Monday, May 09, 2011

Tea with Tina

No, that’s not tea with me. It’s tea with Tina Rimmer! She’s an artist and a published writer and I had wanted to meet her since the first time I heard about her sketches and paintings. Her illustrated book (filled with her own beautiful sketches) about the Tamparuli tamu made our tamu famous.

Pic from Google Images

The invitation to tea was completely unexpected. Jen, a new friend, asked me over so I could sign her copy of my book. We spent a delightful afternoon sipping tea from jade-green china cups and nibbling on slices of fruit cake and chocolates from a just-unwrapped box. It felt like meeting old friends although it was the first time I met both of them. We talked mostly about books and art.

My eyes kept wandering from Tina’s so-blue eyes to the paintings on the walls and her impressive furniture. She has an old Chinese marble-topped table—the kind which were used in coffee shops when I was a child—and wicker chairs which you’d never see anywhere/anymore. An ancient hand-operated sewing machine sits on a side table as though waiting to be used. She sewed her own clothes she said as she let us check the seams of the floral blouse she was wearing.

Tina's Tamu (Google Images)

After tea, we cleared the table and took everything to the kitchen. Tina is super-organised! Her blue-tiled kitchen was so neat it made me realize how disorganized my own kitchen is. (The moment I reached home I de-cluttered and cleaned my under-the-sink cabinet. Not much but it was a start!)

Tina unfolded a big map of Sabah  on the table so I could show her the places I had mentioned in my book. Then Jen showed us her sketches of local baskets. They were simply the most amazing study of baskets I have ever seen. Her love of these baskets and native containers—painstakingly woven of bamboo, pandan, rattan and other local fibres-- has driven her to research and document them so the history of these baskets could be preserved for posterity.

Click on picture to enlarge

“Many of these baskets aren’t produced anymore,” she said. “When the old weavers die their skills die with them.” So Jen draws and writes about the baskets and salvages those which perhaps the owners are willing to sell to her. She likes old baskets and appreciates the stories each basket has to tell.

Years of practice produce very fine baskets

Beautiful details on one end of a bubuh/fish trap

Okay, back to Tina…

Tina left England way back in 1949 and loves Sabah so much she has made this corner of Malaysia her permanent home. She must have been one plucky young lady because those days the only mode of transport was one’s own legs and although she had a pony, it was meant to carry things only.

Read more about Tina Rimmer here.

Note: I was at the library today and saw the beautiful local baskets on display! 


  1. I'm happy that you've made new friends with interesting people. I so need to meet up with you too when I get the chance. My copy of your book needs signature too!

  2. Interesting Sabahans we have :D

  3. Wow! I bet she knows tons of stories/histories of Sabah.

  4. Hi Gunaqz! I was thrilled to meet Tina and Jen!

    You've read my cerita dulu-dulu?? Looking forward to meeting you too.

  5. Justin, I'm sure Tina has lots of stories. I hope to see her again.