Late Bidayuh artist’s daughter determined to keep his legacy alive

June seen on the left during Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg's visit to pay his last respects to her late father Raphael at the funeral parlour at St Joseph’s Cathedral in Kuching today (Nov 26, 2019).

By Peter Sibon

KUCHING, Nov 26: June Ahbeng, the youngest daughter of the late renowned Bidayuh artist Rafael Scott Ahbeng is keen to continue the legacy of her late father.

June, an accomplished artist herself, learnt the trade from her late father when she was just 5, but did not take it up seriously, to pursue her own career.

“I told him not to worry about his heritage because I will continue his legacy. And I will talk to the government agency that connects to ways that I can preserve our heritage in our arts. Because I think our state needs some sort of sanctuary for us to preserve the works of our local artists,” June told reporters at the wake of her late father Raphael Scott Ahbeng at the funeral parlour at St Joseph’s Cathedral here today.

She said, at the moment, works of local artists were not properly appreciated and displayed.

“We need to have a sanctuary of sorts with the government’s full support to actually set up like a museum or like the Tate Museum in England or the Louvre in Paris where they display the works of the artists. So likewise, we should gather the works of all the locals. And I hope I can be part of those who can spearhead (a body) and gather all the local artists together,” she said.

June stressed that as the keeper of her late father’s works of arts, she was willing to loan his works for public display.

“This is to give inspiration to budding artists to kickstart their new way of life either as a hobby or even career besides being a lawyer, a doctor or other professionals,” she said.

She said her late father was the first local artist who had managed to exhibit his works at Christie’s Singapore in the 1990’s.

“Making it to Christie’s is like making it to the Grammy Awards in Hollywood for international artists in South East Asia. So yes, he made it in the 90’s but was not heard of,” she said.

Before his passing, June said her father’s choice of colours tended to be dark and his arthritis had limited the agility of his fingers.

“So, I had to tell him, “Dad, you have to give more colours to your works”. And when he did (paint), he would sit down because he suffered a lot of pain due to arthritis which he had suffered from for a long time,” she said.

Raphael, 80, passed away on Sunday at his village in Tanjong Poting Singai, Bau due to health complications and old age. He left behind his wife, Anastasia Mised, four children, 11 grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

Before turning full time as an artist, Rafael was an English broadcaster with Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM), a sculptor and an avid photographer.

June said her late father was sent by the British Council to study arts in England at the age of 16.

Additionally, she said father used to write a column called ‘Beng’s Sunday’ for the Sarawak Tribune in the 1980’s where he would write about society’s humorous side of life.

Raphael’s wake will be held until tomorrow night before the funeral service at 9.30am on Thursday.

After the funeral service, Raphael’s remains will be cremated at Nirvana Memorial Park, Jalan Kuching-Bau. His ashes will be interred at the Columbarium of St Peter’s Church, Padungan here. — DayakDaily