Saturday, July 04, 2009

Exhibition 01 - Childish Innocense

Location : Kota Kinabalu, Sabah (2008)
Camera : Canon EOS 400 D
Photographer : Chong Sim Chung

Many people know about the immigrant issue in Sabah, yet we seek to shroud our eyes from the fact that the majority of the locals here in Kota Kinabalu and similar towns are in fact foreigners. With its historically fluid borders with Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines, many arrive to seek a better life on Sabah’s shore. Walk by the stretch of coast along the modern Wawasan Square and Le Meridian Hotel and you will see the rows of wooden sheds and makeshift stalls at the local Kota Kinabalu Market. During market day, early in the morning or at the night market, one sight you cannot miss would be the large number of children, from as young as five to teenagers loitering the area.

These children are the street children of Sabah, the legacy of unfettered immigration, both legal and illegal to the State. Most of these children are without citizenship and thus are not entitled to education, healthcare and social benefits we enjoy. They will not be in schools or experience the normal childhood Malaysian children often take for granted. They live day-by-day in limbo, surviving the harsh reality bequeathed onto them, losing their innocence early in life.

Most follow their parents who are traders here or act individually to serve as bag carriers to the myriad people shopping for groceries, exchanging services for a few cents of coins which will likely be used to supplement their parent's meager earnings to ensure that they survive the day with food and shelter if any are to be had.

Yet if you meet them they are just like any other children with the innocence and joviality that only children can show. They smile, they play with whatever they can find, they laugh, they cry and they dream as any of us would. They show a spirit un-broken, not even by the difficult life they lead. They find simple pleasures in their surrounding and show a bond with each other that surprises you. These photos tell their stories so they we never turn a blind eye again.

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