Within the arts, there is a vital yet lesser-known field of practice that strives to develop cultural understanding and civic engagement.
Sabahan collective – Pangrok Sulap – fills this niche to a tee. Founding member, Rizo Leong, explains what makes their work different and how he strives to make a difference.
His initiative draws striking parallels between great entrepreneurs and great artists. Both groups possess an uncanny ability to follow their intuition. Whether in business or art, one must be sensitive to their gut instincts in the creation process. How else can one carve out a niche that is all their own?
Similarly, both individuals regularly tap into their imagination and creativity to carve solutions that solve problems and overcome challenges. Both spaces are very competitive; sustained only by the creativity in coming up with new art pieces or novel products/services.
Lastly, no self-respecting artist or entrepreneur wants to copy what’s hot or trending. The most successful parties are the ones driven to think outside the box, to create or improve on what the rest of us have accepted as the ‘norm’.
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As an individual, what are the values you stand for?
I am a hard-working and passionate individual who is not afraid to face challenges. I am interested in my job and I know how to get the job done. I would describe myself as someone who likes to entertain others, is open-minded, honest, and tries to be fair in all the things I do.
Nurture and nature – describe how both might have shaped you into the person you are today.
Among the things that have shaped me into the person I am today are my family, the people I grew up around, and some events in my life. My family is one of the main things that has helped shape me into the person I am today. ]
One of the memories is of my mother gardening to earn money and at the same time take care of her own eight children. We have a garden and our siblings help sell these plants at the Sunday market. My late father has always supported and gave me confidence in whatever work I did.
My parents are my real heroes and also my wife who has always supported me. My culture has shaped the way I work and live, and it makes a difference in how we view ourselves and others. It affects our values about what we consider right or wrong.
This is how the society we live in influences our choices. Living in a community made me realise how important the spirit of togetherness and sharing is. This spirit that is often highlighted in the cooperative work of the village and for me it is very noble.
What did you used to do, before establishing Pangrok Sulap?
My first job was a part-time waitering job before being able to work in a plumbing factory in quality control. In a restaurant, I learned to serve every customer’s wishes.
The factory taught me about punctuality and quality. I was also an assistant plant manager in a batching plant. Every day I have to organise people and supply concrete to build many buildings.
Currently, I’m self-employed in the field of print and art. After going through these experiences, l have learned to be grateful for every experience. I love sharing this quote. Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life’.
Pangrok Sulap is an awesome art movement that’s also a powerful social platform. What was the original vision, and how has it changed over the years?
Pangrok Sulap’s mission is always to empower rural communities and the marginalised through art. Besides woodcut printmaking, we use any kinds of method to share our messages such as t-shirt printing, poster-making, stencil, and murals.
From day one, we discovered the power of art to transmit a message, and we’ve grown our skills and creativity to build a stronger community. Above all we value independence.
What vision does your artwork seek to realise?
My vision is to always provide benefits and goodness to other lives including nature and human beings. Only in this way can we live in peace and harmony.
I always move with the community in whatever framework, be it volunteers or community projects. Our goal is to achieve that ambition will be enjoyed together. Satisfaction itself is ideal for everyone.
What does empowering rural communities mean to you?
Empowering rural communities means giving back equal rights to every human being whether in terms of health rights, education, or economic status. With the rapid development of technology, access to information in the city must be the same as that in the countryside.
Reclaiming rights like these is important for rural communities so as not to be left behind. By empowering this community, economic stability and the spirit of preserving the heritage and tradition can be sustained. And we need to develop this together.
What are the most painful and therefore most valuable lessons you’ve learned about business & life?
The most painful lesson is failure and the most valuable lesson is when being able to rise again. Everything that happens in this life is actually from ourselves.
We are the ones who will drive the course of our lives. And we will never succeed without all these failures. How should Pangrok Sulap grow in the next 12 months?
Growing this collective for the future is in line with community work. Because we always love to learn, we don’t over expect what will happen but will always strive towards community development. I believe that this process will always mature us. We want to be more involved in community co-development.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY SAUFI NADZRI; ART DIRECTION BY JOYCE LIM; GROOMING BY ERANTHE LOO; LOCATION COURTESY OF ILHAM GALLERY