Samad Said: Have some ‘sikap’

Local artists, be it poets, actors, cartoonists, or film-makers, should have their own stands and opinions on issues instead of merely existing, said legendary Malaysian poet A Samad Said.

Speaking during the launching of ‘Even My Pen Has a Stand’, a new cartoon book by popular cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Haque (better known as Zunar) at the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH) recently, Samad labeled most Malaysian artists as being in the ‘cari makan’ (to sustain their jobs) category.

“The one who should be careful now though is Zunar,” said the 76-year-old former National Laureate, referring to the spate of bans, arrests and controversies that have plagued Zunar for his past books, which includes political satire.

Zunar later echoed Samad Said’s statements, stating that the book title came about after he realized that even his pen has a stand, while local artists mostly do not have one.

“When you draw, we have a stand to dip the pen after we finish the drawing. It’s called the pen-stand. When even the pen has a stand, why not us artists?” he asked.

“Artists should stay close to the grassroots and the common people. So we are responsible to convey the rakyat’s wishes or frustrations through our work. Our work must reflect the people’s desires and wishes,” he further stressed.

The Malaysiakini cartoonist also went to express his delight at being able to attend his own book launch, as he was arrested and kept in custody when his last book was launched last year, making him unable to attend it.

“Thankfully I could attend my own book launch this time,” he said to the laughter of a packed conference room at the KLSCAH.

Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar also attended the event, and said that Zunar’s works has had a personal impact on her.

“I have followed him for a long time, and I feel like it is essential to read his comics in order to release stress we suffer from Malaysian politics. Especially for politicians like me, it is a good medicine,” she said.

Much of the focus during the launch remained on the forthcoming Bersih rally, where some attendees sported Bersih T-Shirts, with Samad Said and Zunar both expressing their support for the rally, which has already been outlawed by the ruling government.