In conjunction with Pesta Sayap this year, a group of visual artists were brought to Kuala Selangor on a field trip spanning two days. The pesta, an initiative by the Malaysian Nature Society with support from Majlis Daerah Kuala Selangor, celebrates the myriad of birds making a stop in the district during migratory season. Pesta Sayap returns big-time on 22 October this year, even debuting a visual art exhibition starring the aforementioned artists. The following is an account of the special trip arranged by the majlis daerah for its guests.
“What’s the pros and cons of this type of canvas?”
Shufitri Shukardi‘s canvas frame was less than half the thickness of the others being loaded into the van.
“His painting would be worth more if he used ours,” June Yap Yudan laughs. Painter Teoh Siew Choo interjected, canvas quality should be given more priority. Paintings mounted on a sturdier frame could be hung as is.
There were eight sat on the periphery of Petron early that morning, moments before departing for Kuala Selangor. The crux of the impending two-day trip courtesy of Majlis Daerah Kuala Selangor was the territory’s flora and fauna.
These visual artists had a special mission. Led by trained doll-maker and painter Kayee, they were to paint their impressions of Kuala Selangor for exhibit during Kuala Selangor’s annual migratory birds festival, Pesta Sayap.
Half of all proceeds from the sale of these artworks will go towards preservation and support of the region’s biodiversity.
In a van, wading through traffic at 8:00am, there was palpable anticipation for Kuala Selangor’s pièce de résistance: the fireflies of Kampung Kuantan.
Burung, monyet, ketapang
Nasi lemak for breakfast meant tangy, sweet and spicy sambal with only the most essential of condiments on rice. Everybody had seconds. While eating, someone noticed A4 signs on the windows of our accommodation.
SILA PASTIKAN TUTUP SEMUA PINTU DAN TINGKAP GANGGUAN MONYET
— Majlis Daerah Kuala Selangor
Then it was off to Kuala Selangor Nature Park (KSNP). Operated by the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS), the park is actually a 593-acre swamp reserve.
Don’t let its dilapidated exterior put you off: KSNP is one of Kuala Selangor’s hidden gems. It’s an ecosystem comprising civets, otters, monitor lizards and even a mongoose or two. In fact, Pesta Sayap came about because at least a hundred and fifty resident and migratory bird species can be found here.
But the birds preferred early mornings. Entering at noon, guests came in contact with crab-eating macaques and the silvery lutung instead. These Old World monkeys roamed free in groups and were only slightly perturbed by human presence. The silvery lutungs were protective of their copper-coloured young, most easily spotted by the lighthouse on Bukit Melawati.
Elsewhere, older guest artists struggled to find the drab-looking mudskippers — photos on June’s DSLR revealed iridescent blue spots along their abdomens — while endemic swamp flora such as the ketapang tree and the sea hibiscus were common features.
Park and program officer Ashok Kumar had briefed us earlier about these attractions. Having worked in the park for nine years, he recalled its better days. KSNP was once awarded Best Ecotourism Park in Selangor, when the bridge connecting swamp to seaside wasn’t busted.
Berembang, bintang, kelip-kelip
After a lovely dinner at Bagan with district council head Hajah Noraini Roslan, guests were shuttled off to Kampung Kuantan.
Down steep wooden stairs each went towards wooden boats. Everyone had life vests, bar the boat rower, a local abang-abang type young man. Then they were rowed up and down the river’s ledge to where the Berembang trees grow.
The trees looked festive up close. As if covered in little lightbulbs, they sparkled with intermittent flashes of white light. There’s even evidence of synchronicity.
By this point, any fear of being in the water so late in the evening was gone. Kuala Selangor had outdone itself. Like glitter in the dark, its fireflies resembled the clear night sky, conjuring wonder for natural design.
Pteroptyx tener is one of three species of fireflies in Kampung Kuantan. It’s a small insect measuring 5 to 10mm in length but it has made locals invested in the preservation and management of Kuala Selangor’s natural phenomena. Staff shared knowledge on the habits of the fireflies, the trees by the river, and what they thought could benefit the ecosystem.
On our way out of the viewing deck, Dali Abdul Azis was touched by the humility of the majlis daerah folk and their counterparts.
“People here are very humble, they appreciate efforts made to preserve and care for their land. There’s less preoccupation with politics here — they just do their best.”
“Best jumpa orang yang humble macam ini walaupun kerja dalam government!” he quipped.
Pesta Sayap’s guest artists were then shipped back to MDKS’s quarters to begin work. Most had a clear idea of what they wanted to paint; many chose to work with their fresh memory of Kampung Kuantan while one or two started sketching monkey outlines.
But if you’re curious to know what’s come out of the entire exercise, know that the story continues in Kuala Selangor Nature Park this Saturday.
Join Pesta Sayap in Kuala Selangor on 22 October 2016 to see the birds and the monkeys and all the gems in Kuala Selangor’s figurative crown. For more information, check out Pesta Sayap’s official website and look up Malaysian Nature Society on Facebook!