Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Flashback to a Year Ago: Visiting the Cat City of Kuching and Finding Leonard Siaw's Larger than Life Art

 The irony of caring for street foster cats at a time of the pandemic and visiting the cat city of Kuching exactly a year ago this week isn't lost on me.  For those not exactly familiar with the location of Kuching, it's a city in Sarawak, on the other side of Malaysia.   For visual perspective, this map created by Malaysian artist, Charlieking Padasian, for the site, Amazing Borneo, can give you an idea of its location.

By a stroke of luck, my best buddy Ferdz of appointed me as photo-documentary assistant for the trip, starting with the Kuching Waterfront Jazz Festival and later moving on further northeast to the Gunung Mulu National Park at the conclusion of the music fest.


For a city named after wild cats, we were hard-pressed to find street/stray cats.  We later found out that an outbreak of infection led to the "clean-up" of strays city-wide.  I've seen a lot more cats walking the short distance from my abode in Makati to the supermarket than the whole time we were in Kuching.

What we found in abundance was the street art murals splashed on the building facades all over the city, so much so that to call Kuching a mural city wouldn't be a far-fetched idea.  The artworks are done by famous mural artist, Leonard Siaw, and are tourist attractions in their own right.  Little wonder as these are incredibly beautiful, whether the subject is wildlife that abounds in Sarawak or people.

You've got to wonder how does it feels to have a building for a canvass.  A month or so after this trip, I've got an assignment covering another mural artist, this time, it's famed Filipino mural painter, AG Saño, so I guess there's a lining up of divine directions for the arts.  In both instances, it's a great opportunity to appreciate wall art not classified as graffiti (although I also have an appreciation for the cultural and social dimensions of this particular artistic expression).  Murals are a larger-than-life medium for artistic expression.  In Leonard Siaw's case, it's a celebration of life and culture of Malaysia; in AG Saño's case, it's an advocacy to safeguard the environment and promote conservation.  Either way, it's art that carries important messages that go beyond the eye candy veneer.



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