9Lives’ Mixthology art exhibition combines legend with Sarawak modernity

By Danielle Sendou Ringgit
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A combination of two words – mix and mythology – the flavour of ‘Sarawak: Mixthology Art Exhibition’ was perfectly represented as local artists reinterpreted ancient Sarawak myths and legends through modern lenses.

Held in conjunction with Malaysia Day on September 16th at The Granary Kitchen + Bar, the Sarawak: Mixthology Art Exhibition was organised by art community 9Lives, marking its first independent art exhibition.

Head artist, Sonia Luhong Wan

Head artist, Sonia Luhong Wan

“We wanted to have something that is relevant to Sarawak and we found that it has not been done yet in Kuching yet or in this scale,” said the head artist of the exhibition project, Sonia Luhong Wan.

Founded in 2014, the art community serves as a platform to promote and expose local artists from various visual arts disciplines such as drawing, painting, printmaking, graphic design, textile design, photography, graffiti and street art.

“We wanted to bring this theme of Sarawak legends and myths and interpret it in a new style and perspective, so it is kind of like bringing Sarawak appreciation of its heritage in a new prescriptive,” said Sonia.


Titled The Dream 1 and The Dream 2, Sonia’s work is inspired by the Iban legend of ‘Danjai and The Remaung’s sister.

Featuring two renderings of clouded leopard entitled ‘The Dream 1’ and ‘The Dream 2′, Sonia’s artwork was inspired by Iban legend of ‘Danjai and The Remaung’s sister’.

“The word ‘Remaung’ – if I am not mistaken – in Iban means tiger, but of course Sarawak has no tiger, so the tiger is the clouded leopard,” explained Sonia.

“And why I just called it leopard is because I think Sarawak is more than hornbills and orangutan. We have a vast amount of species that are equally unique on Borneo island,” she said.


Featuring the clouded leopard as her main subject, Sonia feels that art may also be used in creating awareness and education

Sonia also chose to portray the clouded leopard in her artwork to highlight that it is an endangered species in Sarawak.

“So what I wanted to show here is the question of whether the clouded leopard would become elusive just like the ‘remaung’ or tiger – appearing only once in a blue moon – or is it going to be able to roam freely again in the jungle of Sarawak,” said Sonia.

A protected species in Sarawak, there were reports on sightings of three clouded leopard in Santubong in 2014.

“I have not seen any clouded leopard in real life, but it is personal to me in a sense that my heart is very close to conservation,” said Sonia, adding that she used to do volunteer work with the Wildlife Conservation Society in Kuching.

“For me, art is not just a medium of expression, but at the same time it is a medium of education and awareness,” she said. “I wanted to show that we need to help conserve these animals, and one of the way is through art.”


Kedung Ballang Kapong or Keds

Aside from Sonia, another artist featuring artwork based on Sarawak legend was Kedung Ballang Kapong, otherwise known as Keds.


Keds’ artwork are inspired by Kelabit legend, Tuked Rini, a cosmic traveler who was said to be emitting the ‘lalud’ or spiritual aura

“My artwork is based on Kelabit legend, Tuked Rini, a cosmic traveler. It is not a well known story because ever since we embraced organised religion, we started to forget our past but I was fortunate to come across this story,” said Keds.

Of Kelabit descent, Keds heard the story from her grand-aunt in Bario last year.


Keds’ artwork featuring Aruring, the wife of Tuked Rini who was said to depict the persona of a perfect Kelabit woman

According to Keds, Tuked Rini is a cosmic entity, an embodiment of a perfect Kelabit male emitting ‘Lalud’ or spiritual aura while his wife Aruring represents the female equivalent to her husband, the epitome of the perfect Kelabit woman.

“Both of them are the perfect Kelabit man and woman, so the men were expected to go out and do all the manly work such as hunting, while the woman was expected to always provide food,” explained Keds.


Datuk Bandar of Kuching North City Commission (DBKU), Datuk Abang Abdul Wahap Abang Julai talking to one of the participating artist during the exhibition

For Datuk Bandar of Kuching North City Commission (DBKU) Datuk Abang Abdul Wahap Abang Julaihi who attended the opening which featured the combined talents of musicians Sasha Ningkan and Jalee, artists of the spoken word Wordsmiths of Kuching (WoK) and sape maestro Saufi Aiman Yahya, the art exhibition not only brought in creativity but united people.

He said that DBKU would definitely offer more opportunities for creative talents to present their work.


Amy Amin’s work entitled ‘Tugau’, a Melanau legend of a being born in the same egg with a cobra and a rooster

“We are still in the midst of our Clean, Beautiful and Safe (CBS) programme, and we would like to beautify the city. Our efforts are not limited to just landscape, but also involves other things and that is why we are trying to involve other groups such as artists and youths as well,” said Wahap.


Artwork by The Black Cat featuring Sarawak legendary heroine, Puteri Sejinjang

Wahap also said that he was currently in the midst of mooting the idea of opening an art gallery in Kuching.

“We will try and see if we can have an art gallery for Kuching to feature all the artwork because that is what is lacking now,” he said, adding that it could be a project for next year.


Mandala: peace by Yasmin Zaidi

Organised by 9Lives,  the art exhibition also featured other artists; Amy Amin, Dhiya Roslan, Dewi Miyo or also known as The Black Cat, Twenty-Fifth and Yasmin Zaidi.


Group shot of the participating artist along with the performers and Datuk Bandar of DBKU during the exhibition

A one day event, 9Lives will also be holding more activities such as ‘Meet The Artists’ session, ‘Art Workshop’ and ‘Small Town Art Market’ at The Granary Kitchen + Bar.

The Meet The Artist session will be held on October 1st, 8th and 15th at 3 pm at The Granary Kitchen + Bar. Participants will get to listen to the artists sharing about their artwork and the idea behind them follow by a Q & A session. Registration is free of charge and is limited to the first 30 slots per session.

The Art Workshop session is held on October 2nd, 9th and 16th at 3 pm at The Granary Kitchen + Bar. Particicpants get to learn more about a particular creative medium from the artist. Registration is free of charge and is limited to the first 30 slots per session.

The Small Town Art Market will be held on October 8th from 2 pm till 7 pm at The Granary Kitchen + Bar.

Brought by The Small Town Society in collaboration with 9Lives, Flint & Steel, The Granary Kitchen + Bar and The Ranee Gift Gallery, it is a celebration of the creative makers in Borneo selling everything from designer items to fashion.

To know more of their activities, check out their facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/9livesborneo/?fref=ts

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