In artist Shaq Koyok’s latest artwork Malok, Hak Kan Nik? (Where Are Our Rights?), an old man in traditional headgear stands with his arms reaching out in a questioning manner. The expression on his face manages to be both sad and defiant: a look that will undoubtedly stay with the viewer for a while.
Shaq reveals that the man is Aban Anjang, a 90-year old from the indigenous Temiar tribe from Gua Musang in Kelantan.
Aban Anjang, a former jungle specialist of the Senoi Praaq, a unit of the Royal Malaysia Police made up almost entirely of orang asli personnel during the Malayan Emergency-era, remains a fierce fighter. He was in Putrajaya last year as an activist fighting for his people’s land rights.
The elderly man presented a memorandum against illegal deforestation in his homestate.
After meeting Aban Anjang and getting to know his people’s plight in Putrajaya, Shaq was inspired to paint a portrait of the grizzled warrior.
“I want to help him by channeling his voice and to tell his story. I want to highlight this man’s plight, his people’s struggles and to remind the masses about his contributions to the country,” says Shaq, a contemporary artist from the indigenous Temuan tribe of Selangor.
Shaq, whose work has been exhibited across Malaysia as well as in Melbourne, London and Miami, has been actively fighting through art to see the change he wants for indigenous peoples here.
Shaq’s work Malok, Hak Kan Nik? (Where Are Our Rights?) , done in acrylic on a woven traditional pandanus mat (by his sister-in-law, a Temuan master weaver) ), is among the paintings by 26 artists on display at the Human Being group exhibition at the Ken Gallery in Taman Tun Dr Ismail in Kuala Lumpur.
The works in this exhibition celebrate the human figure in various styles, forms and interpretations.
Some focus on the expressive strength of the human form, others portray human feelings and emotions, and others deal with the environment and other pressing issues to humanity. Others express the beauty of human life.
This show series is presented by The F Klub, a group of visual artists linked by a common interest of doing figurative arts or use figure as a main subject in their visual arts practice. The “F” in the name stands for figure and the club was formed in 2007 by Bayu Utomo Radjiki, Kow Leng Kiang, Noor Mahnun Mohamed and Shia Yih Yiing.
This year’s Human Being edition features works from an array of The F Klub members such as Bayu, Kow, Shia, Marvin Chan, Gan Chin Lee, Arif Fauzan Othman, Fadilah Karim and Hisyamuddin Abdullah, alongside other artists specially invited to participate in this show.
They are Ahmad Zakii Anwar, Amron Omar, Fadli Yusof, Faizza, Gan Tee Sheng, Hazri Shairozi, Khairuddin Zainudin, Lim Kok Teong, Nik Shazmie, Raimi Sani, Ruzzeki Harris, Safuan Nasiar, Shaq Koyok, Siund Tan, Suddin Lappo, Trixie Tan, Yuki Tham and Zaim Durulaman.
“Artists such as (Gan) Chin Lee, Shaq (Koyok) and Yuki (Tham), they are very good at storytelling through their works. And one artist who has done something different is Khairudin (Zainudin). His drawings are done by scratching on the surface of an aluminium plate,” says Bayu.
Ahmad Zakii’s painting of a skeletal man is a haunting sight, so nearly photographic, while Tham’s huge “girl in hoodie” painting and Suddin’s dark and abstract visions on canvas offer contrasting moods to this exhibit.
Bayu, the director of Hom Art Trans gallery, contributes his work The Movers to the exhibition.
It features the backs of a group of workers (or slaves?), with pointed words superimposed over them. Bayu references John Mason International Movers, a packing and shipping company, in this series of five paintings. Is this about migration?
Bayu sticks clear of any obvious interpretations. For him, figurative art can be vague and also an important way of conveying stories.
“Some works need to depict historical events, or display historical elements. Or the expression of human emotion. Figurative painting can be direct or it can offer no obvious leads. It helps us express ourselves in a way that other forms of art can’t,” says Bayu.