Meng Tong '60s
"HanKee Kopitiam was founded in year 2016, and is a reflection of the coffee shops from 50's, 60's and 70's, where the common practice for breakfast was a cup of full-flavoured coffee with the companion of freshly toasted bread slices. This warmth, nostalgic concept is revived to bring back the fonding memories for those who are missing the good old times, and for the younger generations to experience the feeling and flavours of a bygone era.
The word 'HAN' was taken from the name of the grandfather for HanKee's founder. Elderly Foo and his beloved wife, migrated from Hainan of Mainland China to Kuching during the 30's, and started a Hainanese coffee shop business located at Palm Road, Kuching. To us, we think that it is crucially important to preserve and pass on our local culture and tradition, what is best from the past to the future, and also to our younger generation. Hence, the idea of HanKee Kopitiam is developed.
Hankee sincerely hopes to bring you to a trip down memory lane, sharing the appreciation of the true colours of Kuching kopitiam culture."
Q&A with Kuching's very own mural artist, Leonard Siaw
Mural location: Hankee Kopitiam, Lot 261 Jalan Chan Chin Ann
B: Borneo Art Collective LS: Leonard Siaw
B: Could you describe your Mural art project and tell us how it started?
LS: Meng Tong @ 60’s, one of my favorite production, is also a commissioned project. The interesting part of this particular mural art is that it reflects the true story of the coffeeshop owner's grandparents travel across the sea from China to Kuching and built their business here from scratch, it was painted according to the classic photographs provided by the shop owner. This mural located at HanKee Kopitiam, you may drop by and have a coffee and find out more details of the stories of the grandparents (story line is just next to the mural). The coffee shop owner contacted me through one of my University course mate after knowing me as local mural artist. The reason why i accept this project is because I personally like cultures, traditions and history. Also to record people stories by mural painting. It’s a natural for me. I tried painting on canvas but the wall feels more intimate. I paint stories, and i want to share stories with people. What better way to do that than to paint on walls? Even children do it.
B: Who/what influenced you to begin this project?
LS: I got it by watching and learning from my mentors from University, also following him to do several wall painting project such as - Faces of boulevard and star cineplex graffiti.
Other than that i also observe mural artists and illusionist across the world via travel, facebook, instagram, behance etc. Admiring their amazing style and skill, their patience and the way they maintain the flame - sample images from google of two famous foreign artists who painted a few places in Penang - Ernest Zacharevic and Julia Volchkova.
B: How does the mural art scene in Kuching/Sarawak/Borneo differ to Penang / Ipoh?
LS: In terms of quality, it could be improved. in terms of quantity, long way to increase. I would say we’re still growing, hopefully Sarawak Government will allow more mural arts to deploy around Kuching to enhance the city. Also let local talents to do the job instead of flying in foreign talents, because if anyone of us are asked or interviewed, we can proudly answer “they’re all done by local artist”. Anyway, overall is not that bad because Kuching people slowly start to notice and appreciate.
B: You've had quite a few mural art projects, any reason why Meng Tong'60s is your favourite? Why is it called Meng Tong instead of Hankee?
LS: Meng Tong @60’s is my favorite is because this particular mural painting contained a very interesting storyline behind, i was deeply inspired by it and therefore i can come out with such piece of art. Let me relate this to a primitive art, since the very beginning humans paint on walls to document their lives, culture, beliefs and religion.
So same theory applies to Meng Tong @60’s. Shirly Foo, the owner of HanKee Kopitiam aka granddaughter of the two old folks in the painting, request a mural painting of her grandparents in her coffee shop. Why? Because she told me she personally likes to do business and she is trying to revive her grandparent’s business, so Hankee Kopitiam is actually reflecting her grandparent’s coffeeshop in 1960 era called Meng Tong Kopitam. If you get to visit Hankee Kopitiam someday, you can see they actually do what Meng Tong Kopitiam does - old fashioned way of coffee making, toasting bread with charcoal etc. Some cooking method from the past is still preserved. That's why this mural painting entitled "Meng Dong @60’s". The exact satisfaction is there when compare to the rest.
B: Where do you see your project evolving in the near future? And what are you busy working on at the moment?
LS: It would be to enhance and also "artisify" the town. And hopefully it can also influence Kuching citizen to appreciate art more. At the moment, 'im busy with ongoing mural projects and also doing proposals for various company.
B: What is your ultimate objective in mural arts?
LS: My ultimate objective is to play a small part to beautify the city, at the same time can paint a story, deliver message, or even educate people via mural art. Hopefully it can also boost the economy of art industry and create such demand for people here. If it works, younger local talents may potentially gain if they choose to grow their business hometown.
B: How do you see Borneo art community at the moment?
LS: I can see it has certain development compare to before. Based on what I‘d observe, people don't know the value of the art, and nowadays there are more people aware of “art”, they start to observe, curious, acknowledge, learn etc..
B: How could people access your project/group at the moment? Is there any public participation/volunteer you allow in your project/group?
LS: Anyone can easily access my project through Instagram and Facebook Page. They can also easily find out the location of my mural works from my facebook page. I’m considering on allowing volunteer or public participation to join me for the projects at the moment. Preferably solo, but will recruit assistant artist to help up if there’s a big project that requires more than one artist to get the job done.
B: Please recommend stories/projects/individuals/groups that we should reach out to in order to expand the Borneo Art Collective network.
LS: Sebastian Jong - Treasurer from Sarawak Artist Society, also a mural artist.
Jeremiah Moa - Founder of The Shots Gallery, a photographer
Natasha Rusdy Wong - Currently study Master in visual art at University of Malaya. At the moment researching local senior artists for thesis.
B: What would be your message to aspiring fellow Borneo Artist/Art Community?
LS: I believe no dreams or hobbies are free of charge, its either costly or affordable. And its your responsibility to find a way to protect it. It may hurt in the beginning, but what hurts more is regret.