Murals and Vandalism – What did we learn?

mural shah alam suhaimi ali

Was there anyone who was aware of the murals painted by Muhammad Suhaimi Ali, Abdul Hadi Ramli and Muhamad Firdaus Nordin in Shah Alam? The mural was done in appreciation for leaders and prominent figures in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Good intentions, bad planning

What made the mural a target for vandals is in its location and height. The painting featured 6 prominent Malaysian leaders who were:

  • Yang Di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al Mustafa Billah Shah
  • Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin
  • PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang
  • Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah
  • Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, and
  • Islamic Affairs Minister Datuk Zulkifli Mohamad al-Bakri.

Vandals caught on CCTV

Video footage showed that 2 vandals defaced the murals by spraying red color onto the eyes and wrote words ‘Babi’ and ‘Bangsat’. Most who watched the footage came to the conclusion that the vandals are female.

So, what drove the vandals to commit this despicable act? While the general consensus is that the frontliners are very much appreciated for their untiring efforts in helping to curb COVID-19, why are there those who feel otherwise? Is the government not doing enough?

Lessons Learnt in Mural Vandalism

Perhaps one of the most crucial issues here is on giving credit where it’s due? Perhaps the vandals felt that more appreciation should be showered to the real frontliners and not just the faces that appear on television and social media every day, especially those who claim to be the government of the day.

What makes this all the more worrying is that the vandals did not seem to be concerned of being caught and went about their business.

Murals where they should be

Vandalism has always been a societal peril, and this has not changed with or without COVID-19. There must be a time and place for murals and they should not be at reachable length. What is the point of having a nice mural that can be defaced by anyone who walks past?

Put them high up or at least 10 meters above the ground. Then, everyone can view and appreciate the work. The government is not doing enough to promote such art appreciation and when the artist’s product such as work, the government glorifies it. This is called Tumpang Glamour! The government should fund these works and give them a proper place to paint.

What now then?

The best and probably most appropriate thing to do now is to leave it as it is. There is no point erasing ad cleaning it up. At arm’s length, someone might just deface it again after this. Let this be a lesson learnt. Appreciate art as it is and do it at the right places.

Siblings did their part for art and society by cleaning up vandalised mural in Penang

2 art-conscious and public-spirited siblings recently came under the limelight after they took their own initiative to remove the wax that vandalised a popular mural at Armenian Street in Georgetown, Penang. The 2 are Tan Jia Hang, 20, and his sister Jia Shin, 19 who cleaned up the mess by vandals on the Mirrors George Town Street project curated by Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic. The murals were put up by Zachrevic for the George Town Festival 2012 that had 2 children painted on the wall with a real life bicycle.

It was reported that vandals had tried to smear the painting by using wax and drew headlines after that. The 2 siblings in their own accord then used hot water and a penknife to clean the wax and restored it to its original beauty. The older brother, Jia Hang is currently studying at The One Academy pursuing his Diploma in Multimedia Design where he had dinner with his sister nearby.

When they found out that it was only wax and not paint, they embark onto their own quest to clean up the mural. Meanwhile, Jia Shin studies at the Equator Academy of Art said that it was not very difficult to remove the wax which took them about one and a half hour to complete.


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