Street art is a powerful tool with which to tell stories of anything and everything, such as those of communities living in certain places. In Sarawak, it is a growing trend that has seen the art transformed into creative works. It’s inspire the masses with the positive messages they help to disseminate. So increasingly famous has the art form become today, that artists are even commissioned to paint murals to enhance building facades, feature walls and back alleys, etc.
Art for the masses
Sibu folks are no strangers to street art. Around town, street art can found in abundance. And they are pretty much welcomed by the local residents. Street art here is actively promoted as one of the town’s tourism attractions. With a trail that takes tourists to some of Sibu’s most prominent street murals. Famous art pieces include “Sibu delicacies” painted by Lau Sei Kwong and Lilian Tang Siu Hui at Market Road, “Old Bus” by Edmund Wong Yik Tze at Jalan Tukang Besi and “Dian Mian Hu stall” by Braden Tiong depicting 59-year-old stall owner Kiu Chiong Loi preparing his famous dish of rice sheets in soup at his stall at Blacksmith Road.
An annual Sibu Street Art event, included as part of the Sarawak Tourism calendar. Draws the public to designated areas within Sibu, in particular Sibu Town Square. Here, public exhibitions featuring street murals aim to inspire visitors and spark their interest in the art.
Swan City also takes pride in having the largest mural in Sarawak, measuring 567sqm, adorning the wall of the six-storey Wisma Vasty in Jalan Pulau. Painted by Aries Kong (a.k.a Jagung) and his team, it took 22 days to complete using a crane and 15 five-liter tins of paint. Themed “humanitarian”, it features 15 actual people of Sibu and a loveable dog.
From the quirky to the inspiring
Street art is making a huge statement in Kuching. Many building facades and sidewalls in the city centre are turning from plain to colourful. With artists adding their creative touches in the form of giant murals with fascinating Bornean designs. Some notable street arts in Kuching include the “Tanah Airku”. A series by 9Lives artists on building sidewalls along Wayang Street and Carpenter Street. “Harmony”, “Menua Kitai” and “Clouded Leopard” from the series combine designs representing Sarawak and Malaysia.
Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic breathed life into the walls of Old Kuching City with his famous murals such as “Great-Ape-Scape” along Jalan Power. He also did some art on the walls of the Annah Rais longhouse in Penrissen. One depicts a girl in a boat while the other is a lady laughing gleefully.
The laneway underneath Wayang Street is famous for murals and graffiti that have a more urban flavour to them and can be somewhat quirky. Just behind Grand Margherita Hotel on the Kuching Waterfront is a 22-metre long mural by the Faculty of Applied and Creative Arts, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas). It features elements of culture, people, food etc. and is mostly black and white.
Some of the newer murals can found in India Street, Kuching. There are several in the back alleys along the street. There’s one huge one covering an entire sidewall at the end of India Street facing the Old Courthouse. It painted by Leonard Siaw and features fabric entrepreneurs at India Street.
Strokes of genius
Miri also welcomes the idea of having murals painted on the walls of some of its buildings to both beautify them and to promote art among its citizens. One beautiful piece of mural can found on the Tourist Information Centre (TIC) in Miri. Which depicts some of Miri’s chief tourist attractions such as the Pinnacles, the horse head rock formation on Tusan Beach and the glowing blue bioluminescent plankton on the edge of the water on the beach at night.
Murals are increasingly taking prominence in eating establishments, including cafés and food courts in Miri. Container-themed food court aptly called Container City is simply covered in murals. Which are among the major draws for the establishment. Some of the murals there include superhero characters, emojis, fantastical beasts and a basketball scene.
A local café/bar called D’Lux commissioned Jagung to create a wall mural that aptly describes what the place is, using only spray paint and no stencil, projector or grid. He also painted a stunning mural of a lady covered on the shoulders and back with beautiful pink flowers, on the wall of a mall in Miri.
In Bintulu, as it is in other cities and towns in Sarawak, murals help to beautify the urbanscape. Among the latest is a colourful and retro, comic book style wall mural painted by the talented Artsy Daphy on a 15m x 7m wall of Sarawak’s largest branch of iDrink café.
A prominent piece of mural art can found at a rocky hill. Strategically located along the road intersection towards Bintulu Sentral, Medan Jaya commercial centre, Assyakirin commercial Centre and Kidurong/Tg. Batu Road. Titled “The Hill Of Unity”, the outdoor mural showcasing Malaysia’s diversity of flora and fauna painted on Sept 16, 2017 in conjunction with Malaysia Day.
Among other mural art that can found in Bintulu include an outdoor mural at The Loft painted by Jagung, Mangorong and Taro. As well as a piece titled “Love & Care” painted on the wall of SMK Kidurong Bintulu by Afiruddin Ramdzan, together with the school’s art students. Meanwhile, a mural featuring traditional motifs painted by local icon Matthew Ngau adorns the walls of Hole 10 at the Bintulu Golf Club.
The next time you’re in Sarawak, a hunt for street murals should be an interesting addition to your bucket list of to-do things, whether you’re artfully inclined or not. Street art is gaining traction in Sarawak and has become part of the State’s permanent tourism fixtures. It’s definitely interesting to see how this form of art develops in the future.