Activist art exposes haze hazards

Zacharevic with his street mural Transboundary Haze.

THE devastating impact of haze pollution was the theme of a captivating art exhibition at RexKL.

“Haze: Coming Soon”, which was held from May 5 to 14, featured eight artists, with some works being displayed around Kuala Lumpur and Penang.

Curator and artist Ernest Zacharevic, who has been working on projects with creative platform Slash and Burn for almost seven years, said they had been trying to creatively tackle the issues of transboundary haze, deforestation and animal conservation.

“The artwork, Transboundary Haze, was our first contribution to the Haze: Coming Soon project, which started early last year.

“Initially, the artwork served as a public mural on a wall situated beside the National Textiles Museum in Kuala Lumpur for almost half a year, and we were able to acquire the piece from the contractors and showcase it in this exhibition,” he said.

Zacharevic added that they gradually included artworks from various artists for the exhibition as a means of demonstrating to the public their efforts to raise awareness about haze pollution.

“The pieces on the street don’t last long, and more people would be able to see these works if we were to gather them under one roof where we can show the public everything we’ve done so far. There’s also a premiere of a film by Studio Birthplace,” he said.

Zacharevic also said he hoped to inspire people from different fields to talk more about the haze could do to overcome it.

“I’m hoping that everyone is going to get inspired to do something on their own, even if it’s in a conversation with their family, in class at school or maybe even at their workplace.

“I hope the public will recognise how they can make a positive impact and actively address this issue,” he said.

The recent exhibition featured a short film entitled Haze-zilla by writer and director Abhilash Chandra.

Abhilash said the short film was conceptualised a year ago and that they had been exploring creative methods to make it more engaging and enjoyable in line with the theme of “Haze: Coming Soon”, given the recurring occurrence of haze in the country.

“I considered taking a literal approach, and since the haze in Malaysia is caused by corporate giants, I drew inspiration from movies such as Godzilla and King Kong.

“I decided to show our corporate giant as a massive figure walking around and blowing smoke all over the city,” he said.

Abhilash added that his intention for the short film was to captivate the audience and raise their awareness about the seriousness and persistence of the haze pollution problem in Malaysia.

“I think what’s important to know is that we need to stop blaming Indonesia and that we need to realise that this is our problem too.

“I also think that art is a great way of creating awareness and sharing stories about the problems that we have right now,” he said.

Studio Birthplace producer Sean Lin said the campaign aims to fill the legal gaps because Malaysian companies were partly responsible for the haze pollution in the country.

“We were figuring out how we could raise public awareness and gain public support for the campaign that Greenpeace is doing.

“So we started with displaying street art and public murals like the Transboundary Haze, which was created last year.

“In the midst of working on the street art, we also made a film, but we realised that people were not connecting the two acts as part of the same campaign, so we brought together a few more artists to contribute to our exhibition and show it to the public,” said Lin.

He added that they had been planning the exhibition for four months, and it took them four days to set up the place.

Greenpeace South-East Asia regional campaign strategist Heng Kiah Chun said that Greenpeace was collaborating closely with Studio Birthplace and Splash and Burn to urge governments to implement a transboundary haze act.

“We are calling on the government to enact the transboundary haze legislation because haze pollution has been happening for many years already, and the people and government just end up pointing fingers at each other,” he said.

Greenpeace proposed three solutions to make a change in this issue: restoring peatland and avoiding destroying forests, companies to have their own policies where no deforestation or exploitation will occur, and enacting the Transboundary Haze Act.

“We hope the new government can reconsider having this transboundary haze act to make sure Malaysian companies will not cause forest fires inside and outside of Malaysia,” said Heng.

Heng added that he hoped the exhibition would inspire and encourage more people to start their own initiatives to ease the haze pollution problem.

“We have only one earth, so we need to do something to protect her,” he said.

Those details of the campaign go to Greenpeace’s website at or their social media pages.

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