Art activists slam demolition of Puncak Purnama


KUALA LUMPUR: A group of prominent art figures and activists have vowed to protect the remaining artwork and national heritage in light of the abrupt demolition of the iconic Puncak Purnama (Lunar Peaks) sculpture.

Describing the demolition as a “dark episode” in the history of Malaysia’s visual arts, the group submitted a memorandum to Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) in their attempt to preserve the arts and culture industry.

During an hour dialogue with Suhakam commissioner Datuk Loke Yim Pheng, the group expressed their unhappiness over the destruction of Puncak Purnama, which was built by the late National Laureate artist Datuk Syed Ahmad Syed Jamal.

Art Patron Zain Azahari said he felt particularly emotional when the piece of art was demolished by Kuala Lumpur City Hall in July, when the sculpture actually belonged to the people.

“Datuk Syed Ahmad Jamal was a giant amongst artists in Malaysia, and to just destroy what he has left behind for the enjoyment of the ordinary people saddened me so much,” he said.

Puncak Purnama, which was made of ceramic glass, was commissioned by United Malayan Banking Corporation Finance in 1986, after which it was handed over to DBKL in November the same year.

In 1996, DBKL altered the material from ceramic glass to stainless steel without the consent of Syed Ahmad, who then brought the city hall to court and was awarded RM750,000 in compensation for infringement of his moral rights.

It was learnt that the stainless steel facade was later removed, exposing the concrete underneath and left as it was until its demolition early last month.

Federal Territories Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor had also described the sculpture as an "eyesore" and that it was "beyond repair".

But Zain said it was DBKL’s duty to preserve the installation rather than destroying it.

“If a thousand years old  Sphinx statue can be repaired, why can’t we repair something that is only 30 years old?” he asked.

Meanwhile, National Laureate Datuk Baharuddin Zainal,  popularly known as Baha Zain, said the government servants and politicians should have knowledge about intellectual property.

“I hope this memorandum can serve as an eye opener to the politicians and those in office about the importance of intellectual property so there will be no more humiliating acts on their behalf,” he said.

Artist Saiful Razman said the committee will initiate a cooperation with academicians in local universities and the National Heritage Council to obtain a database of public sculpture and art installations in the country.

“We will then choose important artwork for it to be gazetted and this will be our last bastion in preserving our arts and culture,” he said.

Earlier, a group of activists gathered in front of Sogo shopping complex and marched towards Suhakam office in Menara TH Perdana, holding placards to protest against DBKL.

The peaceful protest saw the group reciting poems, playing musical instruments, performing street theatre while the dialogue was ongoing.

The memorandum, among others, urged the Government to sign the United Nations' International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

It also urged the DBKL to appoint a special advisory board related to arts, comprising representatives from the National Visual Arts Gallery, artists and designers, culturalists and academics from local universities to cooperate in planning involving arts and culture.

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