PETALING JAYA: At a food court in Cheras, Kuala Lumpur, a familiar bespectacled man in a red baju Melayu and black songkok sits with his legs crossed at a table with a cup of coffee and a bowl of beef soup before him.
Anyone can join him with their own food. Those who do will have an experience to remember – sharing space with Bapa Malaysia and the country’s first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman.
The “man” is a mural painted at Pusat Medan Selera Bandar Seri Permaisuri by artist Husin Othman.
Appropriately, the mural is part of a creative arts project called #InspirasiMalaysia, the brainchild of Institute for Pioneering of Education and Economic Excellence (Inspire) president Engku Isa Al Husam.
“This project is aimed at educating society on strengthening their identity and love of the country through art.
“Tunku is depicted enjoying his kampung coffee and his favourite beef soup. Now, everyone can have coffee with Tunku!” Engku Isa said, referring to the photo opportunity there for the public.
He said Tunku was chosen as the first icon under the project as he was the Father of Independence.
“It is timely to feature him as the country celebrates its 57th National Day,” he said.
“We often see his photo when it comes to Merdeka celebrations in August but many do not know the philosophy and thinking behind the man, or that of his independence movement peers.
“Some, especially the young ones, do not know that Tunku was a prince who had a vision for Malaysia well beyond his time,” he added.
The image of Tunku seated on a modern food court-style chair adds a touch of realism to the surrounding.
The orange-coloured beef soup bowl, Engku Isa noted, was the same hue for bowls used by a shop next shop called Sup Meletop.
“One of the reasons we chose the wall on that spot is because it is near the soup business founded by an entrepreneur from Kedah (Tunku’s home state),” he said. “Almost all the workers are from there too.”
Engku Isa said the mural would attract people to the area, in much the same way as Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic’s street art in Penang.
“The difference with this project is that it promotes educational and historical values,” he said.
“It is not just a beautiful painting but has nation-building attributes. Plus, this project is 100% local.”
Engku Isa said the next mural would be in Kelantan.