Graffiti is often viewed negatively, and associated to juvenile acts and vandalism. But, Malaysia offers graffiti artists a unique platform to express themselves, both as a form of art and service to the community.
Having begun as an activity that was frowned upon, Malaysian street art has come a long way, with graffiti gaining mainstream acceptance.
While some parts of Kuala Lumpur is still “painted” with a fair share of ugly graffiti, genuine street art is allowed as a form of expression and beautification.
Visitors walking along the Klang river towards Central Market will be pleased to note that street art is used to beautify the river banks.
Street art is celebrated along the river through an urban art event, called the KUL SIGN festival. This event began in 2010 and is a collaboration between street artists and the Kuala Lumpur City Hall. The strong encouragement from local authorities allow street artists the freedom and creativity to work their magic.
The festival has grown since it first started, attracting not only local street artists but also enthusiasts from countries like Italy, Indonesia, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand, Hong Kong and Sweden.
The most recent installment of the festival was held in February, ending with the completion of several larger-than-life-sized painting on the concrete river banks.
The once grey and drabby river banks of the Klang River come alive with designs and amazing creations from talented Malaysian artists. Spray paintings and stencils are creatively used to turn an unattractive structure into a work of art to be appreciated by all.
The good work of graffiti artists does not stop there.
Organisers of KUL SIGN started a wall art project at secondary schools, called “Gempaknya my school!” where artists teach students about art design and wall art graffiti, aiming to eliminate the stigma linked to street art and graffiti. The project also educates the school community on beautificiation methods through street art.
The first school that participated in this programme was Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Sri Permata in Kelana Jaya. Students were given the chance to have a go at one of the walls of the school's block, learning the right techniques of spray painting. They also unleashed their creativity on school shoes, coming up with dynamic and colourful designs.
Video: KUL Sign Festival 2012