Dark Drawings Unpacked (2019)

TENGKU SABRI: I was born in Jerteh, a small town in Terengganu. My early education was in Terengganu, and then I went to study art in the Universiti Teknologi MARA. I was an artist, and then I do part time teaching job, and finally, I opted for full time lecturer. In the late 2014, I was hit by stroke and it paralyzed the left side of my body. The attack began when I was about to give a lecture in the class. I suddenly fell down. I remember the students were terrified. I was hospitalized for about five weeks. My speech slurred and I lost my ability to move about. It wasn’t until about two years after that I could walk again, after countless medications and physiotherapy sessions. Before the attack, I would say I led quite not a healthy lifestyle. I was a smoker. I always stayed up very late, thinking, reading, and doing my sketches and all that. I didn’t care much about my food and I seldom exercise. The scariest thing is in the first month of the attack I was always in bed, so I’m not happy as I think that I won’t be able to get up and do my art again. I decided to quit teaching, as I don’t want to trouble anybody. I would say art is in my blood. My grandfather and father were both master craftsmen specialized in traditional Malay wood carving and carpentry. Art for me is to express my feelings and thoughts about life. Whenever you make art, you will have to consider many things. The lines, colours, shapes, themes, and all these acts will need your consciousness to compose them into beautiful and meaningful compositions. Be it a painting, a sculpture, a poetry, or a piece of music. I get my inspirations from things that are around me like nature and stories that were told to me as a kid. The Dark Drawings are actually my kind of visual journal where I record my events, ideas, and imaginations after the attack. At that particular time, I always dreamed of weird monsters and nightmares that came to me. From that, I just started to draw. Usually, one drawing I drew it for about a day or two, and then the series is about one or two months. These are the stories of the Dark Drawings. “First Night on the Sick Bed” I was cold. I could feel the staggering blood flow in my left-side of the body. “A Painful Night” My left arm dislodges. It was very painful. I screamed. “A Visit by 2 Cigarette Djinns” I was a heavy smoker and abruptly I was made to stop smoking. That night I was visited by two Cigarette Djinns. They laughed me out. “Wearing of a Diaper” For hygienic reasons, I was forced to wear a diaper. “The Fall” Without knowing how, I fell sprawling in the hospital washroom one morning after being taken for a bath. Fortunately, there was nothing wrong. It was a shocking experience. “The First Massage and the Djinn of Stroke” I was supplementary treated with traditional massage by an experienced masseur. He told me about the smoky Stroke Djinn with red eyes! “Under the Jackfruit Tree” Bored of lying down on the sick bed, I longed to read under the jackfruit tree beside my studio. “The Wheelchair Accident” I wanted to take Pook, my favourite pet-cat, who was on the floor to my lap. The wheelchair was unlocked and the wheel rolled backwards. I fell to the front. Pook got a big surprise and jumped away! “A Hole in the Wall” I woke up from a sleep and found a hole was forming on a wall beside my bed. I crawled up to have a peek inside. “A Frightful Night” In a dream, the Stroke Djinn came again and troubled me. I gave a hard kick to one of his red eyes. I woke up to find his big red eye was lying on my bed. “Night Creature” In another dream, a strange creature came. It was trying to eat-up my left limbs. I gave it hard kicks and blows. And it turned away. “The Sculptor’s Nightmare” Will this paralysis end my career as a sculptor? Indeed! I couldn’t hold my chisels again while I need both hands to make sculptures. Many sculptural forms fell onto me from the sky. I must get up and work hard to rehabilitate myself fast! God willing. When we are sick, our mind strays away to negativity, confused, or depression. Art can play an important role whereby you can use it to express your feelings, and hopes to get well again. It is a kind of healing therapy. I’m a Muslim, a believer in God. God is all compassionate and merciful to all His creations. If we surrender to that, I believe He will grant us what we wanted. I always treat what befell me as a test, a challenge for me to be a better person. I work hard, and work my way to get better. I think my strength is never to give up to my sickness. I always feel that I can be well again. At the moment, I am happy that I am able to do my daily activities. I can do my work. There is an assistant to help me to execute my sculptures. I can do drawings. I can do my writing, as well as I can read. So, I’m quite happy now. I strive to make my life meaningful. I’m thinking of having a one-man exhibition and get my writings published. I wish never to stop making art as I think that is my occupation, my job, as an artist.

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