In 2013, my cousin Kenny shared with me a vast collection of portraits that he had shot all over Malaysia, and also his idea to create a book. He wanted to know if I would like to work with him to produce the book. I was still living in Singapore then and somewhat unsure at first. But as we huddled over a laptop in my little urban apartment, these warm, friendly portraits of fellow Malaysians began to come alive as Kenny told me their stories. Across the changing backdrops of big cities and rural kampungs, new ideas and fading traditions, thriving industries and endangered trades… I heard stories of courage, resilience and love. I knew right then that it was going to be one of those projects that I would get more back from than I could ever possibly put in.
As we started brainstorming angles for the book, one thought became crystal clear in our minds – this book was NOT going to be about how different we were, with our diverse cultures and ethnic backgrounds. Rather, it would be a book that celebrated how much we had in common IN SPITE OF our diverse cultures and ethnic backgrounds. To me, these images and stories represented all that was good and worth fighting for in our country: our shared values, our shared heritage, our shared identity, our Malaysianness. Individually, these were not grand, inspiring stories, but collectively, the message was an overwhelmingly powerful one.
And so, Born in Malaysia was born.
Three years on, as I now re-write my introduction for the web edition of BIM, I am filled with gratitude for the many positive responses our project has received. Kenny’s decision to make the book content freely available here in three different languages is a move that I support wholeheartedly. I hope you will enjoy these stories as much as we have bringing them to you, and even if you have read our book, please do come back to visit every now and then, as Kenny will be adding new stories too.
Finally, to Kenny and Joo Lee, I recall our time spent on this project with so much fondness and gratitude. Thank you also for helping me see that no matter where we end up in the world, we will always remain Anak Malaysia.