The Warehouse Hotel
MG Kumar, ‘The Warehouse Hotel’, 2020, Oil on canvas, 36 x 48 in
‘And you’ve seen her lovers, felt her pleasures,
flirted with her merchants with their treasures,
Watched the opium river offer up her vice --
For which you’ve, at times, paid the price.’ ‘The Warehouse’, Joelle David
Here come the merchants from the Straits of Malacca, with their ships full of cargo. They make their way down the street which the Hokkiens call ‘Chiu Long Lo’, or ‘Spirits Shed Street. ‘An apt name indeed’, they muse, as they breathe in the fumes of homemade arrack, tuak and toddy wafting from the distilleries that line the road. At the warehouse, a giant pulley reaches down to receive their offerings. With fingers of iron, she reels them heavenwards. Here are numberless bags of spices, rice, coffee, and rubber as far as the eye can see. Walking into the warehouse is like entering the belly of a pregnant carp. Today, she is queen of the den; tomorrow, a new generation will be birthed, and another, and another. And this warehouse will see gamblers, prostitutes, and holidaymakers in the generations to come.