Five Minutes with Datuk Lat

Updated: 26 Nov 2013

Malaysia’s creator of the beloved Lat cartoons has a quick chat with Su Aziz on Penang and why Kampung Boy will never grow old.

No self-respecting Malaysian will admit to not knowing Lat cartoons, namely the beloved Kampung Boy series. Terribly media shy, Lat has been smoked out of his foxhole to be a part of the George Town Literary Festival 2013 and fans of his work will be able to find out a little more on what makes him tick during his ‘In Conversation with Lat’ session on Nov 29.

What’s your most nostalgic memory of Penang?
Penang holds a special memory for me because my first comic book was published there by a well known publisher called Sinaran Brothers in the early 1960's. I was 13 years old and it was during the Golden Age of Malay Comic Books. The late Rejab Had, a famous cartoonist who drew for Utusan Malaysia (Malay national newspaper) and ‘Gila-Gila’ was like a mentor to me and he was from Penang.

How often do you come to Penang?
Not often. But then I don't go anywhere else either, these are my semi-retirement days, I sit in the anjung (the front part of my house) and look out the window. I see people going to work, fathers sending children to school...if I go to Kuala Lumpur (two hours away by car) it's very likely on some family matters.

Datuk Lat, creator of Lat cartoons

When was the last time you were in Penang?
Last year. My wife and I were at a shopping mall. We had flown from Kota Bharu, Kelantan. Then got to George Town and spent some time there before going home by a cab.

What do you remember of Penang 20 years ago?
That recent? Well, conversations with relatives and friends. Laughed. A walk down Penang Road.

What do you think of Penang today?
I live in Perak, this is where I come from, and don't really go out that much. In earlier days I used to be able to drive my car in Penang. Now, the traffic is busier, there are many tall buildings and I don't know my way around. I had passed by Jalan Bagan Jermal without knowing it.

What are the five things you never miss when in Penang?
I usually travel with my family. So, I visit relatives in Bayan Baru, I visit the USM Tuanku Fauziah Museum and Gallery, I go have nasi kandar with some friends and I go to Batu Ferringhi. And I usually end up buying a shirt in Penang. It's usually a very relaxed trip.

A piece from Lat's Kampung Boy series

Will we see Kampung Boy grown up and middle aged amid today’s modern world?
No, it's a reminder about our origins, different times and simpler ways. It’s good for the young and future generations to know (of those days) too.

If you have your life to live over, what would you do differently?
Honestly, I can't think of anything I'd do differently. Wouldn't be a good idea.

Why would you re-read books?
I've read books over and over again because of good writing or good humorous content.

What might you reveal about yourself during George Town Literary Festival’s ‘In Conversation with Lat’?
I always try to bring out some excitement in my drawings when I work in the privacy of my room but basically I am quite a dull person.

Don't miss out 'In Conversation with Datuk Lat' on Nov 30 during the George Town Literary Festival 2013.


Tags: Features