Malaysian indigenous artist Shaq Koyok's mural pays tribute to Mah Meri cultural activist


  • Arts
  • Monday, 29 Jun 2020

Visual artist Shaq Koyok, an orang asli from the Temuan tribe in Selangor, has just completed his biggest mural project - a portrait of Maznah Unyan, founder of Tompoq Topoh, the Mah Meri women’s first weave initiative on Pulau Carey in Selangor, that sells and promotes traditional handicraft.

The mural, titled The Light Of Mah Meri Surviving Material Culture, is painted on the wall of the two-storey Centre for Malaysian Indigenous Studies in Kuala Lumpur.

“Her work has inspired many orang asli to be proud of their culture. At the same time, she has also managed to get the outside world to fall in love with indigenous people, art and culture. She is a good friend of mine and I hope this dedication on the wall will convey to the public that she is a proud orang asli cultural advocate, ” says Shaq, 35.

The lockdown delayed Shaq Koyok's mural project, but once the restrictions eased up he was back at work. He finished the mural last weekend. Photo: Brandon RitomThe lockdown delayed Shaq Koyok's mural project, but once the restrictions eased up he was back at work. He finished the mural last weekend. Photo: Brandon Ritom

For this mural, he worked with acrylic and outdoor paint. He relishes working in the outdoors, sharing that he enjoys the feeling of freedom it provides.

“When I work on the surface of the wall, there are so many elements I am in touch with, all at once. As an orang asli artist, I love to spend as much time outdoors as I can. It keeps my creativity flowing, ” he says.

Shaq started on the mural earlier this year, but its completion was delayed due to the pandemic outbreak. Work resumed in earnest over a week ago, and by the time the weekend rolled around, the mural was done.

“In this mural, I want to show the beautiful traditional Mah Meri attire that Maznah often wears. And I want the portrait to look as if it is part of the building."

"I hope this mural will offer a sense of hope for the indigenous community that are now facing many challenges revolving around land rights and economic disadvantages. Indigenous people are seldom a part of national narratives. Through my work I would like to discuss the meaning of acceptance by the Malaysian community towards indigenous people, ” he says.

Shaq is set to hold his third solo exhibition at the National Art Gallery in KL later this year, tentatively in December. During the lockdown, he also set up his own Youtube channel to keep the masses informed on the development of this upcoming exhibition.

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