if you consider the social turmoil, societal inequalities and economic hardships, which have been exacerbated by the pandemic, this Labour Day might be a good time to revisit how some Malaysian artists – through the generations – have portrayed workers and labour in art.
Admittedly, local art documenting the working class experience isn’t a popular creative pursuit.
Social realism, a fairly distant art movement (to most Malaysians) that drew attention to the grim socio-political conditions between the two World Wars, hasn’t exactly been making a comeback among the new generation artists here. The idea of being such a genre-specific breed of artist hasn’t taken a firm hold.
But the times are changing.
A handful of today’s artists, including the Pangrok Sulap collective and art activist Fahmi Reza, have used their art to offer hope and also highlight the worsening conditions of the everyday working classes, and migrant communities.
Here is a small sample of Malaysian art produced on the labour theme.