Sometime in 2019, Ista and me stumbled upon a post on Facebook.
It was an illustration, extremely minimalist, but had words in them in Malay, peppered with a little bit of English. It was as Malaysian as it could get and the post blew our mind.
The person behind this work of art was Affendi Salleh. You’ve probably come across his posts on Facebook. They get shared like crazy. Best part? He also released a collection of all his Facebook posts into a book titled, Gelas Separuh Penuh.
We simply had to get in touch with the man to find out what goes on in his head. The interview you’re going to read was conducted via email and Affendi had us promise that we would not omit or tweak his answers. So here they are, in entirety, untouched by our edits.
P/S: Cassius is my Facebook name, by the way. Feel free to drop me a friend request.
Heya Affendi, when did you start sharing your philosophical musings in that distinct comic style and what inspired you?
Dear Cassius, if that is ever your name. The question of origin is an archaeological exercise of the memory. Maybe I started drawing in my mother’s womb, the sharing may have started there, as once she related to me how she felt tingly inside as if my premature fingers ran through the walls of her skin and traced the shapes of monkey and bird and angel and thunder and god knows what else.
Life inspired me, Cassius. To think that all these shall end soon inspired me, Cassius. Having death as the only certainty in life and what we do in between shall be judge by holy God inspired me even more, Cassius.
It seems like you mine heavily from your personal life, does your family mind that? Do they get a say in how they’re portrayed?
Have we ever get a say in anything in life? And if you do, do you think you have control over things? Control is an illusion, my dear interviewer.
Why do you think it’s important to share the stuff you share?
No, I do not have that sense of significance. I don’t think my ‘stuff’ is important, I don’t think the idea of wanting to be important is an important thing. But I think it’s good to be heard. And participate. Because this is The Age of Digital Insanity and We Are All In It Do Not Get Left Behind, so I don’t wanna get left behind.
How long does it take to work on a piece and get it ready to publish on social media?
40 minutes per post. Max. Good god the time that I have spent….
Since we are on the subject of time management, is being well read a symptom of your profession as an architect or your personal interest in arts and humanities? How much time do you devote to reading in a day?
I’d say reading is a luxury. It is a luxury of time, of opportunity and of excess in cash. So IT IS for devotees only. Because essentially, you can get through surviving life with minimum amount of reading, be it architect, a reporter, an artist, doctor, lawyer, whoever you are. I read a lot because I love swimming in the ocean of words. Kau tahu apa Count Almasy kata dalam The English Patient? ‘Words, Caravaggio, they have power.’ Power, Cassius, power. Tapi kalau kau tak pernah baca novel Ondaatje tu buat penat je aku taip benda ni.
Who are your favourite writers? What are your sources of inspiration?
Dah dua kali kau tanya hal inspiration. Dude do you even look at your questionaire God!
Favourite writers, just picking from memory with no particular order or preference, just random list of surnames AS IF I know them in person:
18. Cukuplah tu.
P.s I bet you don’t know who’s no. 14.
2. Dubner and Levitt
6. Norberg Shultz
Why did you choose to write in Malay and not in English?
Because I eat belacan that’s why. Sambal belacan, kangkong belacan. There is a HUGE difference between lidah belacan and lidah keju kau tau.
Does your wife mind that you have a lot of fan girls? (My wife is one of them hahaha!)
Yeah, she does mind it. But hey, between you and me, are you still doubting my capacity to memujuk? Are you? Aren’t you already convinced that I am a good talker? By the way send my regards to your sweetheart wifey. Tell her Affendi Salleh wanted to put the Eksen in Eksentrika today. Tell her that. Do not edit my words.
Did you self publish this book? What was the experience like?
Yes, 100% self published. Down to the last letters all on my own. The experience is exhilarating, like that first time they tied your feet to the bungee rope, and they ask ‘Are you ready?’. Of course you’re not, but you’re about to jump, blood rushes to the head, regret kicks in, you’re inches away from the edge, you ask ‘Can I get-‘, and they push you down, 14 seconds airborne, goddamn goddamn, exhilaration, like sex sans protection, 14 seconds later you’re still alive. Yes, that was what the experience was like, thanks for asking.
What would you say to aspiring writers and comic artists cum philosophers such as yourself?
I am not a writer. I am not a comic artist. I am not a philosopher. Cassius, get yourself a grip will ya? I am an architect, homie. A part 3 professional, licenced, registered with the Board of Architect. An architect who happens to have lotsa time and interest to do what you see I do. I already said a lot of things on FB, so yeah, tengok di sana sajalah.
Do share with us a little more about yourself, hometown, full name, age, and occupation.
None of those details is interesting. ‘I’m here and alive’ would be enough information.
Also, could you also share as many images of your book, some images of yourself writing etc? Is it also possible to share with us an exclusive excerpt from your book as well?
Go to my FB wall fergodssake. Go and take 4 or 5 pieces, you have my permission.
Thanks Affendi! Looking forward to your replies.
*** All images in this post were provided by Affendi Salleh.