FACES OF THE HEARTLANDS
Time is an inescapable presence, and change is constant.
Through the years, the metropolitan region of Kuala Lumpur has evolved in the realm of technological advancements and entrepreneurial deploys which has predominantly influenced the demographic cohort of millennials as a new generation emerges. With increasing consumerism and multinationals taking over inner city areas, this has fuelled the demise of long established businesses.
Oftentimes, we do not notice what is in front of us. We take the familiar right turn home or walk past shops during our weekly errands unappreciative. This collective documentation of environmental portraits explores the stories of a few urban business tenants and their resilience to change, surviving recessions and persevered through the decades spanning generations. Many of them are concerned for the young generation and to some; their own children who would not consider taking over the businesses despite genuine efforts to preserve their traditional practices. This has caused a significant impact on these businesses, as the tenants would have to come to terms soon to put an end to their years of assiduous efforts.
Rattan Furniture Maker
Chong has been a master in the craft of traditional rattan furniture making for decades. Aside from selling classic rattan pieces, the warehouse both Chong & his wife currently runs - Perniagaan Wai Kong also provides repair services, upholstery of cushions, as well as custom orders for wooden and rattan furniture. Chong currently faces slight difficulty in mobility, which is gradually slowing down the process of his craft. Mrs. Chong has been an indispensable accomplice and companion alongside his businesses.
YK is a certified optometrist who graduated from Glasgow Caledonian University in 1983. He believes he is not only perceived by who he is, but what he does; bringing service to the community by improving their vision. When he is not working, Uncle YK is a Sunday school teacher who loves to teach children. He professes his guilty pleasure for sourdough, paired with homemade kayak (coconut jam) and sea salt butter. He is currently operating Y.K. Leong Optometry Centre Sdn Bhd, a family business with his siblings, along with both of his children who are both postgraduate optometrists.
Ching works as a haberdasher who sells small articles for sewing, such as buttons, ribbons, and zips in one of the classic sewing shops in Kuala Lumpur. Known as one of the oldest existing haberdashery shops around, Dexon Button Shop offers sewing and tailoring services plus other extensive services such as scissor sharpening, alterations, and zipper repair.
Ho is a coin collector, a specialist dealer and trader at Hsuan Ho Trading. He spends his daily routine buying and selling coins, banknotes, medals, token stamps, and curios. Usually, around late-noon, he spends his downtime chatting with friends who visits his trading quarter and enjoy traditional Chinese tea with them.
Traditional Chinese Medicine Shopkeeper
Lee is a shopkeeper at Perniagaan Lee Min, a traditional Chinese Medicine shop, with an extensive stock of goji berries, cordyceps, dried goods, herbal medicine, ginseng, bird’s nest, pearl dust and more. Customers would walk in to purchase a packet of measured herbs to brew at home. Traditional medical practice is all about balancing the energy in your body, so that the yin the yang, and the qi are kept in check. The long-running medicine halls - Perniagaan Lee Min are well known for their extensive collection and knowledge of medicinal herbs. Despite the advancement of medical science, Chinese herbal medicine remains relevant today. Lee prescribes remedies to patients and has a son who is currently studying journalisms.
A regular customer smiles for a photo after he had his shoes refurbished at Chinatown, virtually synonymous with Petaling Street or Jalan Petaling, in Kuala Lumpur. The cobbler and owner of the shoe shop is a moderately calm and placid individual, who does not wish to have his portrait taken. He insisted on having his customer's picture taken instead, as it showed great satisfaction through his expression.
Bus Stop Vendor
Loga is the recent news stand vendor at the bus stop KL 1269 Pearl Point, on Jalan Klang Lama. He shares the 2m x 3m space which has been occupied by other vendors for the past 20 years or so. Many commuters would stop by to purchase fizzy drinks on scorching hot days, quick 'pick me up' of local snacks, cigarettes, and to catch up on the news. Sometimes, even bus drivers pause in front of his store to catch a breather.
Lim perceives himself as a simple man who is a shopkeeper, overseeing the trading of confectionery products, cracker snacks, and biscuits at Stesen Biskut (Station Biscuit) Food and Trading in USJ, Taipan. He regularly greets his customers with a big smile and a warm welcome, as he stands in between two partitions of biscuit tins and snacks carton.