Tukang Festival celebrates sustainable creativity, community engagement

It is a lively mix of interactive workshops, live music, poetry performances and a vibrant arts and crafts market 


THE Spine at PJKita in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, buzzed with excitement last month as Tukang Festival took over, celebrating the creative works of local artists under the theme “Reka Lestari”. 

With a RM60,000 grant shared among six talented artists, the event was a lively mix of interactive workshops, live music, poetry performances and a vibrant arts and crafts market. 

Drawing in over 8,000 visitors from both domestic and international locations, it showcased the extraordinary skills of local artists and offered an engaging, immersive experience in the world of art and crafts. 

Mud Brick Project 

One of the highlights from the event was when an award-winning artist, Cheng Yen Pheng, invited festival-goers to join her in handcrafting bricks from natural materials. 

Cheng, celebrated for winning the UOB Painting of the Year (Malay- sia) competition in 2019, has spent recent years transforming tree bark into paper in her workshop-home in Batu Arang, Selangor. 

Her latest installation, “Dung Beetle: ‘Dirt’ Exploration”, brings a fresh creative perspective by incorporating elements of earth architecture. 

“For the longest time, I have been working with paper. This mud brick project, still in its experimental phase, has been really heavy for me, literally,” Cheng told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR). 

“We had to hire a lorry to bring the installation and accompanying raw materials to this festival. Thankfully, I have been working with many volunteers and neighbours. Some came from far with family and friends, some came alone. Together, we have been making bricks in an earth oven, everyone lending a hand and helping to realise this project.” 

Cheng elaborated on the deeper significance of her work, explaining that the central theme delves into the primal and fundamental essence of the earth. 

The workshop’s communal approach transforms participants into co-creators, working together to shape the raw materials of the earth into tangible structures, she added.

Through this collaborative effort, the work highlights the interconnectedness of human effort and the natural world, celebrating the shared creativity of the community involved. 

Cheng said outcome is secondary to the message behind the artwork. “The message is quite important. I used to play with raw materials, making paper and even burying it. This time, I tried to explore combining these two elements. In my next solo exhibition, which might be next year, I plan to combine these two approaches.” 

Unique, Eco-friendly Products

Meanwhile, Masitah Babjan and Dian Azura, known as Syiborisyd and Aruznadi, discussed the inspiration and process behind their innovative project, “Scaling Up Scraps”. 

The creative duo has garnered attention with their winning entry in the Tukang Festival’s “Reka Lestari” competition, which aligns with the United Nations’ (UN) Circular Economy concept. 

Initially, Syiborisyd and Aruznadi did not intend to submit their work. However, a last-minute decision to collaborate led them to develop a project that combines natural dyeing techniques with sustainable practices. 

“We didn’t want to create art just for the sake of it. Our goal was to explore sustainability, using natural dyes and artisan skills to produce something commercially viable,” said Syiborisyd. 

The duo’s project involved collecting waste materials from restaurants and repurposing them into natural dyes, which not only reduces waste but also creates unique, eco-friendly products. 

Through ‘Scaling Up Scraps’ project, Syiborisyd (picture) and Aruznadi collect restaurant waste and transformed it into natural dyes and producing unique, eco-friendly products

“Working with small batches from local kitchens, we faced challenges in scaling up. 

“But it was essential to figure out logistics and storage solutions to make this sustainable on a larger scale,” added Aruznadi. 

Participation in Tukang Festival has had a significant impact on their business. 

“Events like this provide a platform to showcase our work, attract new customers and educate the public about sustainable practices,” said Syiborisyd, emphasising the importance of community involvement. 

“Our mission is to advocate for sustainability and educate people about alternative sources of colour. We want to make this knowledge accessible,” added Aruznadi. 

Through workshops and interactive sessions at the festival, the duo engaged visitors of all ages, demonstrating the potential of natural dyes and sustainable art practices. 

Their approach is deeply rooted in community collaboration. 

“It’s not just about us; it’s about the community. We call it the ‘village’, where everyone contributes to the success of these projects,” Syiborisyd said. 

This communal effort helps spread awareness and foster a deeper understanding of sustainability. 

Looking ahead, Syiborisyd and Aruznadi aim to expand their educational outreach and develop more sustainable products. 

“We are grateful for the platform provided by Tukang Festival. It allows us to pitch our ideas and collaborate with like-minded individuals and organisations,” said Aruznadi. 

They hope to continue making natural dyes and sustainable practices more accessible, highlighting the need for ongoing education and community engagement. 

According to Hana (left) and Nabil, the public’s response to ‘Pagar Tupai’ is overwhelmingly positive (Pics courtesy of Tourism Selangor)

Pagar 2π 

Parti Design Awangan, led by architect and husband-wife duo Nabil Mustafa and Hana Daut, made a notable impact at the festival with their installation, “Pagar 2π/Pagar Tupai” (also inspired by the symbol for pi, π). 

Nabil and Hana delved into the inspiration behind their craft and detailed the intricate process of creating their innovative products. 

Drawing inspiration from traditional Malay house architecture, the duo sought to reimagine the classic “Pagar Musang” fence. 

“We wanted to innovate by creating a curved profile rather than a rigid, straight design. This makes it more user-friendly and adaptable to different spaces,” said Nabil. 

Their background in architecture played a crucial role in the development of their concept. 

“With our architecture experience, we knew how to implement what we had envisioned,” said Hana. 

The process began with research and development on a small scale to test the feasibility of the curved design. 

“It took just a few days to come up with the initial model and test whether the pattern worked with irregular or curved shapes,” she added. 

Creating the modular shape took about two months of intermittent work. The design’s modular nature also facilitated transportation. 

“It comes in pieces, so we can dismantle it and transport it by car,” added Nabil. 

The public’s response to “Pagar Tupai” was overwhelmingly positive. 

“People appreciated the blend of traditional elements with contemporary design. They liked how we maintained the cultural essence while introducing a modern twist,” Hana added. 

Participation in Tukang Festival has been beneficial for Parti Design Awangan’s visibility and future projects. 

“This can be added to our portfolio, giving us more exposure,” said Nabil. 

The duo has a history of success in design competitions, having won several furniture design contests over the past three years. 

“Each award provides us with greater exposure and we hope this latest recognition will continue to boost our profile,” Hana said. 

Our unique local arts reflect our diverse cultural heritage and contribute significantly to the economy, says Lim

Selangor’s Diverse Cultural Heritage

Selangor Local Government and Tourism exco Datuk Ng Suee Lim highlighted the crucial role of art and culture in enhancing the tourism sector. 

“Our unique local arts not only reflect our diverse cultural heritage but also significantly contribute to the economy — especially in Selangor — by attracting tourists eager to experience the distinctiveness of our art and crafts,” he said in his speech. 

The success of Tukang Festival underlined the vital role of community engagement in promoting sustainability and creativity, highlighting the potential of collaborative efforts in building a more sustainable future. 

Selangor’s vibrant arts and cultural heritage plays a vital role in driving the state’s tourism industry. 

The ongoing preservation and promotion of Selangor’s unique arts, crafts and culture are set to continue, with the government dedicated to nurturing local talents and showcasing their work to the public. 

  • This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition