Foreword by Adam Jeffery | ARound the block’s Editor-in-chief
Malaysia has always been marketed to be a multi-racial country and touted as a society of tolerance but what is shown on screens as perpetuated by media and PR agencies are not always as they seem (We know. Shocker). For those who may not be aware of Malaysia from a political, geographical and social point of view (amidst political scandals, unfortunate events in the airline industry, and the “nasi lemak” debacle) then here’s a quick summary of Malaysia.
Malaysia is located between Singapore (that country well known for its apparent business acumen) and Thailand (that country known for its art, culture, and other such “pleasantries”) - we know, we know, that doesn’t begin to capture the true essence of either of these countries but that’s the gist of it. Politically, we are as much as a mess as those in the rest of the world from Trumpism to Brexit and corruption to identity politics (allegedly). Despite the endless heat in the political arena and the forever Summer outside the eternally air-conditioned mall, Malaysia is as diverse as the world (don’t let the anti-ICERD rallies, crack down on homosexuality, and the overwhelming Malay-ness fool you). Malaysia’s social fabric is woven from more than the three racial “threads.” Yes, the Malay, Chinese, and Indians make up for the majority but other races walk among them - from Eurasian music producers (featured on ATB once upon a time) to Japanese businessmen and Korean restaurant owners.
Despite the amazing and creative work these individuals have done, the chances of them staying in the country are slim as they are simply given temporary residence and a red identity card (if they’re so lucky). So many of the creatives we’ve met and featured thus far were forced to leave despite being more Malaysian than some of the people here at Around The Block. I believe that “creativity” is the new resource that lies beyond the oil and gas that we harm Mother Nature for but in order to fully make use of such untapped potential - society, governments, individuals, and creatives must set aside their egos and reliance on “identity” (who cares who you’re doing behind the privacy of see-through windows of your cars or what race is stated on your identity card) and let our creativity flow and be appreciated (with eyeballs, comments, and money…yes, money… even creatives have to survive!). Let’s put aside our differences and let us live our democratic lives where all lives matter and no creative work or opinions are hushed for the sake of those in power.
Do what you have got to do to be the colourful “Kuih Lapis” you were born to be.
This peninsular country is not just known for its alleged racial cohesiveness but for its diversity in lifestyles. It is a country that has accepted three different cultures into its core and because of that it cannot escape from being included in “modernity.” Just like the “Kuih Lapis” (a traditional dessert either steamed or baked) with its multi-coloured, uneven, delicious layers - Malaysia, and the people that call this place their home will never be clumped together like white rice (as delicious as white rice can be) on a plastic plate in a mamak stall (an establishment serving fairly affordable food when not contaminated with rats, roaches, and plates washed in potholes). As hard as a single ethnic group may try to claim this land as their own - white rice can never hope to remain pristine when other “lauk” (dishes) is placed on the table. In fact, even something as basic as rice (again, as delicious as it is by itself) can be transformed into something better - sweetened with sugars, mixed with flavours, and made colourful.
Everyone here at Around The Block would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to you, our readers and creatives, for being the colourful people that you are. Thank you for being the kuih lapis on this boring plastic plate of a country we call Malaysia.
Layer upon layer,
a dessert ﬁlled with colours,
as our mothers piece together,
the perfect balance of wonders.
A neighbourhood favourite,
a family friend,
a nostalgic treat,
one that’s good to the very end.
The Kuih Lapis boldly represents
Malaysia, in present tense,
a piece of every descent,
a peace for the motherland.
Every shape, size and colour,
unique to its own nature,
much like Malaysians,
to be our true selves, no matter the occasion,
A Kuih laced with tradition
and a taste of modern rendition
as we free them
A reﬂection of cultures,
values and beliefs,
And more importantly,
an identity that never leaves.
Pieces from far and wide,
marching with pride,
To be diﬀerent from the current,
to be proud you exist,
to be your own Kuih Lapis.
Check out the Full Lookbook here:
Lapisan Masyarakat, which stands for Society’s Layers, is a Kuih Lapis inspired fashion ensemble. Depicting Malaysia’s cultural diversity through a profusion of outﬁts presented in this colour popping series. Traditional Baba-Nyonya desserts are reimagined as multi-layered outﬁts pieced together from thrift store treasures.