KLUANG: Artist Ai Zhi Yong is using Kluang’s famous coffee to paint the district’s iconic and historical places to raise funds for underprivileged children.
Kluang-born and raised Ai, 28, who co-runs a café and children’s home in Jalan Sekolah, Kampung Masjid Lama here called Hope Home Welfare Association, started exploring painting with natural ingredients when the movement control order (MCO) was imposed in March.
The art and guitar teacher said the cafe and home’s income were affected by the MCO and its committee members each had to find other sources for funds for the eight children currently under their care.
“Previously, the cafe’s income and our committee would contribute funds to provide shelter, meals and after-school activities for the children. But since the MCO had affected our jobs and income, we had to look for additional funding.
“That was when I explored painting using food colouring derived from discarded ingredients from the market, such as butterfly pea flower, curry powder, ginger and squid ink before finally deciding on coffee.
“I felt that it was significant to paint some of Kluang’s iconic places and scenery using our very own coffee, which is well-known among Malaysians.
“Painting with the ingredient also gives the artwork a lingering coffee aroma that has been a hit among coffee lovers, ” he said in an interview.
Among the sceneries he has painted are the old Kluang bus terminal that has been torn down, Dewan Jubli Intan Sultan Ibrahim, SJK(C) Chong Hwa 2 and a midnight chicken rice stall in Kampung Paya market, which is a popular supper spot among the Kluang community.
Ai said the challenge of coffee painting was in getting the water and coffee powder ratio right to achieve the desired colour intensity and various shades of brown.
He also found painting with food colouring was far cheaper than the conventional paint materials, as the ingredients for the former could easily be obtained.
“At first I used coffee powder that came in bags and later switched to expired coffee powder as it had the same effect and prevents wastage.
“I usually take photos of the scenery and spend about five hours to produce a painting. The coffee paint can be reused up to three times to create different effects.”
He said other than sceneries, he also painted portraits using coffee.
His paintings were recently displayed and sold in a three-day solo exhibition at the café in early October.
The welfare home is located on the upper floor of the shophouse.
Ai said the welfare home, registered about five years ago, took care of less fortunate children, from babies to secondary school students, by providing them with a place to study and stay.
“The café serves an affordable menu to cater to other students so they can eat and spend time there to complete their homework rather than loiter around.
“With the welfare home, we hope that the children under our care are able to grow up in a conducive environment and become independent individuals.
“Rather than seeking opportunities elsewhere, hopefully, they can find good jobs and settle down in Kluang to contribute to the local economy and give back to the community here, ” he added.
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