One of the pleasures of this job is to get to meet with extraordinary talents from around the world. And among such people who passed through Kuala Lumpur recently was well-known landscape designer Made Wijaya. Australian turned Balinese, Made Wijaya or Michael white as he was originally known, made Bali his home some 20 years ago. He recently gained widespread fame with the publication of his book Tropical Garden Design (Archipelago Press & Wijaya Words, 1999).
A beautifully illustrated coffee-table book, it quickly became a popular reference book for avid gardeners, decorators and professional landscapes artists who wish to incorporate Balinese and other old world Southeast Asian elements in their projects.
Meeting Made in person proved to be quite entertaining, as his wicked wit and wisecracks aren't meant for the faint-hearted. At a book-signing session at his local business partner's shop in PJ Old Town, I watched intently as he scribbled his signature plus a witty remark or two on his books purchased by admirers. He also brought along his other books entitled Stranger in Paradise, Balinese Architecture and At Home in Bali.
When photographer Sam Tham started to shoot his profile, he remarked: "No shots of my right profile, it's in my contract." And when asked why he is usually photographed wearing a straw-hat, he responded: "To give some definition to my head." At times self-deprecating and at other instances, fiercely proud of his achievements, Made is shrewd, sharp and completely media-savvy. After all, he was among other things, a photojournalist for the Bali Post documenting Bali's cultural life. But that was another time and another place.
Now he has sent his sights on enlivening the landscape of choice Malaysian real estate. So the next time, you come across a garden design, which has a gnarled, and knobby plumeria tree planted, moss growing everywhere and the space "peopled" by stone inhabitants, you may have just stumbled upon a Made Wijaya creation. After all, a garden designed by Made now becoming the status symbol of the rich and famous in Malaysia.