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Malaysia through the lenses of a Mat Salleh: Episode 8

The last wood bucket maker, Mr Chan Cheok Tiam

Malaysia through the lenses of a Mat Salleh

By Philippe A.Durant

Another week with no freedom of movement and travels limited to our home district. 25km radius, maybe. What a mad new World. So, here’s a new week of photographic virtual travel around the country. I hope that you’ll still enjoy it.


Day 8: The last wood bucket maker, Mr Chan Cheok Tiam

This is the first up-close-and-personal episode. There might be a few more as I’ve  met some very impressive and remarkable individuals in my journeys around Malaysia.

I was fortunate to meet Mr Chan and actually went to visit him many times. Every day, at 90 years old, rain or shine, he came on his bike to his small back lane workshop to make buckets that no one wanted anymore. 

“There was a time when it was the Golden Age for wooden bucket makers. They were in hot demand for all kinds of purposes – steaming rice; storing food; washing dishes, clothes or vegetables; transporting water and more. When Mr Chan took over from his father, they had six workers and provided wood buckets to Malacca, Johor and even Indonesia…The arrival of plastic sealed the fate of wood buckets and Mr Chan closed his shop…” (Malacca Style – Serge Jardin 2014). 

Mr Chan continued in a back lane workshop alone. No one has ever been interested to learn from him. The last candidate apprentice asked him if he had Wi-Fi. Mr Chan did not really know what he was talking about and the young man did not last a day. So, he carried on surviving through donations from tourists. 

I immortalized his work, dedication, smile with the camera. My wife painted him and her canvas was purchased by an American couple. He also appeared, towards the end of his life, in a Singapore documentary. He passed away recently and the Art of wood bucket-making disappeared with him. You have my sincere admiration and respect, Mr Chan, wherever you are now. 

Do follow my daily postings about different themes and/or location and do not hesitate to comment constructively. Embark in a photographic journey in Malaysia through the lenses of a Mat Salleh. 

Bon voyage.

P.S.: All the photos can be purchased and printed (in all sizes and format) with a simple request via WhatsApp/Signal at 0172409722.

I also continue shooting almost daily. To see my latest photography check and follow:

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