Malaysian artists line up a series of sculptures for the Langkawi Underwater Gallery

Veteran sculptor Tengku Sabri Tengku Ibrahim is no stranger when it comes to themes surrounding Nusantara myths and legends to inspire works of art.

His latest sculpture work Archelona prehistoric turtle made of concrete, latex, steel rods, fiberglass and silicon, is about to find a new home at the bottom of the sea along the coast of Langkawi.

“This ancient turtle…with slight exaggerations…is said to have roamed the oceans around 80 million years ago. It matches a mythological place such as ‘Kepulauan Langkawi’, with a balance of mythical and fictional elements informing this work.

“This ‘turtle’ has hands and legs to swim, dive and navigate around the Andaman Sea near the Langkawi archipelago,” says Tengku Sabri’s artistic statement.

Tengku Sabri’s “Archelon” sculpture, which refers to a prehistoric turtle from the ancient waters of Langkawi. Photo: National Gallery of Art

Want to dive into the sea of ​​Langkawi and see other sculptures made in concrete by local artists?

Fourteen sculptures will be anchored to the seabed around the coast of Pulau Pasir on Monday morning (May 22) as part of the National Art Gallery (NAG) maritime initiative Arca Dasar Laut, as part of its community tourism program.

Other carvings, which also reference Langkawi’s treasure trove of myths and legends, include Mahsuri tied to a pole to an exploding Gedembai (a giantess who can turn people to stone).

In Langkawi, Mahsuri is the island’s most famous icon and tourist attraction. The young woman was supposed to have cursed the island when she was executed (by knife) for adultery.

Sculpture 'Sumpahan Mahsuri' by Dr. Zainussin Abindinhazir (concrete cement, latex, metal rod, fiberglass and silicon, 2022).  Photo: National Gallery of ArtSculpture ‘Sumpahan Mahsuri’ by Dr. Zainussin Abindinhazir (concrete cement, latex, metal rod, fiberglass and silicon, 2022). Photo: National Gallery of Art

For this NAG project, the concrete sculptures were made by nine local artists in March this year at Pengkalan Kubang Badak on the island. Besides Tengku Sabri (from Terengganu), the lineup also includes Abdul Multhalib Musa and Low Chee Peng from Penang, Cheah Yin Sum from Selangor, Dr. Zainuddin Abindinhazir Abdul Rashid, Mohd Radzi Ismail and Ahmad Fuad Osman from Kedah, and Umibaizurah Mahir. Ismail of Johor.

“Every year we hold sculpture workshops under the Langkawi branch of the National Art Gallery. We then slowly realized we had a problem – we didn’t know where to store these large sculptures. They are heavy so we can’t move them and there is no space in our gallery to store them.

“So after many discussions, we realized, why not store these sculptures at the bottom of the sea, because Langkawi is an island and it is surrounded by a vast ocean,” said NAG Managing Director Amerrudin Ahmad. , in a video posted on the gallery’s Facebook. page.

A close up of the Umibaizurah concrete sculpture titled A close-up of Umibaizurah’s concrete sculpture titled ‘Permata Hinggap’, which pays homage to Langkawi’s famous ‘helang’ (eagle) icon and the island’s natural beauty. Photo: Umibaizurah Mahir Ismail

This community initiative also aims to promote ecotourism in Langkawi, as the sculptures will serve as artificial reefs for marine life to thrive in the sea surrounding the island.

“For this, we have engaged researchers, scientists, marine biologists and the fisherman to ensure that the material used and the sculptures themselves can preserve the marine natural world.

“This is the first of many initiatives to decentralize art and focus more on people and community. We are rich in culture and creativity. It is time to make art more accessible and participatory for all Malaysians,” concludes Amerrudin.

the National Art Gallery a branch in Langkawi opened in March 2019 at Dayang Walk commercial plaza in Kuah. It houses two art galleries, an artistic reference center and workshops in a spacious, glazed building.

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