KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 28 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad made history at the 14th general election last year by leading the then-Opposition to victory, making it the first time the country has changed government since independence.
He was also Malaysia’s longest serving prime minister when he retired in 2003 after 22 years.
Now the country’s 7th prime minister is the subject of an exhibition titled the “Tun M Custom Show”!
In fact, it’s a figurine showcase; some 40 local artists were asked to customise figurines as part of the recent Merdeka Day/Malaysia Day celebrations.
Pop culture and politics are no strangers as art is very often used as a medium to comment on politics but this showcase is pretty unique as it focuses on a sitting prime minister.
Spearheaded by Malaysian toy maker Hebatoys and art collective Titikmerah, the showcase aims to spotlight the toy making scene to the public as a new art platform.
Each artist was given a small six-inch plastic figurine which they were free to transform however they like to celebrate Mahathir who is also the world’s oldest prime minister at age 94.
One half of Hebatoys, Michael Chuah — or more famously known in Malaysian comic circle as C2V — said it was Tunphoria (how some people term the fascination for the prime minister after GE14) which gave them the idea for the showcase.
“Hebatoys started the project after Tun Mahathir returned as the country’s seventh prime minister. We always wanted to make something iconic that represents Malaysia.
“Since no one has actually made a figure of Tun Mahathir, Hebatoys wanted to take this opportunity to be the first and Titikmerah has been very supportive,” he told Malay Mail.
“We want to show locals that toys can be a new platform for art. Malaysian toy design has started picking up these past few years; we have participated in international toy events like Japan’s WonderFest, Shanghai Toy Show, Thailand Toy Expo, Taipei Toy Fest etc. We want to see more art toys at local events and galleries,” he said.
Titikmerah Collective’s co-founder Aleff Ahmad said the showcase is the first in their new space in Taman Tun Dr Ismail; they recently moved here from Publika where they were for five years.
Every single one of the figurines is different; some drew inspiration from comics, others from street art and even classical art which shows how diverse the collaborators are.
Aleff, who was involved in the first toymaker exhibition in Kuala Lumpur last year, said that the Malaysian toymaker community isn’t really known in the country but has their own following.
“Maybe because there are not many media who promote the existence of these toymakers in Malaysia from what I gather from them at previous events, they don’t really have many exhibitions in the country itself... some of them have exhibitions in Thailand, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Here they usually only show their creations on social media.”
Another Titikmerah co-founder Ajim said the artists were given about two months to work on their pieces for the Tun M show.
Some, like him, only took a few days as they already had a good idea about what to do with their figurines while others took longer as they had really intricate designs.
“Michael Chuah provided us with the blank toy... some cut it open, some combined with other materials.
“Everyone has their own interpretation. The simplest one is painting a flat colour on the toy, others put intricate details on the figurines according to their visual language,” he said.
Ajim’s figurine showed Tun M figurine covered in a golden brown brick material on top of a mountain which become its base. It stood alone in the corner of the space like a full body Mount Rushmore mini creation.
“When I got the figurine, I was doing an installation using brick and cement, so that gave me an idea to turn it into something rustic. Like a monument,” he explained.
The “Tun M Custom Show” which is already ongoing will be officially launched at noon today at Titikmerah Gallery, 30-1, Jalan Wan Kadir 4, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur. It is very near the TTDI MRT Station.
The show, which is free, will run until October 20 and is on from noon to 6PM every day excluding Sundays.