Travel writer Arman Shah goes in search of graffiti in Kuala Lumpur and finds these artistic murals by the Klang River.
The seed of intrigue revolving around the graffiti scene in Kuala Lumpur (KL) was first planted in me one Tuesday afternoon at work, when I was researching on art-related activities to engage in at the Malaysian capital. I was flying there from Singapore for a business trip, and I wanted to make sure that I fully utilized my time doing productive things – as opposed to being cooped up in the hotel room like the dull young adult who I’m (hopefully) not – when I wasn’t attending any work event.
I remember Google producing a list of articles about street art in Malaysia, and after a few clicks of the mouse and a thorough ingestion of the various features and their accompanying images, I was convinced that I had to check out this fascinating scene. A week later, equipped with a camera and an adventurous spirit, I found myself roaming the city of KL in search of this unique art form.
PasarSeni LRT Station
My journey in search of graffiti first brought me to the Klang River along PasarSeni LRT Station. This particular site seemed like an obvious area to chart because it was the official venue for the KUL Sign Festival. Above and beyond everything else, this annual event has established itself as the biggest indication of change where the acceptance of graffiti in Malaysia is concerned.
For those who are yet to be educated on this matter, here’s a quick history lesson on the challenges faced by the local graffiti scene back in the day. Prior to the festival’s inception, the street art scene was misconstrued as a rebellious movement that threatened law and order in Malaysia. Local authorities viewed graffiti as an act of vandalism, and associated the practice of spraying and scribbling explicit drawings and writings on public property with juvenile delinquency.
However, the misunderstood art form was pried from this stigma in December 2010, when the Kuala Lumpur City Hall – an agency under the Ministry of Federal Territories and Urban Wellbeing –introduced the festival as a platform for local graffiti artistes to showcase their work legally. Concurrently, these artistes can play their part in achieving the governmental objective of introducing colour to the concrete grey walls along the river by PasarSeni LRT Station.
Today, the site has somewhat become an art gallery that’s permanently on display for the public eye. I was blown away by the calibre of graffiti I found by the river – that is what the combination of teen spirit and boundless creativity looks like. As I couldn’t climb down to the water and gain access to the walls without breaking a few laws, I planted myself at strategic spots along the station platform and a nearby overhead bridge to take some good shots.
Dato’ Keramat LRT Station
Still, my desire to see the best of street art in KL wasn’t properly satisfied; I wanted to be so close to a wall of art that I could practically smell the dry paint and feel its texture against my bare hand as I traced the outline of the designs with my fingertips.
Thus, I took a train along the Putra line to Dato’ Keramat LRT Station, where the longest graffiti wall in Malaysia can be found – according to my friend Google, anyways. It turned out that Google was right, and being told the truth had never been more visually gratifying.
Under the burning gaze of the afternoon sun, I walked along the outskirts of a village that was seemingly untouched by modern-day technology, and found a point of entry to the graffiti site next to an operational fire station, somewhere along the perimeters of the railway station.
The Klang River that I saw at PasarSeni LRT Station had stretched itself all the way to Dato’ Keramat LRT Station, flowing rapidly beneath its railway tracks and slicing the site right in the middle. On either side of this dividing body of water was an endless wall that was covered from top to bottom with graffiti; even the stone pillars were used as larger-than-life art canvases.
The place was littered with garbage, smelled generally foul and, apart from a group of dodgy-looking local men who were loitering in a corner next to a pillar, completely vacant. Nonetheless, I was happy – trigger-happy to be exact. I can indulge myself by going on and on about how brilliant the various murals were; but, I’ll just let the photos do the talking. Enjoy, folks!
About Bespoke Traveler’s Guest Blogger
Arman is a travel writer at AsiaRooms.com. He is Singaporean – born and bred – which means he’s very accustomed to punctuating his sentences with terms like “lah” or “lor” and having roti prata (delightful fried dough typically enjoyed with curry) for breakfast.