These Artworks at KL Hokkien Cemetery Won’t Follow You Home


This Hungry Ghost month, visiting a graveyard may be the last thing on your to-do list.

The Jelajah – Natural Heritage Park (jelajah) Kuala Lumpur Hokkien Cemetery Art Exhibition in Bukit Seputeh, however, is the place to be if you are an art lover and heritage enthusiast.

The site-specific exhibition, which runs until September 10, features multimedia installations and photographs by nine artists and an artist collective from diverse backgrounds.

From 1,000 paper birds ‘carrying’ messages between the living and the dead to pans beaten in a stream highlighting KL’s tin mining history, jelajah offers a day with a difference. .

The exhibit covers a small section of this 57-hectare, century-old Chinese cemetery which is the final resting place of many prominent Hokkien leaders, including educator and activist Lim Lian Geok.

Fiqtriey Al Haqimiey’s “A Moment In Time Capsule” series of photographs features different species of birds found at the cemetery. Photo: Lostgen’s

“The cemetery is an important green lung in KL with slopes, pristine streams and an underground spring. It is also rich in history and heritage. What better way to enjoy both than to walk around here and discover exciting works of art,” says Thay Peng Kee, Secretary General of the Selangor and Kuala Lumpur Hokkien Association (SKLHA), the cemetery caretaker.

It was definitely a source of inspiration for the participating artists, coming from artistic backgrounds, social activists, writing, street art and design. They include Ahlan, Atelier BT 11, David Wong, Emily Chow, Fiqtriey Haqimiey, Poodien, Hishamuddin Rais, Rat Heist and Sun Kang Jye, Matt Gan Sian Wei and Sun Chen Shuen.

The installation works seen outside show that if the cemetery can represent the end of the journey of a life, it is also the starting point of other lives.

Installation 'Untitled' (mixed media, 2022) by Rat Heist.  Photo: Lostgen's Installation ‘Untitled’ (mixed media, 2022) by Rat Heist. Photo: Lostgen’s

“The work or theme of the exhibits will focus on gratitude, tracing history, cultural heritage, and the natural and ecological environment. The exhibit hopes to capture and convey the diverse and multifaceted aspects and positive spirit of cemetery,” the exhibit’s statement reads. .

jelajah is curated by SKLHA and curated by Lostgens Contemporary Art Space in KL.

“We don’t want the public to think that the cemetery only belongs to the Hokkien community. It is part of KL’s history and heritage. It belongs to everyone. It is important that people realize this. Preserving the cemetery is a shared responsibility,” says curator Yeoh Lian Heng.

Hishamuddin Rais' work warns against excessive felling of trees in the city.  Photo: Lostgen's Hishamuddin Rais’ work warns against excessive felling of trees in the city. Photo: Lostgen’s

“We also didn’t want the exhibition to be limited to works of art,” he adds.

According to Thay, as part of the Kuala Lumpur 2040 structure plan, Hokkien Cemetery in Kuala Lumpur could be rezoned as a commercial area.

“We knew we had to do something to raise awareness in order to preserve this cemetery. One way to let people know that this is a heritage, historical and natural ecological park is through this exhibit in a cemetery. I don’t think it’s been done before,” Thay says.

Yeoh says the exposure would take about an hour. But if you’re afraid of getting lost, don’t worry. You can get an art trail map at the cemetery office. You can also scan the QR code next to the artworks to learn more about each artwork and the artist behind it.

Installation 'Di Sini Pasti (Here Is Certain)' (bamboo, rope, 2022) by Poodien.  Photo: Lostgen's Installation ‘Di Sini Pasti (Here Is Certain)’ (bamboo, rope, 2022) by Poodien. Photo: Lostgen’s

Yeoh recommends taking the guided tour to get the most out of the art and heritage trail experience.

Fiqtriey Al Haqimiey’s A capsule of a moment in time The series of photographs is the only exhibit displayed inside the Good Fortune Funeral Home pavilion. The 26 photographs here document the different species of birds found at the cemetery.

The other works of art are strategically placed along a dedicated pathway near the cemetery driveway, which ends near a bridge over which a stream flows.

Hishamuddin Rais offers timely, environmentally conscious artwork, which includes canvas prints hung around trees with statements such as, “This is my home. Don’t steal it” and “Why? Why did you kill me? “.

Installation 'Dulang' (metal, woks, 2022) by David Wong.  Photo: Lostgen's Installation ‘Dulang’ (metal, woks, 2022) by David Wong. Photo: Lostgen’s

If the jelajah is well received by the public, Thay says more exhibits in and around the cemetery will be planned in the future.

Such a spectacle provides artists with a serendipitous experience and also attracts new audiences, Yeoh says.

“Exhibitions now need Insta-appeal, and jelajah has a nice backdrop. But it is also an opportunity for visitors to discover the local art scene and the history of the exhibition site,” he adds.

In addition to the exhibition, the association also plans to beautify the cemetery by replanting 400 trees and transforming the footbridge into a cycle path.

The SKLHA, established in 1885, is responsible for the development and management of the Hokkien Cemetery in Kuala Lumpur.

More information here.


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