Miniature marvels

Enny Zaini

For diorama enthusiast Haji Riduan bin Haji Brahim, what started as a hobby has turned into a life-long passion.

What’s special about Haji Riduan’s dioramas is that he adds a local twist to his miniature models.

His interest began in 1999 when he would look in awe at the intricate details of a realistic looking diorama. Wanting to learn more, he started to ask around and searched the web on the basics of building a diorama.

Currently, Haji Riduan is a member of the International Plastic Modellers Society Brunei (IPMS Brunei), an organisation that brings together local enthusiasts.

The group regularly held meet-ups to exchange ideas and admire each other’s creations until the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Now, they can only keep each other updated through WhatsApp chat groups.

He also gets support from Hot Wheels’ collectors, who often ask for customised miniature models. With his standard 1:64 building scale, the size of the Hot Wheels toy cars goes well with his diorama.

One of the mini dioramas build by Haji Riduan bin Haji Brahim. PHOTOS: HAJI RIDUAN BIN HAJI BRAHIM
Diorama enthusiast Haji Riduan bin Haji Ibrahim

The father of three only uses recycled materials for his projects. Apart from the basic essentials, such as glue, acrylic paint, scissors and spray paint, Haji Riduan would scour for used cardboard boxes and waste paper products.

For instance, he said, when he sees an empty egg tray, he tried to come up with ways to incorporate it into his project.

In terms of props and accessories, Haji Riduan creatively uses recycled products to make his diaorama come to life. For example, to create a river under a bridge, he uses shredded tissue papers to illustrate moving currents.

At times, he would pop over to a shop in Kiulap specialising in diorama props to buy realistic looking trees and bushes.

He is also the owner of a miniature model of a village house put on display at the shop.
“It’s one of my masterpieces,” he said, beamed with pride.

For Haji Riduan, the time it takes to complete a diorama depends on the mood he’s in. Some take three days to build, while others may take a week to a month.

“My inspiration tends to come spontaneously, when I’m working or driving. And if I come across an interesting landscape or house, I will take a picture of it for future reference,” he said.

He said the hobby has been fulfilling, especially as a getaway from life’s stresses.

“I feel peaceful when I’m working on a model; it’s like a form of therapy,” said Haji Riduan.

“My wife and daughters are fully supportive and encourage me to build more.”

To date, he has built over 50 models.

“Even though the diorama market is still in its infancy, there are quite a number of people interested in buying my creations. I don’t advertise my collection, so people come across my work through word of mouth,” he said.

His dioramas tend to revolve around village houses, seaside and 4WD vehicles on off-road landscapes, though recently, he has taken an interest in building sailboats and warships.

His favourite work is a row of shop houses along Bandar Seri Begawan, which “was quite challenging to build as I had to find the right shades to match the buildings in real life”. Another challenge of building diorama models, he said, is finding the time to add the finishing touches.

“There is always a family function to attend or some errands to run,” he said. However, he admitted that the current restrictive measures due to the pandemic has given him ample time to see a new project through.

For those who wish to venture into the hobby, he advised, “Don’t be afraid to try, and don’t give up too easily. Be bold and try to always think outside of the box.”