ON AUG 31 every year, we recognise and remember the significance of Merdeka and the road travelled by leaders of the past, including our Father of Independence, Tunku Abdul Rahman, to attain self-rule from the colonial masters in 1957.
However, many of us forget that Malaysia was formed only in 1963.
In July 1963, at the Commonwealth Relations Office at Marlborough House, London, representatives of the British government, the Federation of Malaya, Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak signed the agreement establishing the Federation of Malaysia.
The establishment of Malaysia was declared on Sept 16, 1963 (source: www.arkib.gov.my).
In 1965, Singapore broke away from the merger to become an independent nation.
The importance of Malaysia Day remained in the shadows of Merdeka Day until 2010, when the Government decided it was time to give it prominence and Sept 16 was declared a public holiday.
#tanahairku: Street Art Project
Art is a powerful medium of expression and dialogue, and local street artists are promoting messages of unity in their own way for Malaysia Day.
The #Tanahairku: Street Art Project, which ran from Sept 8 to 14, saw 15 talented local artists turn six walls around Kuala Lumpur into a canvas to showcase their patriotic art.
The project was initiated by Petronas, which also carried a campaign for Merdeka and Malaysia Day last year, to instil patriotism and interaction among Malaysian youths.
Art company Bumblebee Consultancy founder Christine Ngh (sic), who is a project co-coordinator, said the murals were a way of spreading unity and creating positive conversation.
“I think it brings a good message for Merdeka and Malaysia Day. It also promotes the arts and wonderful talent we have here which can match the international scene,” she said, adding that street art was gaining considerable popularity and was a powerful voice and platform for youths.
A colourful and meaningful mural on the side of an abandoned building along Jalan Raja Chulan, next to an open air carpark, is one that catches the eye.
The mural, a collaboration between Sabah-born graffiti artist Kenji Chai and KL-ite ‘Cloakwork’ Loo Lok Chern, features a hip and trendy young man in the city playing with a traditional wau, while the reel is held by another youth dressed in simple clothes amidst a backdrop of a kampung house.
“I come from a small town, while Cloakwork is from Kuala Lumpur. We came up with this mural concept to show that even though we are from diverse backgrounds, we are united by love for our country and our art,” said Chai, who is from Sandakan.
He moved to Kuala Lumpur more than 10 years ago, but travels back regularly to visit his family.
Malaysia Day in Sabah and Sarawak is usually celebrated with more pomp in larger cities, but Chai said big celebrations in his hometown were scarce.
Despite that, he feels the spirit of unity and patriotism was not lost.
“As a child, I always felt proud when watching the achievements of fellow Malaysians in the news.
“It is not so much about putting on a parade, but what we do in our everyday lives that shows how much we love our country,” he said.
Chai hopes that his artwork will remind Malaysians of our vibrant and diverse cultures.
“When we are united for a common cause, we put aside things like skin colour or religion,” he said.
Meanwhile, Cloakwork said there were many ways to promote unity, and art was one of them.
“Things like festivals and music are also things that often bring people together,” he said.
Just a few streets away, along Jalan Tan Siew Sin, the Phiberwryte Connect crew’s colourful and bold typography attracted the attention of both locals and tourists alike.
Written across one side of a corner shoplot were the words jaguh (champion), luhur (honourable) and makmur (peace), which the artists feel embody the spirit of unity and represented Malaysia well.
Artist Muhammad Fakhrul (Mile09) said the 1956 poem Tanah Air by the late national laureate Datuk Dr Usman Awang was his team’s inspiration.
“We also made the mural colourful as we wanted it to represent the different colours of Malaysia.
“It is not to say that green is a favourite colour of the Malays, or that the Chinese like red.
“Everyone is unique and colourful in their own way,” said another crew member, Mohd Faiz Omar (Nenok).
“We hope that we can make Malaysians look at Merdeka and Malaysia Day as not just another holiday, but to remind us of our roots and the struggle our forefathers went through to achieve what we have today,” said Fakhrul.
Fakhrul, who has relatives in Sabah and Sarawak, said many in peninsular Malaysia were unaware of how beautiful it was there and that Malaysia Day should be appreciated as much as Merdeka.
“We hope our art will bring people together. So far, we have had people — pedestrians of all race and religion — giving us lots of support while we work, and just appreciating the messages behind the art,” said Mohd Faiz.
Artist Mohd Zaki Nordin (EscapeVA), who was part of the crew that created an eye-catching mural near Jalan Sultan Ismail that drivers may spot while driving along the Federal Highway, incorporated elements from his own childhood, such as the wau, kompang and food such as nasi lemak into his artwork.
Caricature drawings of Malaysians dressed in their traditional costumes, such as Malay, Chinese, Indian and Iban, were also part of the creative fantasy-themed mural.
Zaki said Malaysia Day was about building bridges between Sabah, Sarawak and peninsular Malayisa.
“To me, Merdeka is more about celebrating our independence, while Malaysia Day is about celebrating our culture and what makes us Malaysian,” he said.
Embodying the spirit of unity and how people can come together for a common love are artists Julius Raja Manickam ‘Kangblabla’ and Mohd Faris Azlan ‘Reeze’.
The pair collaborated for the first time to create a mural along Leboh Ampang.
The striking work features a heart painted over with the Malaysian flag’s colours, surrounded by panels with inspiring values such as determination, optimism and unity.
“We came up with a concept of representing Malaysia as a heart.
“We as Malaysians need to take care of it because it is our life force,” said Julius, 25.
“The values are what we as young Malaysians believe are a good balance for the country, in order to progress and continue developing as a harmonious and tolerant nation,” he added.
Julius said Malaysia Day was a good emphasis to unite both West and East Malaysia.
“None should be forgotten. At the end of the day, we are all Malaysians,” he added.