Saturday, 4 April 2009

My Grandmother Kemau - An Amazing Woman.

Grandmother Kemau - An Amazing Woman
Grandmother Kemau with some of her great grandchildren.
This picture was taken about 20 years ago.
She really was a wonder woman. She must have been a beauty when she was young - even at the age of more than 100 years (in the picture) she still looks pretty and almost without the ugly wrinkles that come with old age.
Grandmother Kemau had 12 children. She outlived 8 of them. She had so many grandchildren and great grandchildren that she had lost track of them - almost every kids in the long house called her "inik" (grandmother).
She lived with her youngest son Kujat, my uncle. Kujat's eldest son Uding is my nephew. He was one of my close playing partner. I used to fight and armed wrestled him. He could never beat me in the arm wrestlings but he was better at the fist fights as his reflexes were faster. Uding's youngest brother, Masir, is now a Member of Parliament for Sri Aman.
I had never seen Grandma Kemau shout or lost her temper. She had that perpetual calmness about her and the smiles were always lingering on her lips. Her mind was free of worries. No wonder she lived to more than 100 years old.
Even at an age when most people would have been on wheelchairs, she still go out on her own to the river, which was a good 2 kilometres away through hills and swamps, to pursue her interest - fishing. At least once or twice a week, she would don her fishing gear - wearing a knee-length sarong and a worn-out shirt, a small basket slung across her shoulder, a fishing rod made from a long bamboo in one hand and a small knife in the other. Bent almost double, with failing eyesights, she would slowly walk the length of the long house, down the narrow ladder made from a log and towards the Semeruang River to catch her fish fries of "ikan seluang." Catching bigger fish like "ikan baung" (fresh-water catfish) would certainly be a welcomed bonus.
That was my memory of Grandma Kemau. When not fishing, she would be relaxing at the "ruai" (common verandah). Every time I came back to the long house for a holiday, she would always look for me. I knew she couldn't see me clearly and she was a lady with little words. She would feel for my hands and softly said, almost in a whisper, "Meri aku duit anak. Kita udah kaya amai nya." (give me some money son, You are now a rich man!" It was a request I could never refused because I knew how things were to them. About being a rich man - that I refute but in front of her it was a yes to everything she said. I cannot remember when Grandma passed away - will have to ask Uding. As I was in Malaya most of the time and because of the lack of communication, I was never told of most happenings in the long house - deaths, marriages etc. I believed she died peacefully. I couldn't remember her being sick. Her heart just didn't have the energy to beat anymore. She must had been well over 100 years old then. Good bye Grandma. I wished I could have been closer to you when you were still alive. God bless you and may you find the eternal peace in Heaven. Send my love to mother and father. I miss them so much.


  1. This is a great photo. I have a dream of putting up an exhbition of selected old photos (preferably black andwhite) of Sarawak women in the 50-60's(with stories like yours). Their lives had touched hearts and their eyes have seen development and progress from Colonial to Malaysian days. Hope Dato SS and Hasmadi could lend a hand...I would like to travel with these 50 photos....Could I have permission to have this photo?

  2. Dear Bob,

    I really envy you for this classic black and white. It is so beautiful and this reminds me of some Hedda Morrison's collection of Bornean anthropology in pictures. You should be able to come with one, honestly. As I have mentioned tie them all (ikat) with a theme. Well done Tuai.


  3. Hasmadi,

    Thanks. It's a pity, I don't have many of them. I'll post the rest in the blog, slowly. I have forgotten, what camera I used then (20 years ago)