A 74-year-old man’s quest to rid Malaysia’s beaches of washed-up glass has led to a collection of thousands of bottles, now displayed in a colorful seaside museum.
For the past 15 years, Tengku Mohamad Ali Mansor has made it his mission to gather bottles washed ashore on Malaysia’s rugged South China Sea coast. He has picked up about 9,000, which he now displays in a traditional wooden house that he has turned into a museum.
They come in various shapes and sizes, from all over the world, stacked across shelves and on the floor — with an igloo-shaped mound of bottles outside.
He even found messages in two of the bottles, one with a picture of a heart and some faded Chinese characters, and a second that has been torn apart and is no longer legible.
“I did this at first to keep the sea clean,” he said from Kampung Penarik, where the wooden museum sits next to his home. “I want to save people from being hurt by broken glass — and to save the world from being littered with glass.”
On a morning beach patrol, the spry grandfather of 20 said a prayer as he stooped to pick up an empty, white-capped bottle. The former soldier wiped it down before slipping it into his backpack — another one for his collection.
Tengku’s obsession began in 2005, when he saw children blowing up empty bottles with fireworks.
Worried the shattered glass could hurt people, he said that he would pay them for any bottles they found — and they returned with more than 500.
He then began collecting bottles off beaches. Only later, as his collection grew, did he decide to open a museum.
The site attracts a regular stream of visitors, who have read about it on Facebook.
During a COVID-19 lockdown earlier this year, he kept busy gluing glass shards together to make bottle shapes in a style similar to Japanese kintsugi, where broken pottery is repaired with lacquer mixed with powdered gold.
Tengku has vowed to continue his quest as long as he lives.
“People think I’m crazy, but I don’t care,” he said. “Allah knows what I am doing. I do this because I love this world.”
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