Better for Borneo
> Alena Murang marries her smarts and arts to benefit others and bring back the beauty of Borneo
your work is all about your community and heritage.’ I was quite troubled by that for a few months, but then I started ART4 (i.e. art for) – as a hashtag, initially – promising myself to use art as a medium for social impact.
“Eventually, I started taking commissioned artwork and performances to ART4 (www. alenamurang.com). I also do management consulting, and the revenue I get from those I channel into cultural heritage and environmental impact projects,” explained Alena.
This Saturday, the multi-talented lass is hosting a public launch for her debut EP, Flight which was released last month.
Have you explored your English and Italian roots? I studied in the UK for five years, but I was a bit naive. I didn’t like England because I didn’t see any culture, which to me, meant colourful traditional garbs, beads, celebrations and dances
back then. Only when I was a bit older I realised culture is effervescent.
I’ve never lived in Italy, but I try to go back every year. I really connect with where my grandma’s from, which is Naples in southern Italy. It’s rich in history and culture, and in a lot of ways people there are very similar to Malaysians. They love their food, and park on yellow lines. I do want to explore that side more – I just haven’t done it yet.
How is storytelling through painting, dancing and playing music different for you? Honestly, painting is my first love. I feel that I do music more, but I’d rather paint – it’s my ultimate form of expression. With the sape, I don’t write my own songs so I don’t express all of myself through it. I use it as a medium to tell stories of my roots. I do traditional dances to keep the art form, so the only stories I tell are why and when we used to dance.
Which was the most interesting project you’ve done under ART4? In January last year, we collaborated with Biji-biji Initiative to upcycle a helipad in Genting Highlands. It wasn’t used anymore so they wanted an art on it. We painted a big bird, where one of the wings came out as a 3D sculpture – made using metal parts welded by Bijibiji.
About 80% of everything we upcycled were from Genting. We rummaged through its waste management area, and found old casino chairs, pots and pans; and took apart an old Transformer – it was like a playground for us! But it was taken down early this year, because Genting is going through a transformation programme. Outdoor art is almost always ephemeral.
Tell us about your EP, My music is quite traditional, but I want to make it relatable, so that people in the urban setting and people who don’t know anything about Sarawak are able to associate with it. In Flight, I play the sape and sing, and it’s backed by other instruments such as violin, harp and some percussion.
She hopes to make a connection between indigenous people and urban folk, by showing the ”same, simple human wants and needs” in her portraits of the former.
Alena can also play the classical guitar and saxophone.