I admit, my head had been stuck in the clouds. It still remains there sometimes. The nostalgia of the 70s through the 90s was one I found deep comfort in. I don’t know if the general public knows the story of how Mulazine came to be, so, here’s me recounting how Mula morphed itself from an archival account, into a publication.
It began in my second year of university when I was prompted by an assignment. The intent of the project was to collate a photo diary, one that could capture the essence of a specific time period. I knew I had the upper hand. It worked in my favour for two reasons. The first: I loved looking backwards in time and my keenness for the 70s would serve me well. The second reason was the chockful of knowledge and history that I picked up like stones and put in my pocket. My family has always played a great impact in the work I have put out and in the work I aim to release in the near future. That said, the understanding and, especially the appreciation that I have accrued towards the past, especially in Malaysia, came from hearing stories and going through yellowed photo albums in my grandparent’s homes. I had quickly come to learn of the great and, especially stark contrast to the past and the present. It is as though Malaysia is not two sides of the same coin, but rather, two different coins altogether.
Liberalism was celebrated with openness. This was a period that was followed through after the war – the sweet spot that Malaysia existed in, where we lived in a state of peace and acceptance with one another after years of tumult. Maybe not all was peaceful. History will tell you otherwise, but I am looking in the semblances of peace.
Learning of these moments in time from my grandparents, my own parents, and from the years of media consumption in my youth and visits to the library, I began Mulazine as a homage to all things retro that needed recognizing. It began with archival pictures from the 80s – depicting the city, television shows, stills from films, and pictures of pages taken out of magazines, ones that have been preserved in the national library that I held onto so dearly. This is the thesis in which Mulazine operates – a celebration of freedom of the past, one we… I, so desperately seek to be reflected in this modern world. It was with little knowledge that I realized, only years later, that Malaysia Time Tunnel had been a pioneer in the representation, preservation, and immortalization of the glory days of what Malaysia was, and one that we are all striving towards returning to. In an ironic mode of function, regressing seems like the way to go.
I decided on doing this interview with the individuals who run the page so that I could take a peek at the show from behind the curtain. Like their contemporary digital photo diarist, Kuala Lumpur Ceria, who we recently re-interviewed, the admins of Malaysia Time Tunnel have chosen to remain anonymous. When asked why, the creator of the account stated that managing the account in this manner was not to gain notoriety, but to rather connect with individuals who share a similar ardour for nostalgia and the content that allows individuals to emote with one another. “Staying anonymous has also allowed us the freedom to post content in any shape or form and leaves us out of the cloud of a consumers’ judgment”. Adding that they vocalize certain issues using Instagram Stories, certain demographics do not take to accepting varying opinions, especially if they happen to be political. “We intend to stay anonymous for as long as we exist”.
Showcasing a plethora of historical snapshots, Malaysia Time Tunnel is a realization of what I like to consider a necessary dose of nostalgia. Turning their interests into a reality through a photo diary as a medium, the creator of MTT shares that the reason behind its formation was related to the owner’s interests in history. They state, “Though I thoroughly enjoyed history as a subject in school, that interest did not reflect itself in my SPM results”. Having heard stories of the golden days – cause let’s face the reality of things, we yearn for the past because humans never learn, and change is always difficult (only applies in the “good ol’ days” concept here) – and intending to play the same role their grandparents did, the anonymous creator founded MTT. “I wanted to draw in audiences and to do that, I constructed short captions and stories about the pictures I was posted. These moments allowed audience members to grasp the story being given to them in a fun and interesting way. This was all happening while the team and I got to share many moments together with a large audience honouring the past”.
Managing the page as a side gig alongside to their full-time employment, the admin states that source material was and remains to be heavily abundant online. Though the content was available, the admin shares that validating the images and stories have been an issue. They explains, that on some occasions, certain photos that we uploaded did not align historically and had to be altered. “We take these moments as an opportunity to grow and learn. Understandably, people make mistakes, and we want to show our audiences that this can happen and how one can learn from them. After all, the retelling of history has many variations, and we want to explore and verbalize the right one”. Having posted pictures ranging from olden-day adverts, storefront shots of old-school sundry stores and pictures of Malaysian icons, the curators of MTT are now pivoting their focus back towards the education of the past and growing the brand’s awareness. Keen on working with artists and creatives in Malaysia, MTT is open to creating art and merchandise that is significant to the brand and to ensure that it acts as a mouthpiece to their vision. As of now, MTT ends the interview hoping that they are able to “touch the hearts of Malaysians out there with our content”.
Featured Image Credit: Source: Magnum Photos – Ian Berry