Bangkok, Kulwatil Islam Mosque

March 4, 2013

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A4 Laloran 120g sketchbook; pencil and watercolour on location.

One of the locations scheduled for sketching as part of the 2013 Sketchwalk Chao Phraya in Bangkok on the afternoon of 23 Feb was the Kulwatil Islam Mosque (aka Goowatin Islam Mosque or Tuek Daeng Mosque). While we were ostensibly sketching in various “west” Bangkok communities in Thonburi, the landmarks were essentially religious buildings. While the morning was set in and around a Buddhist wat, we visited various buildings pertaining to other faiths in the afternoon.

Kulwatil Islam Mosque was a remarkably serene location, not the least because it couldn’t contain many sketchers at any one time. To get maximum “purchase” on the mosque, the small handful of sketchers present when I was there located themselves on the small ferry pier for the mosque jutting out into the Chao Phraya River. I opted to stay on land but the courtyard is very small and not many other sketchers could have fitted in around me; I was right up against the stone fence facing the river so there was the constant ‘soundtrack’ around me of the river, with waves created by passing boats, crashing up against the stone. My sketch got showered in river water from time to time. As well as the river waves, there is also the constant high-pitched whistles of ferry attendants signalling to ferry captains as they pull up to the various ferry piers; the main ferry piers are of course on the other side of the river; you need a cross-ferry to make Thonburi. All my long-pose sketches seemed to have a ‘soundtrack’ attached to them.

You enter the mosque complex via a tiny lane and a very low door. Outside there is an information sign in Thai and English, mentioning the fact that the mosque was set up by migrants (everything in Siam is a matter of migrants coming in to trade and set up shop and eventually settle down alongside the Thais) originally from Saiburi of Su-ngai Pattani City, (Pattani is topical because it was this week’s political hotspot in the south of Thailand; local fishermen are in revolt against the rapacious commercial fishing boats ruining their livelihoods) later joined by a group of Moslem traders from Surat City, India. Jointly, their skill was making nak, or the gold-silver-copper alloy much in demand in Thailand. The mosque was established in the time of King Rama III and the Indians joined it during the reign of King Rama IV.

The small mosque is basically made up of three buildings – an ancient, two-storey wooden building reminiscent of the colonial buildings still extant along the river; a tw0-storey mosque similar to a Queenslander residential house on stilts, with washing facilities for adherents on the ground floor, leading up stairs to a wide verandah and shuttered mosque proper, as well as this tower. All are covered in by tall trees.

I stayed for about an hour and am keen to see via Facebook (“2013 Sketchwalk Chao Phraya”) what others made of this location. Much more popular was the Chinese temple around the corner, where I went next and found forty or fifty merry sketchers.

Later, I managed to photograph it from the river itself, complete with Chao Phraya ferry boat heading downstream (if it’s got an orange flag, it’s an all-stops).

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