Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Usman Awang

Today I am highlight a story that focuses on a well known poet, the late  Usman Awang from the eyes her daughter Haslina Usman. This interview appeared on Friday June 14 … two days away from June 16 which is father’s day.  

Haslina with her father when she was 16 year old.

Headline: A Daddy  Girl 
By Bissme S

THERE is a saying that no man can love a girl the way her own father does and Haslina Usman can testify to this.
The way she talks about her father, the national laureate, and late Datuk Usman Awang, one can see that he had been a great influence in her life. One of her most beautiful memories of her father was the many conversations they had on the swing in the garden of their home.
"He was the first person who exposed me to the world of arts," says the eldest child of the well known poet and writer.
"He took me to my first ballet performance and my first art exhibition. He would always ask for my opinions and my views on what I had seen and heard."
Another beautiful memory was when her dad watched her perform the traditional Malay dance performance called Puteri Sadong.
"I was so proud to have my father in the audience," says Haslina who now runs a bakery business called Cakes By Lyna.
"He always made a point to be there when his children needed him, no matter how busy he was."
From the late 60s to the early 70s, her dad was constantly travelling to various countries in Europe and America, as a guest poet and a writer.
"I was just a kid then, and I missed him very much whenever he was away," she recalls. "He missed me, too so he would send me postcards where ever he went. I loved rings and I would ask him to get me rings that reflected the culture of the countries that he had visited.
"Dad would take the trouble just to fulfil my request. Once, he even went to a Red Indian settlement in America, just to get a ring for me."
When Haslina was a teenager, her father would keep a hawk eye on her movements.
"My two brothers enjoyed greater freedom than I, and I was angry at my father for treating us differently," she says.
"Looking back now, I understand his reasons better. Fathers are always over protective of their daughters compared to their sons because they do not want anything unforeseen to happen to them, being girls. He was just looking out for me."
Strangely enough, Usman never wanted any of his four children to follow in his footsteps to become a poet or a writer.
"He always told us that a writer's life is a difficult life, and that he did not want any of us to have that kind of life," she says.
Since her father passed away in 2001, Haslina has been writing poems. But she has no intention of publishing her works.
"My works are not important," she says. "What is important is that I keep my father's legacy alive."
She has taken over the publishing company - UA Enterprises Sdn Bhd - that her father had set up in the 70s. The objective of the company is to promote her father's works which comprise of more than 300 poems and 100 short stories.
She is utterly sad to learn that younger generations have a vague idea of who her father was.
"My father has contributed a lot to the literary world and I did not want him to fade away," she says.
As part of reaching out to the young and hip readers, she has collaborated with Fixi publication to publish Yang Nakal-Nakal which features her father's works - 17 short stories and eight poems. The book will be officially launched and sold this Sunday, June 16 at 2pm at The Annexe Gallery, Central Market.
"Fixi has a steady set of young loyal readers who are always buying books that they published, she says, eager to expose this new generation of readers who might not have heard of her father.
Her other project is to publish another book entitled Kekasih featuring 40 of her late father's poems. She is also getting visual artists to translate her father's poems into art.
"It will be their interpretation of my father's work," she says.
If everything goes well, Kekasih will be launched at an event known as Hari Usman Awang on July 20. For this event, Haslina will be collaborating with two artistic bodies - Sebudi and Kelab Athma Jiwa.
She cited the pillar of strength in her father's life to be her mother. When her mother passed away in 1999 from an asthma attack, her father was not the same person any more.
"My mother's death was really unexpected," Haslina says.
"Dad did not have the mood to write after that. He became very sick without my mum around and his health deteriorated further."
Three years later, on Nov 29, 2001, Usman finally succumbed to heart complications.
When asked to name one thing that many people do not know about her father, Haslina laughs and says: "During his last days, when he was sick, my father loved to watch cartoons with my two children. One of his favourite cartoons was Tom & Jerry. It was nice to see him laugh."

The cover of the book that was recently launched
Haslina Usman ... wants to keep her father's legacy alive among the the young generation

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