Prior to visiting Kuching, the capital of Sarawak is under my radar of places to visit. I had an initial impression it would be similar to other cities in Borneo like Kota Kinabalu. Surprisingly, the city along the meandering Sarawak River has a different vibe. With my usual practice of exploring new cities on foot, Kuching felt more like a counterpart of George Town in this side of Malaysia. The vibrant and artsy streets, affordable and tasty food and the easy going lifestyle of the people.
My initial walks in the city are usually just feeling out the place and see what’s nearby. I didn’t do prior research here and let our host Place Borneo take care of it. I’d liked to be surprised.
Arriving at night, the first mural that caught my eye was at the facade of our hotel, the Riverside Majestic Hotel. We were in Kuching mainly for the annual Kuching Jazz Festival and we were welcomed by this eye-catching mural by Leonard Siaw. One of his many works adorning the city.
Enlivening the City
It was in 2015 when Kuching North City Commission (DBKU) initiated the project to enliven up the city by collaborating with local artist to create vibrant street art inside the heritage district. The project was a success as the works complimented well with the city heritage. Other artist were soon invited including Lithuanian street artist, Ernest Zacharevic who made a mark with his iconic murals in Goerge Town, Penang.
Kuching City Stroll
Our walk started at the the Riverside Majestic Hotel down to the riverfront. Just at the waterfront near the Grand Margherita Hotel is a long wall mural of black and white doodle with spotted colors. It depicts images which made Kuching known from its delicacies, patterns, hornbills and of course cats.
Singgahasana Lodge Wild About Kuching
Continuing westward at the waterfront parallel to Jalan Tunku Abdhul Rahman, we found this bright ochre three-story Singgahasana Lodge wrapped in wildlife murals of birds and orangutans representing wild life in Kuching. It’s a commissioned work by Leonard Siaw in 2017 for “Wild About Kuching” campaign.
There are three murals in Kuching made by the collective artist called 9Lives. They were commissioned in 2015 for Malaysia Day. The murals have the hashtag #Tanahairku which refers to the poem Tanah Air by Usman Awang.
The first one we saw was the mural of children representing Sarawak’s ethnic groups like the Dayaks, Malay and Chinese. the mural is found at the corner of Lebuh Wayang and Jalan Wawasa.
At the corner of Carpenter St and Bishopgate is the leaping feline. Cats are famous as people believe it’s one of the origins of the state’s name as “kuching” means cat, similar to our Filipino word “kuting”. The leaping cat here resembles and extinct species of feline in Borneo with a clouded leopard pattern on its fur.
The third #Tanahairku mural is the “Harmony, Hibiscus and Hornbill”. Sarawak boast 8 of the world’s 54 species of hornbill and the hibiscus flowers are considered as the state flowers.
Just across the Leaping Feline, there’s an eatery with a mural backdrop. There’s more cartoon-type graffiti wall in the area.
If you find yourself in Jalan India, there are some interesting community murals in the alleys as well. Leonard Siaw also has some very detailed murals depicting slice of life in Kuching.
There are certainly a lot more murals in Kuching. This was just from a short walk. We weren’t even able to see Ernest Zacharevic’s orangutan murals. It is advisable to allot more time to check out the murals if that’s your thing. For the meantime I enjoyed this short stroll showcasing the creativity of the town folks of the city.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.