‘Pillars of Sabah’ artists still awaiting apology

Julia Chan
·3-min read
Artists whose works were unceremoniously 'erased' from a street installation are still awaiting a more comprehensive expression of regret from the Sabah Art Gallery.  — Picture by Julia Chan
Artists whose works were unceremoniously 'erased' from a street installation are still awaiting a more comprehensive expression of regret from the Sabah Art Gallery. — Picture by Julia Chan

KOTA KINABALU, April 22 — Despite an apology from the Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry, the artists whose works were unceremoniously “erased” from a street installation, with a daub of paint, are still awaiting a more comprehensive expression of regret.

Jared Abdul Rahman, the organising chairman and one of the founders of the ‘Pillars of Sabah’ project, said they were disappointed with the outcome and seeking reparation from Sabah Art Gallery’s director, Jennifer Linggi.

This is despite a public apology from the state Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry’s permanent secretary Jamili Nais and a conciliatory meeting between one of the artists, Rizo Leong, and the gallery.

“No, it’s not done and dusted because Rizo was acting on his own and not on behalf of the project, nor the rest of the artists, nor the broader arts community,” said Jared.

“To say that this resolves the issue would mean that the rest of the artists are short-changed, without receiving an apology themselves. Not to mention the actual project organiser — me and my organising team.

“So we are still pushing for an actual, sincere, official apology issued directly by Sabah Art Gallery. For all the witnesses. Not just one,” he said.

Jared said that the feeling of dissatisfaction still lingered, even after a meeting with state Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Jafry Ariffin and Jamili.

“It seems they are both disappointed with this situation. We are in the process of working it through,” he said.

His dissatisfaction stems from the lack of notice given to the artists involved in Round 3 of the ‘Pillars of Sabah’ project, or ‘Pillars of Sabah 3.0’, a street art installation featuring community artists. The art was daubed with white paint after a mere four months, compared to previous projects, which were left in place for up to about a year.

The arts community was taken aback and cried foul over the sudden erasure of the artwork though most acknowledged that the site, an old colonial building that has over the years evolved into a street art attraction for budding artists, was under the purview of the gallery.

Sabah Art Gallery said on its Facebook page that it is expecting a new installation soon.

“We would have wanted some notice, or courtesy from Sabah Art Gallery, not just to me and the artists, but also to the other stakeholders (KKMM, Cendana, MyCreativeVentures, Kepkas, STB, Nippon Paint (Sabah) Sdn Bhd, etc.,” he said.

“The timing, just shy of four months, is justifiable, especially if all parties were consulted, if only to be informed.

“What is not justifiable is removing it unceremoniously. That doesn’t send a positive message to the artists whom Sabah Art Gallery claims to support,” said Jared.

Leong, who was among the first to complain about the matter, has met up with the gallery and said that even though he thought it was too soon, it was the gallery’s right to make that decision and said he hoped it could be better handled in the future.

Jennifer, when contacted, declined to comment and said that it was up to the minister to make a statement.

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