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DISCOVERING the Musée du Louvre is like a historical walk through the eyes of the artist.
The museum, which houses one of the most stunning collections of artworks in the world, is also where the Mona Lisa is displayed. This portrait, created in the 16th century by Leonardo da Vinci, is painted on poplar wood canvas.
I am not an art critic, but the artistic craftsmanship has given it worldwide recognition. The least I could do as a tourist is to be photographed next to it and agree that it is a magnificent piece of art.
To me, a person's impression of a country and its people is like painting on a canvas.
The artist places his canvas on the easel. With expert flicks of his brush, he mixes the paints on his palette and creates something beautiful to be admired, but not necessarily understood by others.
I have met two Irish who gave me conflicting images of my home country.
The first is a fowl manager who I met at a fair. He proudly displayed his collection of fowl: geese, ducks, chickens and guinea fowl. A bird in a coop that caught my attention was the Serama, a bantam breed of chicken. Immediately, I felt great kinship with the chicken and told him we both came from the same country. Surprised, he told me he had visited Kuala Lumpur three times and went on to describe his trip. All good memories.
The second Irish had visited a few cities and islands in Malaysia. Recounting her journeys, what took me by surprise was a number of inaccuracies she made about Malaysians in general.
I believe this was partly due to the fact that she saw Malaysia through the eyes of the host she stayed with. Obviously, the host did not give her a balanced perspective of the nation and its people.
The teacher in me immediately tried to put the facts right. After trying to explain at length, I found myself stopping in my tracks because she was not listening at all. She insisted that she was absolutely right and nothing I said would change her perspective at all. How sad.
Painting on the canvas of life takes a similar process. The different dabs of colour are the result of our experiences and our interaction with others.
Bright colours for good times, pastels for pleasant times, grays and blacks for sorrow. The different hues, when well blended, result in the masterpiece of character.
We make judgments all the time. Over time, these judgments may be proven correct or erroneous. We have trusted friends who betrayed us later, and wary of strangers who later became our best friends. We have been influenced by the prejudice of another and seduced by external appearances.
Art critics claim that Mona Lisa may not even have been considered to be finished by Leonardo himself.
It is rumoured that after lingering over the painting for four years, Leonardo left it unfinished. However, it is well-known that the painting took several years to complete, probably between four and seven years, intermittently.
Just as it takes years to paint a masterpiece, knowing a country and its people takes more than a few days in a hotel by the beach.
We also hear of paintings that have hidden paintings beneath.
Artworks across Europe have been plastered or painted over due to historic regime changes. It is often by chance that these fascinating paintings that have been hidden for centuries are uncovered.
Artisans would painstakingly edge away the surface paint to reveal the hidden wonder. This takes time and expertise.
This brings me to the question: what layers of thought in our perception of others do we have to painstakingly edge away for us to enjoy the hidden wonder?