[Update: Exhibition has been extended until August 2]
Festive celebrations and big gatherings should be the last on any sensible person’s list, lest new clusters form and everyone is forced to shut their gates again. But that’s not to say that such festivities aren’t missed. Evenings that begin with communal feasting and end with gales of laughter seem like a distant memory — it’s one of those things you don’t fully cherish until its gone.
To be jovial with your loved ones — or having the freedom to — in an atmosphere of gaiety is one of the main themes in Mohamad Khiddir Mohd Baharudin's, better known as Kide Baharudin, lively oil paintings. But his version of a good party takes place in the 1950s and 1960s.
Entranced by his parents’ stories of growing up in the kampung, the artist believed the people then were much happier and lived more harmoniously. His first solo exhibition, aptly named Pe’el (an old colloquial Malay word for behaviour or temperament), depicts the lifestyles of those from the golden era.
“I wanted to show my generation and the ones after mine how things were done before,” says the 30-year-old artist who hails from Sawah Lebar, Negeri Sembilan. “How festivities were celebrated without racial segregation and the shared merriness between the Chinese, Malays and Indians. I’ve never experienced that, but I bet those were the best times.”
Kide recreates the nostalgic scenes with bold and vibrant colours. “I made my work colourful and fresh for a reason,” he says. “The essence of my content is old, you know? I used to refer to old stories like P. Ramlee and the photos were all black and white. But when I talked to my parents, the way they described the scenes was so colourful. I wanted that colour back again.”
By focusing on the community as a whole, the artist transforms what would be a mundane ride in the bus or trip to the weekday market into a carefree pleasure.
The exhibition is separated into two sections. Visitors are greeted with paintings inspired by Kuala Pilah, Kide’s hometown, when they first walk in. The characters in his artwork can be seen gathering at post-colonial shophouses, coffee shops and salons dressed in jeans, suits and frilly dresses. The other section showcases artworks in a kampung setting, with people spilling out of wooden shophouses and batik-clad women doing their washing near a communal well.
It was this decision to give small towns and kampungs a new lease on life that Kide discovered his own style of artistic expression. His passion to colour the past attracted the attention of American skateboarding brand Vans. In 2017, Kide won the Vans Asia Custom Culture competition and became the first Malaysian to design a collection with the brand. His sold-out collection was released earlier this May but has been restocked at Vans outlets in conjunction with the exhibition.
Part of what makes Kide’s first show a must-visit is the place where it’s held. Tun Perak Co-Op is downtown Kuala Lumpur’s latest event space dedicated to preserving meaningful local stories. Set within two restored heritage shophouses, Tun Perak Co-Op is Kide’s first choice to display his creations.
“It suits my work so well,” he says beaming. “My favourite subject matter is old shophouses so to be able to achieve the same vibe here in KL was so great. You see there’s no aircond here, only the fans and wind blowing from the windows. The rattan furniture and overall arrangement just matched my work so well.”
He points out that his artwork is not meant for the eyes only. “I want people to think back to those times and practice those activities again. We have modern technology that is supposed to bring us closer, yet we are more distant and unhappy. Back then, even though times were difficult, people were happy and enjoyed life. I think we still can practice those things.”
‘Pe’el’ by Kide Baharudin is exhibiting at Tun Perak Co-Op, 62 & 64, Jalan Tun Perak, KL until July 26. Alternatively, join Tun Perak Co-Op’s Online Zoom Tour here if you’re unable to attend in person.