This past weekend, the co-founder of Pillars of Sabah, Jared Abdul Rahman woke up to a surprise. The public art installation in the heart of Kota Kinabalu city had been painted over and erased without any notification to the 30 local artists involved.
Pillars of Sabah is a community project that has highlighted social and environmental issues over the past few years, through art expression.
Dozens of local artists of diverse backgrounds have been able to shine a light on issues like endangered Borneo-native animals and community injustices while providing vibrancy and art for citizens and tourists.
Photo credit: Pillars of Sabah Facebook
The sudden removal of the art shocked local supporters on Facebook and Instagram which has led to a statement and apology by the government.
State Tourism, Culture and Environment permanent secretary Dr Jamili Nais said it was a mistake wiping out the artworks on the pillar without notifying the artists.
"I went to the site this morning. It was our mistake for erasing those artworks on those pillars without informing them (the artists) that their works are going to be removed," he said in a Facebook posting.
Jared responded and told New Strait Times, "By right, there is no fixed timeframe (on when those artworks should be replaced or removed). This is deliberate to maintain an organic approach to the project. It's also based on trust. Trust in our collaborators and the community. So, it just so happened that Sabah Art Gallery as landowner or custodian of the site decided they want to remove the artwork," he added.
Meanwhile, the owner, Sabah Art Gallery has released a statement saying that they welcome artists to propose ideas for future installations.
"Previously we had Art Jam (2010), Grafitti Jam (2012) and Pillars of Sabah (2018, 2019, 2020). The upcoming project is another community project led by Japson Wong and Rosmaini. We are excited by this project as it will be the first big art installation project in Sabah called WOW (Wonders Of Wilderness) Project."
To that Pillars of Sabah responded - "To harp on about having the right to do what they want with the space misses the point. We WANT to see more art activities and art goodness. So yes, please by all means. But you know... there’s a less rude way to go about it. That’s all it is."