SMC to make Sibu cultural town with street art


The wall painting tells the story of coolies who contributed to the building of Sibu as the commercial hub of Sarawak.

The street art adorns a wall at Khoo Peng Loong food and drink hawker centre. In the 60s and 70s, this centre was famous for its ice cream.

The painting was done on Wesak Day. Picture shows Pau Kiew Chuan, a political secretary to the chief minister, helping the artists put on the finishing touches.

SIBU: Sibu Municipal Council (SMC) intends to make Sibu a cultural town with street art whereby every street corner and back lane will bear a wall painting that depicts the colourful cultures of the people.

In an interview yesterday, council secretary Hii Chang Kee said the first wall painting was already up at the food and drinks centre at Khoo Pheng Loong Road. He said they were doing the finishing touches, and within this week, the first wall painting in Sibu central business district would be launched.

“A committee made up of council staff and local artists has been formed to look into this flourishing street art.

“This is the group that will chart out the street corners and back lanes in central business district to be painted with stories that reflect the harmony of Sarawak.”

Hii added the group would also decide on the designs, paintings and sponsorships, pointing out the rich culture in Rajang River Basin would be the focus of the local artists.

“In the end, we hope to have as many wall paintings on street corners and back lanes, especially on old buildings, as poosible.”

The council secretary said they were also doing this to gear up for Visit Sibu Year 2016.

He said the first art piece at Khoo Peng Loong Road would reflect a typical scene in the early days when wharfs at Khoo Peng Loong Road were dominated by coolies as Sibu desired to become the commercial hub of Sarawak through river networks.

He said the committee might decide to have the second street art on a wall at Sibu Central Market at Channel Road, and if this materialised, the street art might be up around Gawai celebration.

Hii said the committee was working on the art theme surrounding the colourful cultures of the people.

“Themes like cultural food of Sibu have been discussed and might materialise in one of the wall paintings of our local artists.”

He said they had so far not discussed Tropical rainforest theme, but added they welcomed suggestions from the public.

Hii foresaw a hurdle in the project.

“Many walls are private properties. We need to get permission first from the owners. Therefore, we are kicking off the project on premises belonging to the council first.”

Meanwhile, the first street painting on the wall of Khoo Peng Loong food and drink hawker centre has caught the attention of locals.

The painting has become viral on Facebook and other social network.

The painting depicting a wharf coolie at work reflects the bustling wharf activities from 1950s and 60s when Sibu was rebuilt to become the commercial hub of Sarawak after the Second World War.

The uniqueness of this painting is the red waist cloth belt and the gunny sack of rice on the back of the coolie.

A man taking photographs with his family members in front of the painting yesterday remarked: “This is the story of a wharf and dock coolie of the 19th and 20th centuries common in Asia.”

As commercial activities surged in Sibu more than half a century ago, Khoo Peng Loong Wharf had served as a transit point for goods and cargo transfer between Sibu and all ports in Sarawak.

The wharf activities had dwindled since 1990s when road network reached almost all towns in Sarawak.

Khoo Peng Loong Wharf is today almost a sleepy hollow, with most labourers gone.