Of sculpture, mural, heritage and virtue

By Siti Fatimah Azzahra Zawawi

International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) has always been leading the way as the Garden of Knowledge and Virtue. In appreciations of efforts to curb the COVID-19 pandemic, IIUM showed its gratitude to the front-liners by creating the Ibnu Khaldun merit award.

The university has also created a memorial sculpture and painted murals to show appreciations to those who played their role to bring about a safe environment and protection for all in the light of the pandemic.

However, many individuals of the community expressed dissatisfaction towards the memorial sculpture and questioned its existence. Some argued that IIUM did not prioritise the welfare of the students and claimed that the sculpture is not worthy. 

Above all, they argued that IIUM could make more from the money to benefit students’ life in IIUM. Most of the comments came from Twitter users who criticised the need to create the COVID-19 sculpture. 

Little do they realise, it is the way of IIUM to show virtue and kindness in appreciating the efforts and hardships faced by the front-liners during this pandemic.

Launching the art sculpture, IIUM Rector, Professor Emeritus Tan Sri Dato’ Dzulkifli Abdul Razak said he chose to place the sculpture in front of Wadi Budi, IIUM to enhance the word budi which is ‘virtue’. 

The Rector believes it is a way to give back to the front-liners who have worked so hard to overcome this pandemic that has shocked us in 2020. He said this episode has forced us to adapt with its new norm which is not an easy thing and a struggle in many aspects of life for everyone. 

One of those people affected the most by the pandemic are the front-liners who face high risk everyday. Hence, it is important for us to remember their services to the country. A reminder in the form of the sculpture is one of the respectable ways to show gratitude, and that people will always appreciate efforts done by the front-liners to the people. 

Another art that attracts the community and guests in IIUM is the new mural in the Sayyidina Hamzah Stadium. The mural with such great quality animation depicts the situation during the pandemic and the role of the front-liners. The mural is an eye-catching art and easy to look at especially for vehicles passing through as the location is very strategic and the size of the mural is huge and satisfying. 

Besides that, IIUM is also well known with its monument since the issue of moving the “Keris” or traditional dagger monument to the Kulliyyah of Architecture and Environmental Design (KAED) from the main gate. The first monument to be exhibited in front of the main gate in 2010 was the inscription stone with a globe on top of it. 

The second one was the “Keris” and Holy Qur’an that former IIUM President, Tan Sri Dr. Rais Yatim officiated in 2014. The traditional dagger signified nobility and the holy Qur’an symbolised the source of knowledge. 

A similar issue was raised where some of the community members regarded this monument as a lavish act. But, that is one side of the whole story as there is a bigger meaning of this significant monument to IIUM community. 

The “Keris” was donated by Yayasan Albukhary with the total cost of RM1.5 million. At that time, Tan Sri Dr. Rais Yatim made it known publicly that the monument did not come from IIUM funds. 

In 2019, the new IIUM President, Datuk Dr. Mohd Daud Bakar decided to move the “Keris” to heritage site near KAED and keep the Holy Qur’an as the main monument there. The aim of this act is to intensify the Islamic value of the University.

Therefore, the “Keris” was appropriately placed near to “Rumah Perak” in KAED. Many people from inside and outside of IIUM community agreed with the decision as it suits IIUM as an international and Islamic university. The holy Qur’an monument fits right into IIUM logo where there is a symbol of the holy Qur’an. 

In addition, “Rumah Perak” is one of the interesting places that was rebuilt in IIUM. Built first in 1910s, it was described as “Rumah Kutai Beranjung”, a relocation project of KAED where the house was originally from Parit, Perak. 

“Rumah Kutai Beranjung” also refers to Malay Leader House as the first owner of the house is an influential person. After receiving green lights from IIUM management, the process of reassembling work started in June 2017 and completed in March 2018. 

The “Rumah Perak” and other traditional and cultural arts in IIUM are to preserve the Malay history and heritage as well as to promote the cultural arts and values to the local and international communities in IIUM and visitors. 

Same thing goes with monuments, murals and art pieces, they all symbolised beautiful meanings that IIUM has strived for and things that make the community proud in being part of IIUM. Not just that, IIUM also aims to cater for the welfare of the students and always ready to provide the best possible for the community.

Dr. Mohd Abbas Abdul Razak, an IIUM Assistant Professor, once said, “Many can criticise, but a few can lead the way. It will be unwise to criticise without giving a solution.” ***

(This article is written as part of the individual assignment series for Feature Writing class)

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2 Replies to “Of sculpture, mural, heritage and virtue”

  1. I appreciate this piece! The bottom line is, people cannot see the role of Art in relating the happenings of one generation to the next. It is art, that allows us to boast great Islamic heritage and culture in Greater Iraq, greater Iran, Sham, and other places. We could have never pictured golden era of Islam without the artefacts, paintings, masjids, poetry and the list continues. The Fast Food generation is on the verge of deconstructing everything including arts. Like fast food is made, delivered and eaten fast without leaving any memory or message, they intend to treat art in a similar manner.

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