More than 50 local artists recently came together at Jalan Sultan in the heart of Kuala Lumpur to promote heritage conservation. They painted beautiful murals on dilapidated walls of pre-war shophouse next to the carpark on Lot 49, Jalan Sultan.
The buildings are to be acquired to facilitate the construction of an underground rail station for the Mass Rapid Transport (MRT) project.
“The city was founded about a century ago so there are elements we should conserve, including in areas such as Brickfields, for its[mainly] Indian heritage. Here in Jalan Petaling and Jalan Sultan, it is good to recognise its Chinese past,” said Kuala Lumpur mayor Ahmad Fuad Ismail, who witnessed the mural-painting project organised by a local daily, The Star.
In the same vein, Ahmad Fuad suggested incorporating Islamic characters along the road from Muzium Negara up to Dataran Merdeka, to reflect the plural identity of Malaysian society. “We get our unity through diversity so we have to accept this fact [of many cultures,” underscored Ahmad Fuad. He also noted that modernity and heritage conservation are not mutually exclusive.
On the possibility of the older parts of the city being World Heritage listed by Unesco, the mayor said, “Malacca and Georgetown have been classified as Unesco World Heritage sites so I think why not. The city is as old as Georgetown.
Dr Wong Seng Tong, 72, said his mural tells a story of how Jalan Sultan got its name. “The Sultan Abdul Samad Building is named after him. This is also the Sultan who
founded the famous Victoria Institute. There is also a school in Petaling Jaya named after him.
“He stayed here often. Those days, people thought that Jalan Sultan Abdul Samad was too long a name, so they just called it Jalan Sultan.
- Mat Ramli Mansor, 34, paints a mural of Yap Ah Loy, the Kapitan Cina of Kuala Lumpur during her founding years, as a sign of respect to him.
Mat Ramli Mansor, 34, painted a mural of Yap Ah Loy, the Kapitan Cina (Chinese chieftain) of Kuala Lumpur. “Actually I do not know much about Yap Ah Loy,” he said, “but I know he was a very powerful Chinese community leader who opened up businesses during that time. As a sign of respect to him, we should value all the good things he did.
“Buildings because they are historical evidence of the country’s history. Pudu Jail was a very important building; it’s gone now. If you destroy they country’s built history, then the new generation would not know of its own past.
- Sivarajah Natarajan poses with his mural painting incorporating ying and yang and couple dancing to symbolise dancing in harmony and balance beween nature and mankind.
Sivarajah Natarajan, 44, painted a mural of a Ying and Yang symbol and a couple dancing. “I was born and brought up in Kuala Lumpur,” he said. “Now we see it, then we don’t. I remember this car park was a funeral parlour previously. The city has its own spirit, which we are losing to development.
“The future generation would rather spend time in shopping malls; they do not know the streets. I know the ins and outs of all the streets and lorongs in KL,” he said proudly.
Zainal Abidin Musa, 51 painted a poem on a pillar of the building. “If you read it, it’s like this building is talking to you. If lovers read it, it’s like husband and wife, boyfriend and girlfriend.
“People usually write poems but I paint poems.
“I just hope that our country, the authorities and Malaysians, as a whole, would conserve
historical things. We don’t see the value in built heritage.
“These will become more valuable than new buildings.
“Once they’re gone, they’re gone, [like] our roots.
“I wanted to do something very meaningful so I asked my wife, to write this poem last night:
Let me stay a while longer
For I am not yet ready to go
Keep me still in this embrace
Breathe you in and breathing out.
I’m lost for words
In a world our own,
We’re world’s apart.
Let me stay with you
A little longer my love
For I fear you might forget me
When I am gone
ICI Paints’ good deed for Malaysian history
- Kuala Lumpur mayor Ahmad Fuad Ismail (right) with ICI Paints managing director CW Goh at the Jalan Sultan mural-painting event
Managing director of ICI Paints, CW Goh said: “We want to contribute to the community that we work and live in, and to more than just the physical part of it, which is the paint.
“Firstly, we clean up the wall so the painting can last. After cleaning up. we prepare the substrate and then we put on our paint.
“The reason why we do this is so the artists’ hard work will not go to waste. We wanted to make sure the [painting] surface we prepare for them is as good as possible.
“We followed the organiser’s conservation guidelines; We only removed the foreign materials [on the buildings] as much as possible, to retain their originality.
“It’s more than just the paint; it’s about the passion that we have for colours, which we believe can bring out the spirit of the community in that particular area, to promote our culture and heritage.