TasteAtlas. Roti Canai, the traditional flatbread made with flour, water, eggs, and fat is rated as the #1 best-rated bread in the world, #2 best-rated breakfast in the world, and #4 best-rated snack in the world.

Melaka and George Town: UNESCO Cultural Heritage Gems Along the Straits of Malacca

Melaka and George Town, Historic Cities of the Straits of Malacca, earned recognition as UNESCO World Heritage Sites due to their rich historical and cultural influences shaped by their former roles as important trading ports connecting the East and West.

These cities stand as the most comprehensive surviving historic centers along the Straits of Malacca, reflecting a multicultural living heritage rooted in trade routes from Great Britain and Europe through the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, and the Malay Archipelago to China.

Both Melaka and George Town serve as living testaments to the multicultural heritage and traditions of Asia, where various religions and cultures intersected and coexisted.

Both of the cities exemplify multicultural trading towns in East and Southeast Asia, shaped by the interaction of Malay, Chinese, and Indian cultures and three successive European colonial powers over nearly 500 years.

Each era has left imprints on the architecture, urban layout, technology, and monumental art of these towns. Showcasing different stages of development and successive changes over an extended period, both towns complement each other in their historical narrative.

Melaka and George Town are also living witnesses to the multicultural heritage of Asia and the influence of European colonialism. The evidence of multiculturalism can be seen in the diverse array of religious buildings, ethnic quarters, languages, worship practices, festivals, dance, costumes, art, music, and daily life.

The cities also reflect a fusion of influences, creating unique architecture, culture, and townscapes in East and South Asia.

Jimmy Choo: Crafting Dreams From Penang

Renowned shoe designer Jimmy Choo, born and raised in Penang, Malaysia, not only crafted footwear beloved by Princess Diana but also received the distinguished Order of the British Empire from Queen Elizabeth II in 2003.

Choo is known as a Malaysian shoemaker and fashion designer who was influenced by his father, a skilled cobbler on the island of Penang. At the tender age of 11, Choo managed to craft his first pair of shoes for his mother. Encouraged by his parents, he pursued formal education in shoe design at Cordwainers Technical College (now London College of Fashion) in the early 1980s, where he met his wife, Rebecca Choi, and blessed them with two children.

Choo established his shop Lucky Shoes, with the support of his parents. After two years of his shop opening, his craftsmanship did not take long to gain recognition, with Vogue magazine featuring his shoes in an eight-page spread.

Jimmy Choo’s clientele expanded to include celebrities, notably Princess Diana, who frequently adorned his creations. However, it was the collaboration with Tamara Yeardye Mellon, an accessories editor at Vogue, that helped the brand ascent. Despite starting as a modest operation producing 20 handmade pairs weekly by Choo himself, the partnership helped widen a larger market for Choo’s creations.

Vanishaantini Pellarameas’ Wau Extravaganza”

Vanishaantini Pellarameas, who holds the title of Mrs Malaysia World 2023, will be donning the largest wau costume ever made in Malaysia, weighing approximately 10kg at the upcoming Mrs World pageant in Las Vegas. Vanishaantini will compete with participants from over 60 countries, aiming to bring pride to Malaysia on the international stage.

The wau costume showcases traditional floral batik patterns, adorned with orchids, hibiscus, pagoda flowers, ixora, bougainvillea, roses, and frangipanis. The sheer size of the costume is noteworthy, measuring an impressive 3.8 in height and 4.8 in width.

Fondly known as Vanishaa, the Malaysian finalist aspires to not only make Malaysia proud but also to bring global attention to the country through her unique and unprecedented costume. In a statement to Bernama, she expressed her pride in representing Malaysia at the international level and her desire to showcase something distinctive.

Despite her demanding schedule as a 27-year-old entrepreneur from Seremban, Vanishaa has dedicated time to preparing herself both mentally and physically for the prestigious pageant. Since March, she has been diligently training for the catwalk, managing her health, running her business, and actively participating in social work.

Having previously clinched the title of Mrs Malaysia World 2023, Vanishaa has earned notable rewards, including RM10,000 in cash, a jewelry set worth RM25,000, and an all-expenses-paid trip to represent Malaysia at the Mrs World contest in Las Vegas, commencing on 19 January this year. She was crowned by the international Mrs World 2022 winner, Sargam Koushal of India, at the Malaysian preliminary finals ceremony held in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday, 3 September.

Mendriq: A Language Lost in Time

According to Language experts who were interviewed by Bernama, the Mendriq language could become extinct in 20 years if no serious efforts are taken to preserve it; meaning that Malaysia might lose another one of its cultures.

