Imagining Kampung: The rural and urban icons of Malaysia in the cartoons of Lat

Zainurul Aniza Rahman, Nasya Yadi Bahfen

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In Malaysia s city/country dialectic, the idea of the kampung or village has a strong hold over a modernizing and highly regulated country, as a place of respite and retreat from an official nation-building agenda and implied disseminated through mainstream media. The village or village holds a position in the Malaysian government complex narratives of national identity. Kampung imagery ongoing enjoys prominence in the oeuvre of Malaysia s most influential cartoonist Lat, particularly in his autobiographical pictorial novels reflecting his rural upbringing. The village itself is constituted via the medium of Lat s internationally famous cartoons to a global audience for whom the kampung does not have the immediate point of visceral recognition that it has for Malaysians.Our article looks at how national identity was constructed through the stereotypical icon of the village and its urban counterparts, in Lat s cartoons. Lat s cartooning work has received international recognition, and he has been rewarded with the highest honorific title possible for a civilian in Malaysia (the title Datuk was conferred upon him in 1994). Accordingly, we privilege Lat in this paper, over other popular Malaysian cartoonists.In an attempt to outline how Lat and his cartoons played various roles in depicting visions of the village, we briefly explore the role of the media in documenting Malaysian national identity, and introduce Lat. We then explore the urban and rural themes found in a selection of Lat s work, suggesting that through humor his work has had a unifying effect on dieting by recording the urban center as a part of nation-building, the nostalgia of village life, and changing norms in society marked by religious undertones. We suggest that entertainment and humor through his work has had a unifying effect on dieting by recording through images of the village shared reflections on urban and rural humor.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63 - 74
Number of pages12
JournalMalaysian Journal of Media Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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