State govt supports murals, street art as means to share S’wak’s countless stories


“The Original Flame” at Kai Joo Lan highlights the humble origins of street vendors. Photo credit: Leonard Siaw

By Karen Bong

KUCHING, Dec 1: As every town, city, district and division has its own fascinating tales to tell, the state government is encouraging collaborations for murals and other colourful street art creations to tell the stories of Sarawak.

As such, local councils and Resident’s Offices are encouraged to work closely with homegrown artistes to identify and transform key areas in their respective jurisdictions with remarkable and captivating street art or murals.

The state government recognises that the street art scene in Sarawak is growing from strength to strength especially in Kuching, Sibu and Miri and not only gives opportunities for artistes to grow but also connects people with local cultures and events.

“Local Residents and Councils should work closely with mural artistes within their jurisdiction in identifying the key areas where this growing art can be revealed.

“(This is) so that every town, city, district and division in Sarawak has their own stories to tell through murals and street art to both local and foreign visitors during their visits to Sarawak.”

The Sarawak government highlighted this in a written reply to a question raised by renowned self-taught muralist Leonard Siaw during the “Sunday with CM: Dialogue Session with Young Entrepreneurs in Sarawak” programme held on Sept 28 this year.

“Thank You, Frontliners” at Eastern Mall in Siburan. Photo credit: Leonard Siaw

Due to the constraints of time, which led to many questions being unanswered, DayakDaily forwarded these questions to the relevant authorities who came back with the answers recently.

Siaw emphasised that local councils like Kuching South City Commission (MBKS), Kuching North City Hall (DBKU), Padawan Municipal Council (MPP) and Kota Samarahan Municipal Council (MPKS) can be part of an initiative to create an art district in the many towns and cities in Sarawak.

“The art district can be a landmark for respective towns, cities, districts and divisions or neighbourhoods and this can even enliven areas along the Pan Borneo Highway.

“This open gallery art form can also draw more tourists to visit Sarawak. While tourists or locals drive along the Pan Borneo Highway, they can stop by to admire not only the creative art but stories behind it,” he said.

The ‘Bidayuh Ring Ladies’ mural at 10th Mile, Padawan. Photo credit: Leonard Siaw

Among Siaw’s latest works of art is ‘Bidayuh Ring Ladies’, which graces the entire façade of an otherwise dull building, has become the focal point of the neighbourhood at 10th Mile here.

It also celebrates the traditions and culture of the indigenous people of Kampung Semban in Padawan by featuring the last Bidayuh women to wear the coiled copper rings, known as “ruyung” and “rasung” on their forearms and calves, a practice which began when they were just 10-years-old.

According to their tradition, wearing the rings not only symbolises status and beauty but also serves as a form of recognition as only those who wear the rings are allowed to attend certain festive ceremonies and do the “rejang” or eagle dance.

Siaw working on the ‘Bidayuh Ring Ladies’ mural. Photo credit: Leonard Siaw

Other works which Siaw had been commissioned to do include “The Early Merces” at India Street, “Different Cultures, Same Ice Cream” at Open Air Market, “Wild About Kuching” featuring the orangutan Aman and a bird nursing and feeding seven fledglings at Singgahsana Lodge along Temple Street, “Symphony of the Tinsmith” at China Street, “The Original Flame” at Kai Joo Lane, “Thank You, Frontliners” at Eastern Mall in Siburan, and many more.

Siaw’s star in the Malaysian art scene began to rise after winning the grand prize at the ‘Mark Your Mark’ challenge at the Melbourne Street Art Competition in Kuala Lumpur in April 2017.

He went on to represent Malaysia at the ‘Wall to Wall Benalla Festival’ in Victoria, Melbourne in Australia. — DayakDaily

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