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“Actually, is this person still alive ah?” someone asked me after looking around Yasmin At Kong Heng in Ipoh.

Yasmin Ahmad was an award-winning Malaysian film-maker, or in her own words – “a film dabbler and screenplay writer of sorts”, who was known for her moving television ads for Petronas locally, and her racially diverse films on the international stage. For those of you who are not familiar with her, don’t be surprised to find out that her films were often heavily criticized and even banned from being screened in Malaysia unless certain edits were made to the original cut.

Possibly a Malaysian favourite of her works would be the heartwarming Petronas advertisement for Hari Merdeka where primary school students Tan Hong Ming and Umi Qazrina confessed their love for each other. I still remember debating with my family and friends on whether or not the entire thing was scripted, and if it was, the kids sure were professional actors! However, my personal favourite is the moving television commercial commissioned by the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) in Singapore titled “Funeral”. In “Funeral”, the wife of the deceased reminisces about the times when they were in bed…

Located behind the famous Thean Chun Kopitiam, I visited Yasmin at Kong Heng in Ipoh to find out more about Yasmin Ahmad and her works. Some basic info about the place if you are planning a visit are as follows:

1. Currently, the museum only operates from 10AM to 4PM on weekends.

2. A RM3 entrance fee is collected (though you can donate more to keep the place going!) and you get to choose a design with Yasmin’s signature to stamp on your ticket.

3. You might want to reconsider bringing your elderly grandparents with you as the museum is located on the 2nd floor of the building. Guess who didn’t think this through…

In this humble museum, visitors get a chance to explore Yasmin’s thoughts and works. The museum is currently showing a one-hour special on her television commercials and those who are interested can watch her movies upon request to the admin on duty.

While the person who posed the opening question was quite surprised to find out the museum only consisted of two rooms, it did a great job at showing visitors Yasmin as a person. The eMac she used in Leo Burnett Malaysia has just been restored and it acts as a small window into Yasmin’s philosophy on life. She was well read in other religions and had a deep interest in Japanese philosophy. Despite being interested in deep topics such as these and having the ability to clearly convey her beliefs into her works, she was quite a punny person.

What many people do not know of Yasmin is that she also loved poetry. The eMac that was restored was filled with poetry written by various authors. The one that resonated with me the most was one titled ‘The way home’. It talks about braving through life with another person to better seek the meaning of life. Another folder has poems read by Yasmin herself.

Yasmin also believed that she is always part of God’s bigger picture and her eMac’s wallpaper showed the kanji – 無, which means nothingness. She also believed that through prostrating, it reminded her that she is nothing and God, is everything.

If you are curious to find out more about her, why not don your traditional costume (she believes traditional costumes give you a beautiful dignity, no matter what age or shape you’re in) and head to Ipoh on your next free weekend to discover the thoughts of this national treasure of ours. Alternatively, you can try to learn the Balinese dance moves passed down by sifu Yasmin.

“In the end, it’s these small things that you remember.” – Funeral by Yasmin Ahmad.

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