Pangrok Sulap: Artist collective translating issues affecting Malaysian Borneo communities on to woodcuts

Pangrok Sulap are an artist collective who use woodcut printing to make banners and posters that raise awareness about social and environmental issues in Borneo’s regional communities.

The group, which first came together in 2010, consist of indigenous Dusun and Murut artists, musicians and social activists who are dedicated to empowering rural communities through art in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. They have consistently fought against censorship, worked to spread awareness of Sabah’s endangered rainforests and illegal logging, and promoted the power of the arts.

The community is always at the heart of the collective’s artworks. Whenever members of the Sabah-based art group complete one of their prints, they perform the sumazau, a traditional Kadazan-Dusun dance, on top of the wood carving blocks to involve the community in their works.

Pangrok Sulap also exhibit their works in local markets called Tamus – the heart of every rural community, where people gather to meet and share news, which make it an ideal space for the collective to engage with the concerns of the local communities.

Rizo Leong, one of the founding members of Pangrok Sulap, said: “We wished to use art as a means to give a voice to the community. We also wanted to promote DIY culture and convey the importance of being self-sufficient and not be overly dependent on the government.”

Pangrok” is the local pronunciation of “punk rock” and “Sulap” translates to a hut or resting place usually used by farmers in Sabah. The artist collective’s ethos is conveyed by the slogan “Jangan Beli, Bikin Sendiri” (‘Don’t buy, do it yourself’).

Pangrok Sulap’s artists artists have sold prints to support thousands of families evacuated from their homes after floods in 2015; promoted kirai asli – cigars hand-rolled by tribal people to combat the sale of contraband cigarettes by illegal immigrants; and launched a campaign against the so-called Project IC – the name given to allegations that identity cards were issued to migrants in Malaysian Borneo in exchange for their political support.

The group’s activities within the local community has garnered interest in their works further afield including Tokyo, Hong Kong, Paris and Singapore – where they have showcased their works.

Image Credit: Pangrok Sulap Facebook page

Pangrok Sulap

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyles including sustainable and green living. She also offers content services to businesses and individuals at Rosamedea.com

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