So much of the time we think of art as something lofty, unknowable, locked up in pristine white spaces and attended on by haughty intellectuals dressed in black.
But outside of these protected spaces, art can thrive in the wild messy places where people live (think JR), where we protest (Women’s March of the last few weeks)… and even in the places we’ve forgotten about.
In Tanjung Sepat, a humble little fishing village in Malaysia, art is showing up in an unexpected place and making its presence felt. Here, just as in many rural communities around the world, young people are moving out for opportunities in bigger towns and cities instead. Tanjung Sepat has increasingly been forgotten and neglected. But one local daughter of the village is now working hard to change that.
Art collector and gallerist Molly Lee has been living outside Malaysia for the last 15 years, returning every year to celebrate the lunar new year in the village where she grew up. At one of these occasions, it hit her: the eerily quiet streets, the beautiful shores now used as the village dump… a far cry from the village of her childhood.
“I felt sad from this sudden realisation. This was my hometown. I grew up roaming these very streets. I felt a surge of responsibility to bring glory back to this forgotten village. My forgotten village.”
Molly decided to take her passion for art and use it revive love and pride in Tanjung Sepat.
The Tanjung SepHeart Project kicked off with 11 artists taking over a lowly but crucial public object as their canvas - the rubbish bin - to celebrate the beauty and love for this unsung village. Coming from diverse backgrounds from Malaysia but also Shanghai, Hong Kong and New York, the artists (Snowny Ng, Jona Lim, Fish Ho, Jayson Atienza among others) took very different approaches but the “Ikan Sepat” fish for which the village is named certainly had a starring role.
Photos courtesy of Molly Lee, The Tanjung Sepheart Project