Young Malaysia-themed comic art exhibition marks the reopening of Balai Seni Maybank

If you need a little reminder on this Malaysia Day of what makes Malaysia look like us, look no further than Balai Seni Maybank Hari-Hari Malaysia: A Collection of Wordless Comics Celebrating Independence and Nationhood 2022.

The familiar sights are all here, gathered under one roof – the Jalur Gemilang hoisted high and billowing in the breeze; the national flower, the bunga raya (hibiscus); a multiracial community in traditional dress, sharing food at the same table.

The artworks are all sequential art, stories told in a comic strip style, and a warm, hazy view of things seen through the eyes of beginning artists.

It is also the Maybank Art Gallery’s first physical exhibition since the pandemic. It is relaunching the Maybank Foundation’s ‘Balai Seni Art Series’, with other new exhibitions to be announced in the coming months.

“Untukmu” by Muhammad Amir Danial Mohd Khaironi (digital print, 2022). Photo: Broom Seni Maybank

“Entrants were asked to produce three to five pages of wordless comic strips based on what they think or believe makes this country unique based on their own observations and experiences. These works presented at the exhibition are what they imagined,” explains Tan Sei Hon, guest curator of the exhibition.

At Asma Azarisman Colored plains, three children from different backgrounds play together happily.

“Each culture constitutes an important piece that forms Malaysia and our country would not be complete without one or the other”, explains the artist.

One of the works of Muhammad Amir Danial Mohd Khaironi, Untukmu, reflects the resilient spirit of Malaysians during the pandemic.

A visitor to the gallery takes a closer look at the A gallery visitor takes a closer look at Marsya Akmal Hizam’s ‘Tales of Land, Sea and Air’ during the exhibition. Photo: The Star/Ong Soon Hin

“During this time, most of us have given up on life. Many have had to give up their jobs, families and homes. As a result, their thoughts are confused and they have lost focus in their lives. We need to help them and help them with the spirit of #kitajagakita and develop Malaysia together from scratch,” he said.

Karina Nayli Zaidi goes for the family and the food in her A happy brunchrepresenting a united and happy family seated around a table.

“With a sense of well-being, they encourage and support each other so they can strive and achieve wonderful things as individuals and as a family,” she says.

Cao Si Qi, an international student here, tells a story in her four-page comic, The first gift about Linda, a first time visitor to Malaysia who got lost in the city one rainy evening.

'A Jolly Brunch' by Karina Nayli Zaidi (digital print, 2022).  Photo: Broom Seni Maybank‘A Jolly Brunch’ by Karina Nayli Zaidi (digital print, 2022). Photo: Broom Seni Maybank

“She felt out of place in the bustling crowd and was consumed by loneliness in a foreign land. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a bright color appeared before his eyes – it was a child holding a small flag. The child smiled and gave the flag to Linda as a gift. It was Linda’s first gift since arriving in Malaysia. The flag, symbolizing friendship and freedom, made her happy on a rainy day. This gift of a flag to Linda is a statement that says, “We accept various cultures and treat every visitor with friendliness, which makes our country more harmonious,” Cao said.

Indeed, Tan notes that what have become clichés for the older generation still resonates positively with the younger generation, which he considers worth celebrating.

“These young artists are the next generation of Malaysians who will very soon play a big role in determining the future direction of this country. The fact that they have always managed to hold such an optimistic and grateful view of Malaysia and its people after all that has happened in recent years shows that the younger generation has a resilient approach to challenges and situations.Indeed, those of us who have become jaded and disillusioned could learn a thing or two from them to help us out of the quagmire of our own making,” says Tan.

A general view of the 'Hari-Hari Malaysia' exhibition at Balai Seni Maybank in KL, which aims to introduce the next generation artists to visitors.  Photo: The Star/Ong Soon HinA general view of the ‘Hari-Hari Malaysia’ exhibition at Balai Seni Maybank in KL, which aims to introduce the next generation artists to visitors. Photo: The Star/Ong Soon Hin

The 21 participants are also mostly university students who regularly participate in the annual MyTIGER Values ​​art and design competition.

They were approached for this exhibition based on the work they submitted to the competition in the past, in the sequential art category.

All comics on display are digital prints specially designed for Hari-Hari Malaysia.

Exhibition visitors can start from the left side of the gallery after passing through the entrance.

“The works in the gallery are arranged according to the subject chosen by the participants, more or less in this sequence: history, childhood memories, multiculturalism, foreigners and their experience of Malaysia, and finally, the “Youth’s optimism for the country and the future. The show is open to the general public, but is primarily aimed at young and old,” Tan concludes.

‘Hari-Hari Malaysia: A Collection Of Wordless Comics Celebrating Independence And Nationhood 2022’ is at Balai Seni Maybank, 1st Floor, Menara Maybank in Kuala Lumpur until September 30. Opening hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Monday to Friday), 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Saturday). Closed on public holidays.

More info here.

Daniel K. Denny