Having long been a supporter of Zunar’s work, and having signed many petitions to release him from prison, it was glorious to see his artwork on display again, and this time not being destroyed.
The launch of the exhibition was also accompanied by a fantastic talk. He is a gifted public speaker, and a very skilled artist, and with this, he says, comes great responsibility. Hence why he uses these skills to fight against political injustice.
Though the talk may be over, it is possible to see him talk about his work on the Penang Institute website, which I thoroughly recommend. Link here: https://penanginstitute.org/events/penang-institute-chats/penang-institute-chats-6-zunar/
Zunar’s approach to politics can be described in the first image you see at the exhibition: “How can I be neutral when even my pen has a stand?” He is not particularly affiliated to one party or another, but instead questions everything regardless. As a result he has 9 separate sedition charges and has been arrested five times, with much of his work being banned in the past. Yet his artwork still maintains a great sense of humour and he is particularly skilled at making even the most complex issue into something accessible and funny, enabling political discourse to flourish.
I particularly enjoyed learning the former Police Chief Khalid had been aggravated by Zunar’s drawings of him using Twitter.
He appears in most of the artworks in this show, so look out for “twit twit cin cin” somewhere in the picture. As the writer Edward Bulwer-Lytton said, the pen is mightier than the sword.
One thing that Zunar said that really moved me above all else though, was that if you make art with your hands, the viewer’s eyes can see it. If you make art with your heart, then the viewer’s heart can see it.
This exhibition is only a small collection held in the new Penang Studies Resource Centre library, and will not take you long to walk around but it is worth the trip. I guarantee that with a little understanding of Malaysian culture and language, and a little knowledge of contemporary Malaysian politics, you will definitely laugh out loud (for real, not just LOL). I hope that this show will encourage more people to engage in political discourse, to question everything around them, and to laugh along with Zunar.
Zunar’s books are now available in Times bookstore, Gurney Paragon, Borders and MPH.
The exhibition is at the Penang Institute’s Library of Penang Studies Resource Centre, 10 Brown Road, until January 15th 2019. Opening hours are Monday-Friday 9am-5.30pm.
By Lusy Koror