Hamidah Najib highlights street art murals that can be found nationwide
THE culture of street art is not new in Malaysia, but it has definitely gained prominence with Instagrammable contents that have grown from a creative trend of revamping dark alleys and mouldy walls with a burst of colours and sketches.
Located near the Bukit Bintang MRT station, Jalan Alor in Kuala Lumpur used to be known for dark, dirty alleyways that were often avoided by locals.
As part of the effort to transform the narrow alleys in the heart of the Bukit Bintang shopping district, Jalan Alor became the first to be spruced up by Kuala Lumpur City Hall in a series of mural projects.
Two MRT stations away, Pasar Seni is the jump-off point to another street art — the Kwai Chai Hong.
Located in Lorong Panggung near Petaling Street, the “hidden” back alley holds significant history that dates back to the 19th century. The murals here are interactive and come with QR codes that hold each artwork’s backstory.
In the beautiful island of Labuan off the shores of Sabah, there are two prominent murals that pay homage to two local heroes — the legendary footballer Hassan Sani and a beloved cincau seller known as Uncle Ah Ming!
The gigantic artworks are the creations of artists Andharas and Nazim Kula.
Klang is home to the Safari Mural, a revamped alley painted with colourful depictions of Malaysia’s favourite animals.
A team effort of both local and international mural artists, the picturesque trail of flora and fauna adds a new breath of life into the royal town.
Interestingly, the Safari Mural is part of the Royal Klang Town Heritage Walk.
Heading north to Kuala Kubu Baru, 40 students of Alfa International College have painted a mural entitled “A Taste of Life”.
The town had only four murals depicting daily life until the students came in and added eight more!
Like a ripple effect, the street art culture spread to neighbouring states, and Kedah is no exception. Visitors can easily locate such creative works in Alor Star, Sungai Petani and Kulim.
Penang was probably the catalyst for the country’s street art culture.
Ever since they appeared on the seasoned walls of pre-war buildings in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation Heritage Zone in George Town, the interactive murals have become must-see tourist attractions.
They were mostly created by the talented Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic, but some other famous ones were drawn by locals like Desmond Yeo and Artists for Stray Animals.
There are also 52 wire caricature dioramas created by the company, Sculpture at Work, across the city.
The street art scene in Ipoh is mostly the handiwork of Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic. Sponsored by Oldtown Bhd in 2014, he produced eight murals. Unfortunately, one has been painted over.
In the following years, many more murals were drawn at various locations in the state capital by both local and international artists.
Those in a quest to snap shots of these murals should get a copy of the Ipoh Mural Art Trail map at the Ipoh Tourists Information Centre, or at Oldtown White Coffee branches.
The smallest state in Malaysia also has its own street art attraction. Fifteen talented artists from Persatuan Pelukis Negeri Perlis have given a facelift to the back alley of a CIMB Bank branch in the capital of Kangar.
The Kangar Street Art 2.0 project incorporates subjects dear to the locals by reflecting the unique state identity.
Lorong Seni Seremban in the capital Seremban is home to various murals that depict the culture and everyday lives of Malaysians.
Among them are a cendol hawker, a roti man (bread vendor on a motorcycle loaded with buns, bread and snacks!) and scenes of cultural performances like the tiger and piring dances.
In an effort to enliven the old part of the city, the Seremban City Council has collaborated with local artists to paint the area in multi-colours. The areas include the Benteng Walk, Terminal One Seremban, the whole stretch of Jalan Yam Tuan, and Pekan Nilai Lama.
Joining in the fun, the historic city of Melaka has also become a canvas for talented local artists.
One of the many projects includes My Kiehl’s Heritage, an initiative by beauty brand Kiehl’s Malaysia, in collaboration with local artist Fritilldea, to give a new look to Jonker Street.
Another collection of mesmerising artworks that can be seen while cruising along Sungai Melaka onboard cruise boats.
The booming street art scene in Johor is not limited to just the capital, Johor Baru. It goes beyond the city limits.
The royal town of Muar is home to one of the largest mural paintings in the country.
The “Loving Sisters” was painted by Russian artist Julia Volchkova, whose works may also be seen around Penang.
Bekok, a lesser-known town in Segamat district, is a proud host to more than 20 murals in 2D and 3D forms.
My favourite is the 3D locomotive train mural that pays homage to the Bekok railway station.
In Kluang district, colours of street art have added life to the century-old buildings in Simpang Renggam.
Through this initiative, the Simpang Renggam District Council won the Green Apple Environment Award for beautification of buildings in 2019.
As the gateway between Pahang and the west coast, Bentong puts forth Bentong Walk. The pedestrian street that turns Jalan Chui Yin into a popular weekend market is home to a collection of 3D murals.
In the capital Kuantan, the back alley of Jalan Besar has more than 30 Pahang icons immortalised in a collection of murals by a team of local artists, done in a span of six months.
One of the icons is the late legendary singer and songwriter Sudirman Haji Arshad, who was born in Temerloh.
If there’s one thing murals are good at, it’s giving life to uninviting back alleys and turning them into hotspots for the locals and tourists alike!
At Jalan Dato Pati in Kota Baru, a breathtaking street art scene featuring Middle Eastern and local elements makes a beautiful backdrop for visitors wanting to up their social media presence.
The artwork is a joint effort between Kota Baru Municipal Council and Persatuan Seni Lukis Kelantan (Peseni), together with paint company Jotun.
In Kuala Terengganu, the street art scene goes a little further than just faded walls and dark alleys. It has also expanded to bridges around the city!
In a collaboration between the National Art Gallery, Duyong Art Gallery and the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry, four beautiful artworks depicting the state’s culture and nature have given the 31-year-old Sultan Mahmud Bridge in Kuala Terengganu a burst of colours.
State capital Kuching has its buildings painted with large murals that can be spotted from afar.
One striking artwork is the “Harmony” mural, comprising Sarawak’s pride — the rhinoceros hornbill and hibiscus flower.
Sibu, on the other hand, injects a fun element into its street mural scene.
The town has 10 murals spread within its limits, like Easter eggs for visitors to find. The murals are part of a campaign called Sibu Street Art 2016 launched by the Sibu Municipal Council to commemorate the city’s culture and heritage.
The appreciation for street art has naturally bloomed in Sabah, with many murals of different strokes and styles to be found across the state.
Its capital, Kota Kinabalu, is home to a colourful street art project called the Foh Sang Street Art.
All the 28 shops in Jalan Foh Sang have been beautified by 25 local artists with drawings that depict the everyday life of locals.
Hamidah Najib is a writer at the editorial unit of Tourism Malaysia.
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