Asia

Malaysian proverbs as smartphone art

Artwork by Malaysian artist Hyrul Anuar Image copyright Hyrul Anuar
Image caption 'Biting the hand that feeds you' - this proverb reinforces the lesson of always appreciating what others have given you

Traditional Malaysian proverbs provided a source of much-needed comfort for Selangor artist Hyrul Anuar at one of the most challenging moments of his life.

The 27-year-old said that while he was living in Italy, far away from Malaysia and at a particularly low moment, he sought solace in combining art and the proverbs of his childhood.

"I began to lose myself but the proverbs reminded me of who I was. I was then able to overcome adversity because of the values they taught," he told the BBC.

So using a simple sketch app on his Samsung device, Mr Anuar transformed them into colourful works of art.

The visual series titled Malay Proverbs was first started in July 2015 and has gained popularity on an art blog on Tumblr.

His works have been featured in several art shows and will open in an exhibition in Lisbon this weekend.

"I like laughter and fun, and anyone who knows me will see that the series reflects my character. But the stories of each proverb I feature, still teaches values and some carry dark meanings," he said.

Image copyright Hyrul Anuar
Image caption 'Wolf in chicken's clothing' - Don't try to be anyone but yourself
Image copyright Hyrul Anuar
Image caption 'A frog trying to be a cow' - This Malaysian proverb teaches not to attempt what is beyond one's limits

The artist, who is now based in the capital Kuala Lumpur, said that the proverbs were taught to him while he was at school.

But the ones which carried "inspirational lessons" came from his father, who also sparked his interest in Malay literature.

"Growing up in Malaysia, children hear many proverbs and although we came to learn their meanings, we don't get a chance to see them visually," Mr Anuar said.

"That was another reason why I created this visual art series using my smartphone."

'Spit into the skies'

Image copyright Hyrul Anuar
Image caption Lesson: Avoid stupid actions to avoid embarrassment to yourself

One of Mr Anuar's favourite pieces from the collection was a proverb titled, "Spit into the Skies", which teaches one to be cautious of silly actions in order to avoid embarrassing oneself.

"This was a lesson I experienced overseas. I was given a great opportunity on a huge project which was a big deal to me. But at the same time, I would meet people who would constantly put me down, which made me feel sad," he shared.

"I began to think about a lot of negative things but at the end, I realised that the bad person was me."

Image copyright Hyrul Anuar
Image caption 'The last legs entangling the neck' - If you become bad, you will no longer be able to hide from evils within you

Another personal favourite proverb of Mr Anuar's was "Mengikat Perut" which translates to "Binding one's stomach".

"It teaches the lesson of saving money, and this proverb carries a lot of meaning to me because it relates to my family."

Image copyright Hyrul Anuar
Image caption 'Like dogs fighting over a bone' - This teaches the lesson of not being greedy
Image copyright Hyrul Anuar
Image caption 'The sea's depth can be predicted, but no one can know what's in someone's heart' - One must always try to understand what others feel, despite difficulty

But does he have plans to continue his series?

"I enjoyed myself and it taught me a lot but now I want to focus on proverbs and stories from other countries. I think that will make for a very interesting project."

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