Let Sibu Street Art be world-renowned like Penang’s (Travelogue Day 3)

Scenery of Dian Mian Hu Stall mural at Blacksmith Road by Braden Tiong.

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By D’Drift Team

BINTULU, July 6: Why can’t Sibu’s tourism thrive like Penang, when they both have plenty of well-preserved iconic murals on display?

In recent years, street art or murals have been making a huge statement in Sibu. Many building facades and alley walls in the city centre are turning from plain to colourful. Today, wall paintings that depict the life of the people of Sibu can be found in abundance.

According to Sibu Municipal Council’s (SMC) compilation in 2016, there are 10 murals in different locations throughout Sibu to commemorate the story of Sibu’s culture, heritage and lifestyle.

A map was drawn, pinpointing the exact locations of the murals that perfectly illustrated the communities that call Sibu home. But according to some other sources online, there are more than 10.

A map showing 10 murals in Sibu. Screenshot taken from Sarawak Tourism website.
Description of some of the murals in Sibu. Screenshot taken from Sarawak Tourism website.

Determined to locate most of them, if not all, the D’Drift Team went on a hunt for murals, instead of an anaconda this time.

The first mural that we identified was the wharf labourer or ‘coolie’ mural at Khoo Peng Loong Road. It reflects the early days of Sibu in the 50s and 60s when coolies were a common sight at the bustling wharf right across the road, carrying and loading goods to and from the express boats.

The coolie mural by artists Lay Sei Kwong and Lilian Tang Siu Hui.

While searching for our next mural – Childhood Memories, on the second floor of the Sibu Central Market, we noticed an interesting wall painting right across the street on the Supershan Building. It illustrates a queue consisting of people from all walks of life, all waiting patiently for a bus.

In black and white, there was a Dayak man squatting beside his basket of wild ferns, a mother who seemed weary of her children’s bickering around her, a man and woman dressed smartly for work, two school students, an old woman with her cane, a commercial poster on the wall, and a cat.

The element of a multi-racial society where people of different background and ethnicity meet and interact at a bus stop, was perfectly displayed with the mural.

Multi-racial Unity Living mural by TPM, completed in 2016.

Moving on, we reached the food hawker section of the market, and found the mural of two children, seemingly a little girl and her little brother, eating ice treats. There were also drawings of a paper plane, paper dragonfly, tic-tac-toe, a dinosaur plushy, and a robot.

Just as the name indicates, the Childhood Memories mural intends to tell the childhood life of a typical Sibu during the 1980s, by featuring games, toys and ice sticks reminiscent of those pre-internet days.

Childhood Memories mural on the second floor of Sibu Central Market by Lau Sei Kwong and Lilian Tang Siu Hui.

At the end of the Sibu Central Market facing Jalan Bengkel’s direction, we also found the Wrapped Chicken and Duck mural, which features live chickens and a duck wrapped and tied in tubes of newspapers.

With heads left protruding at one end, the chickens and ducks would be left on shelves, sometimes even stacked on top of each other, for sale; a unique selling method devised by Sibu hawkers. Buyers could then easily carry the chicken or duck back to be slaughtered.

Wrapped Chicken and Duck mural at Sibu Central Market by Lau Sei Kwong and Lilian Tang Siu Hui.

Right beside the Sibu Central Market, on the wall of the Urban Transformation Centre (UTC), we found the fifth mural, the Teh Tarik Doodle. And Along Jalan Channel, right beside a Chinese medicine store, there was another which features Chinese physicians and patients.

Teh Tarik Doodle mural at the entrance to Sibu Central Market carpark.
Poh Guan mural by Jagung along Jalan Channel.

Some distance away from the market, at Market Road, we discovered food on the wall: Illustrations of ‘kampua’, ‘kompia’, ‘penyeram’, ‘dian mian hu’, ‘pulut panggang’, and ‘kuih jala’ were all deliciously painted to signify the multi-racial street foods of Sibu’s society.

Moving to Blacksmith Road across Butterfly Garden, the D’Drift Team then went to look for the ‘uncle’ selling ‘dian mian hu’ – the Scenery of Dian Mian Hu Stall mural. It features a stall owner who has been selling ‘dian mian hu’ for at least 56 years.

Sibu Local Delicacies mural at Market Road by Lau Sei Kwong and Lilian Tang Siu Hui.
A compilation of the Sibu Local Delicacies mural at Market Road.

Then, around the corner of that alley, on the wall next to Western Union walkway lane, we found the cute Old Bus mural which symbolises the lifetsyle of the Sibu community in the 60s and 70s, when buses were the town’s main public transport.

Old Bus Mural at Blacksmith Road by Edmund Wong Yik Tze.

That made nine of them, and based on SMC’s map, there are two more. The Batik and Pantun mural on Mara Building right opposite UTC could not be located though we searched high and low for it. We asked a local there and he pointed us to a graffiti instead.

As for the Ethnic Butterflies mural at Jalan Maju, it was too far away from where we were to travel on foot. It was understood that there is a sketch of several butterflies with multi-racial colours and elements portraying Sibu as the gateway to the heart of Boneo.

Apart from these 11, there is actually more street art in town. There was one that was so huge that it covered the entire wall of Wisma Vasty; another depicting a comic scene in black and white on the back wall of an old shophouse at Raminway and the deer mural at a petrol station.

There are more that we must have missed, but the potential for Sibu street art to be world-renowned lies right here with the inspiring strokes of the brush on these walls. With active promotion of street art as one of the town’s tourist attractions, word of Sibu’s murals could travel around the world, and foreign tourists would flock to Sibu to see them.

The ones that we saw are all well-preserved and unspoiled. There was not a sign of vandalism though some had been there for years. Should these meaningful drawings on the wall be kept properly and appreciated, Sibu could be made famous around the world for its variety of street art.

Short recap of the day

The D’Drift Team reached Bintulu from Sibu at about 2.30pm today. Tomorrow, we will be visiting a national park and thereafter proceed to Bakun for the night.

There may be no internet coverage for us to provide the latest updates to our readers about our journey past Bakun, but the D’Drift travelogue will continue as usual every day. — Dayakdaily

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