The first time I heard about Fice KB, I was at Khizanat, the home of Ipoh based creative group, Projek Rabak. I was getting schooled by head honcho Jayzuan on the ways of the artist when he casually mentioned that a Bruneian is one of the contributors for their next poetry anthology titled Lelaki-lelaki Merbahaya (Malay for ‘Dangerous Men’).
The month prior, I had been to an art exhibition in Brunei, where a bold and rambunctious painting by an artist of the same name had caught my eye. I could hardly contain my excitement! Words + Art is Heartwrite’s idea of heaven. Alas, the book was not yet in print.
As fate would have it, Fice KB found us on social media months later. He gave us a copy of LLM and Neruda Di Kuala (A section of lovers), a collection of his poems in English printed by Sarawakian based indie publisher, La Lectrice Borneo. A quick read and some raised eyebrows later, Ying and I knew we had to meet him.
On our next trip to the oiltown of KB (short for Kuala Belait), we caught up with Fice at his family home. We were curious as to how it all started for the 20-something wordsmith. Penning rhymes to make rap music, apparently, in late 2010. He progressed to writing poetry and songs (some of his tracks are available on YouTube).
But what we really wanted to know was what compels him to push his work out to the public sphere, particularly something as raw (and saucy!) as NDK.
“If you write it and it never leaves the room, what’s the point?” he replied. Nonetheless, he admitted there are boundaries.
Whereas some write to express themselves, for Fice the need to share has an equal part to play. “There were some things I wrote which were personal… but when I thought about it again, I feel they are relatable, and can get published.”
“I did it to express my feelings… I’d been so full of emotions. I was infatuated. The words kept pouring out… I didn’t think I was capable of writing things like this.” Coincidentally, he had just discovered Chilean poet Pablo Neruda’s heavily metaphoric Twenty Love Poems and A Song of Despair and deliberately chose to ‘channel’ his inner Neruda to process what he was going through.
‘I want to be like him,’ he said plainly. “To be honest I don’t think the content is inappropriate because [the dynamics between men and women] are human and natural”.
We kept talking – about calling himself a writer, daring to get his art out there, and the thirst for the passionate and real. “I like realism because you can relate to it. And I can express the human condition – emotions, feelings – very well…”
From someone else, these words risk sounding arrogant. From him, it was another matter of fact.
“The human condition is quite complex but at the same time straightforward. You can always find something; it never stops to amaze you and in that way, you can always find a story.” Suddenly, he looked up and smiled, as if just remembering we were still there, sitting cross-legged on his living room floor.
Here’s an intensely private person who calls himself an ‘average guy next door’, yet is so strongly inclined to celebrate the force of emotions that he appears to not think twice about cracking himself open for all to see, albeit always and only through his work. He maintains, ‘it’s not me, it’s Fice KB’.
From what we could see, it is not even that his alter ego is bolder or more creative. Fice KB is simply a conduit. His works, once manifest, stand on their own.
We left Fice with the impression of having only scratched the surface of this free flowing expressionist. He works loosely and at whim, unencumbered by either method or technicality. Following that is a process of systematic editing. Whatever remains has a certain fate of being published. In a way, he releases the emotions to be detached from them and presents them to the world for one simple reason:
“You feel stuff, you make other people feel stuff. You put the feelings on the canvas, in the writing, mix it up. Simple as that. If it makes you feel something, all the better for it.”
NB: If you’d like a copy of either Lelaki-lelaki Merbahaya or Neruda Di Kuala, do get in touch!