See Kuala Lumpur’s Street Art Before It’s Gone
September 01 2015
Ten million tourists visit Kuala Lumpur to experience the history, food, and entertainment every year – but how many see the street art around the river?
A growing number of international travellers are exploring Kuala Lumpur and returning home with memories of luxury accommodation, delicious food inspired by their mixed Malay, Indian, and Chinese heritage, and the many interesting markets that are scattered throughout the centre of the city; but perhaps only a handful know of, or ever see, the high concentration of street art around theKlang River.
The Klang River – Not What It Seems At First
During my own stay in Kuala Lumpur, I had the fortune to stumble across the 120km path of the Sungai Klang (Klang River) as it cuts straight across the city and passes by many of the more historical buildings and meeting points.
My intention was to visit the Central Market with my partner Franca, and then head in the direction of the city centre where cultural quarters, such as Little India are to be found. But, purely by accident, we found ourselves standing at the top of the access point to what appeared, at first, to be a canal or sewage system.
Due to the high frequency with which the river floods, the city council elected to direct the stream with flooding defences, which have unfortunately turned the once-great river into what looks now more like a drainage system. It’s not pretty, and it doesn’t look too inspiring to walk along, either. That was until we noticed all of the street art.
The Street Art of Kuala Lumpur’s River
Once down the steep concrete walkway to the low, flowing water of the river, we realised that, on either side of the steady stream, there are two fifteen-foot high concrete walls, which are completely covered for hundreds of meters in graffiti and street art.
From top to bottom, the walls are covered in bright colours that stand out so much against the weathered, brown concrete from which the entire overflow structure is constructed.
The marks of close to a hundred different street artists and magicians with spray cans can be seen, with murals of animals and complex tags stretching all the way across the concrete canvas.
As we continued walking along the drainage path of the river, we were only briefly joined by other people at ten-minute intervals. Sometimes, by school children biking their way maybe to school or home; other times, by a few homeless people finding somewhere to rest from the coming midday sun.
Street Art For Miles
It really felt like the murals went on for miles, and after thirty minutes of stop/start walking – due to both Franca and myself stopping for photographs – we finally came to another slipway from which we could depart and return to our original direction, towards Little India.
Neither of us could believe that we’d not heard of this open street art gallery beforehand. It’s so vast and unavoidable, we both wouldn’t have thought that most of our alternative-loving friends who’d also taken holidays to Kuala Lumpur would have recommended our checking it out; but, I guess they’d not had as happy an accidental find as we did.
The trouble now is that when the next rainy season comes and the river begins to collect water again, the level may rise and remove most of the masterpieces that are there.
Of course, most street artists work in the knowledge that their work may not remain for long, but it seems to us that it would be such a shame if the latest coat of paint along the river isn’t seen by more people before the floods come.
To all of our alternative friends looking for culture in Kuala Lumpur, we can’t recommend higher that you add Kuala Lumpur’s street art river gallery to your list of things to do when you arrive.
As you can see from the pictures, the work is worth visiting before it all washes away.
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