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Kampung Boy

We met up with Malaysian artist Kide Baharudin at the House of Vans (HOV) closing party in Guangzhou last month. Kide was commissioned to produce art for this year’s HOV Asia Tour, creating images to represent each participating city. Beneath Kide’s mild exterior, lies a fierce passion for the histories and culture of his beloved kampung (village).  He’s a local boy made good,  and we think he looks set to be the Lat of our generation. Not sure if you believe us? Read on. 

Kide Baharudin, with U and his mural for House of Vans Guangzhou

On his award-winning shoe design for the Vans’ Custom Culture 2017 contest, in Malaysia: My brother introduced me to the competition. I’ve liked Vans shoes and their crossover projects from when I was young, so when I heard about the contest I was really interested to enter. I’m very engaged with ideas about culture and prior to entering the contest had made many artworks about local culture, especially in my Malaysian hometown. So I thought, why not? I should enter! I really feel grateful for my collaborations with Vans.

Kide’s award-winning shoe design (pictured centre- left)

The idea was to think about the shoe as a mode of transportation, and about modes of transportation in the 1960s and the 70s. I really like classic and vintage things, and I live in a kampung full of old buildings and history. I myself ride a bicycle to get around my hometown, and I’ve always wondered what things were really like in the past, during my parents’ childhood. They would tell me that things were very happening in my hometown back then and that they are less so now. Many people have left to work in places like KL, so only the older folks are left. I wanted to re-imagine what things might have been like years ago when the place was memang happening– i.e. more busy and colourful, with things like funfairs and dancing:

The happening kampung — what it might have looked like
These images were part of Kide’s works displayed at House of Vans Singapore 2018

On being inspired by legendary Malaysian cartoonist Lat: I’ve met him! He told me that if I wanted to enter the world of art, I should just go forth, and not look back. He draws on similar themes, but his images are based on his actual life as he’s older than I am. For me, what I draw is based on my perspectives and imagination of what 60s life might have been like. His style is to draw comics, but I tend to create more paintings on canvas these days.

An example of Kide’s work, with its riotous rush of colour

On Kide’s family’s bee farm: Yes! We have one in my home in the village and we sell the honey. They are called lebah kelulut, in English, that means “stingless bees.” The farm is in front of our house and I help to harvest the honey. We also sell honey via our Instagram account @anas_kelulut  – it’s named after my mother who’s called Rohana, or “Ana” for short.

On his Instagram feed @kidebaharudin, which features a post that says, “art isn’t a product it’s an experience,” and on how that squares with his painting on shoes for Vans: I don’t think art should be thought about as an ordinary kind of product, or a thing. A product might make you happy for a while, but art can teach you things, as you experience what the artist has experienced. I also don’t think that placing my artwork on a shoe means that I’ve automatically turned my art into an “ordinary product.” The shoe is simply a medium or channel through which more people can enjoy my art. It’s just a different experience, than say, looking at art in a gallery.

On how his village responded to his soaring art career and Vans collaboration: There are some who understand it, and some who don’t [laughs], some of them just ask,

“What is this? Why are you carrying shoes around?”

They will ask me things like,

 “I thought you have a degree – if you have a degree why are you still doing this? When are you getting a real job?”

I have to explain that this is my real job!  Once I explain in more detail, they eventually get it. There are kids in school who want me to teach them art, and I do teach them for free.

His advice to budding regional artists: Be patient, keep working hard and don’t forget your culture. Our local culture is very rich and unique; you can make art in different styles, but tolong lah, don’t forget your roots and where you came from. Our unique regional culture is something so interesting that should be shown off to the rest of the world.

On placing his earthy, locally- inspired works in fine art galleries: When they enter these galleries, the works do become different, in a way. Their buyers are different, from say the people who would attend a Vans event which might be more open to the public. I do think it’s good for the orang kaya (i.e. rich folks) in the cities who would go to art galleries, to see what it’s like in the kampung through my art, as they may not be able to have those experiences, otherwise.

On the awesome shirt he made and brought with him to China:

This is about my hometown, Kuala Pilah, it’s a silkscreen print.

It’s an image of our village leader who is quite old now. In the past, he would always be smoking his pipe and cycling around, heading over to resolve quarrels amongst villagers, things like that. He knows about this shirt, I even made one for him, I also sell them in very limited quantities.

The pipe imagery finds its way into Kide’s other drawings

Thanks, Kide!

(More of Kide’s work can be found here )

This interview was partly conducted in Malay and translated where applicable, by the author.

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