To save the language from extinction, 20 villagers from the Mendriq Orang Asli in Kampung Kuala Lah were involved in a project to input Mendriq words and their meanings in Bahasa Melayu into the online multilingual dictionary Wiktionary. The aim of Wikimedia Community User Group Malaysia (Wikimedia Malaysia) is to preserve the Mendriq language.
Mendriq is one of the sub-groups of Orang Asli Negrito that can only be found in Kelantan. Currently, they live in three locations namely Kampung Lah in Gua Musang Kampung Pasir Linggi, and Sungai Tako in Kuala Krai. In Peninsular Malaysia, there are three groups of Orang Asli, namely Senoi, which includes 55.09 percent, Proto Malay (41.97 percent), and Negrito (2.94 percent).

The language expert added that the extinction of one language happens when one ethnic group receives formal education that does not use their language, other than mixed marriage, which is happening with the Mendriq ethnic group.

According to the village chief, Ali Lateh, mixed marriages have happened very frequently since the early 1990s. When their significant others cannot speak the Mendriq language, they will use the Malay language to communicate with each other. Hence, this has caused the Mendriq language to slowly be forgotten. The young children are also being seen using the Malay language to communicate with each other.

He also said that a person with the ‘original’ features of someone from the Mendriq ethnic which are curly hair, dark skin, a wide round face, a flat nose, and a short chin; and even if there are, there are less than 10 people with those features.

The Tale behind Bujang Senang: the World’s 4th Largest Crocodile

Bujang Senang, recognized by many as the notorious crocodile responsible for numerous fatalities in Sarawak is viewed differently in the cultural narrative of the Iban people, where they believe that the deadly crocodile was once a man that was cursed to transform into a crocodile.

Ranking as the world’s fourth-largest crocodile, Bujang Senang has become the fear of the villagers around the Batang Lupar River since 1941. Its demise came at the hands of a combined effort of the police and villagers, requiring them four hours.

Legend holds that Bujang Senang was formerly an Iban warrior named Simalungun during the time when people practiced ‘mengayau’ (cutting off and collecting the enemies’ heads). His mystic skills rendered his body making him immune from attack and becoming an unbeatable force on the battlefield.

The mystic arts, however, carried a taboo that, if violated, the practitioner would become vulnerable. Simalungun’s enemies, desperate to overcome him, kidnapped his wife in an attempt to extract the closely guarded secret of his taboo. In a confrontation at the Batang Lupar River, Simalungun’s enemies released his wife but fatally impaled her with a javelin before he could reach her.

Consumed by grief and rage, Simalungun engaged in a fierce battle. To their surprise, his enemies discovered that weapons could harm him once he entered the river. It then came to a quick conclusion that Simalungun’s taboo forbade him from standing in a river, and despite his formidable skills, he was eventually defeated. His lifeless body, along with that of his wife, was thrown into the river.

Mysterious forces dwelling in the river cursed Simalungun’s remains, transforming him into a colossal crocodile, identifiable by a distinct white stripe on its back.

During its prime, Bujang Senang was rumored to rival the size of a bus, but by the time of its demise in 1992, it was measured at around 20 feet. Today, the skull of Bujang Senang is on display at Jong’s Crocodile Farm in Sarawak.

Anniketyni Madian’s United Nations-Recognized Art

Anniketyni Madian hailing from Sarawak has captured the recognition of the United Nations with her Distinctive engraving of ‘Rutit’ Pua Kumbu.

At the age of 34, the artist has carved her niche as a professional wood sculptor since 2008, gaining popularity across Asia. Her prowess earned her two finalist positions in the Sovereign Asian Art Prize (SAAP) in Hong Kong, receiving national recognition and expanding her influence internationally through art exhibitions in various locations, including overseas.

With a blend of Iban and Malay heritage, Anniketyni’s journey into the world of sculpture began during her pursuit of a Master of Fine Arts (Sculpture) from MARA University of Technology. According to Anniketyni, she does not want to bound by ordinary works, hence she applies the element of Pua Kumbu in each of her works. Pua Kumbu, renowned among Iban women, holds cultural significance in the weaving industry of Sarawak’s textile tradition.

Traditionally, this multi-colored patterned cloth is usually used in ceremonies and important events such as childbirth, coming-of-age celebrations, and funerals. To make it more unique, the artist also combines the element of Pua Kumbu with Islamic elements such as calligraphy and Jawi writing.

As an advocate for her Sarawakian heritage, Anniketyni emphasizes the importance of promoting her community’s culture through art. Her sculputres have transcended local acclaim, capturing the attention of United Nations and Google. Some of her sculpture are also exhibited at private art galleries, Four Season Hotel, and many more.