MBKS mayor: Those who painted over orang-utan mural must be held accountable

The Great-Ape-Scape mural painted by Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic in April 2014.

By Karen Bong

KUCHING, July 5: Someone must be held responsible for painting over the beloved orang-utan mural called ‘The Great-Ape-Scape’ by famous Lithuanian street artist Ernest Zacharevic at Jalan Power.

Kuching South City Council (MBKS) Dato Wee Hong Seng, who was extremely upset and furious at the mishap, stressed that action must be taken by the authorities to send a strong message on the protection, preservation and appreciation for valuable artworks or street murals in Kuching and Sarawak in general.

This came following DayakDaily’s report that the famous mural featuring a runaway wheelbarrow full of young orang-utans and an orang-utan dangling from a gutter pipe were gone for good and hidden under a coat of black paint with a gigantic “Kuching” word painted over it.

“Who gave the order and supported the (repainting) work? I don’t know who is responsible. But that should not happen. Why should we lose something so valuable over a commercial advertisement?

“I was really shocked when I heard and saw the news and thought it must be some kind of joke or fake news at first. But to my horror, the famous orangutan mural is really gone,” he told DayakDaily when contacted today.

Wee Hong Seng

Wee said that the party which repainted the wall must reflect and realise the severity of their actions for they have spoiled the original and definitive piece of art in Kuching, which since 2014 has become a significant identity to this city and the community.

“If it is to make way for a commercial advertisement, I think the move is insensitive and the approach to this is totally wrong.

“Nobody is allowed to put up a mural or an advertisement in any buildings in the city even if it is a private building and the walls belong to them, without the consent and permission from the local councils. Moreover, an advertisement over four-meters or at a certain size, also requires the approval from SPA (State Planning Authority),” he explained.

Still baffled over the loss of the mural, Wee reminded that the story of Kuching city’s street art begins at Jalan Power after Zacherevic made his mark there by painting the interactive mural in April of 2014.

“This was the trigger point that energised the mural art scene in Kuching and Sarawak, where more and more local artistes like Leonard Siaw came and showcased and contributed their talents to bring life and colour to the streets and buildings of this charming city.

“We later initiated the ‘History On The Walls’ project by using murals (with most of them done by Leonard Siaw) as part of a storytelling initiative on what makes up this diverse and unique city.

“This is because we recognise the potential of mural arts in boosting tourism, to tell the community’s story and create unique experiences for our visitors. A lot of people including Kuchingites, Sarawakians, visitors and foreigners came to see and take photos with it,” he said.

Even though the wall where the orangutans were painted is old and worn out, Wee emphasised that there was value to it.

He also recalled that the Kuching North City Commission (DBKU) in collaboration with a private sector had immediately installed closed circuit televisions (CCTVs) in the areas to protect the artwork when it was vandalised with rubbish thrown in the wheelbarrow in the past.

The Great-Ape-Scape mural, Wee added, was the pride of all Sarawakians and has put Sarawak in the tourism map, but now it is impossible to get the artiste to redo it as that will be an insult.

“It was such a rare opportunity and difficult to get him (Zacharevic). He did two murals in Sarawak (with one in Kuching and another at Annah Rais Longhouse in Padawan) and now one is gone. I’m upset by this. The authorities should seriously look into the protection of wall art.

“The entire community, from the local authority, the government, the public and private sector must have a sense of responsibility to protect our assets. We must develop an appreciation for art forms because once gone, it is gone for good,” he added. — DayakDaily