Sunday, January 11, 2009

Beauty Bench

This is a common rural farm house in Sarawak. But how long will they be left standing? Our rural scene may be fast disappearing with oil palm plantations sprouting up every where. The small farmer would be edged out. The courageous one farmer with one family farm might soon be all gone.

Two interesting features need to be highlighted.

Firstly the "blackened wood look:. The wood used by the owner is plain and treated by the 1960's commonly used "oil" (a kind of tar oil) to prevent termite. Hence the house has a "blackened" look giving most of the rural houses in Sarawak like this a very functional and secure look. Aesthetics has never really played an important role in the construction of this type of rural farm house. It has always been know that the farmers who developed his land in rural Sarawak was very frugal and practical.

Secondly on the first floor there is an open space which forms the upper deck and a recreational area. It is not the usual deck which juts out of the building to provide a space for drying of clothes and display of potted plants or even for drying of pepper. Here I would like to imagine that the family must have spent hours in the evening to catch their breath and watch the sunset (this home faces the west). In the days before air conditioning the family must have enjoyed the cool evenings and watched whatever passed by the road. This is the living room or open family den of the 60's in the the rural area.

The family must have spent enjoyable time bonding . They would have chatted right into the late hours of the night and appreciated each other's company especially when they had no tv and dvds. A small transistor radio would have been playing at the side.

The bench here would be a permanent and much loved fixture . One the other hand if you have watched a lot of Chinese movies with traditional setting you would have noticed that a similar bench specially built in the courtyard. It was called the beauty bench for the bound feet ladies of the family to rest and while their time away. The ladies would have enjoyed some kind of open air time without being seen by public eye. It was all very much the norms and mores of the society then.

So in a way I would think that this upper level open air bench would be provided for the women folk of the family so that they had a place to "hang out " or "chill out" . they thus did not have to cycle to the corner joint.

These days one can find a few "balcony" type of outlet or homes on the first floor of shop houses. Probably the same idea?

These two wooden house features have long gone from the Chinese community. Modern homes no longer have these as concrete and other building materials and more importantly lifestyle have changed tremendously in the last twenty years.

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