Ceritera Gembala (The Story of a Shepherd)

Sculptor Jamil Zakaria presents Ceritera Gembala (The Story of a Shepherd), his second solo exhibition featuring five installations constructed by hand using an industrial material and tools such as wire mesh, plyer and hammer. Inspired by traditional Malay proverbs, the idea was conceived from juxtaposing the meaning of each proverb with the realities of life as described by the artwork titles. By adapting the universality of animals, Jamil is able to metaphorically convey the complexity of human traits.

Historically, mankind has been associating animal instinct with human nature since the Old Testament era. Scriptures from religious books namely the Torah, Quran and the Bible have references of animals in their respective teachings.

In Western modern literature, George Orwell wrote an allegorical book, Animal Farm in 1943 to tell a story characterised by animals to reflect historical events leading up to the Russian Revolution of 1917 followed by the Stalinist era of the Soviet Union. The animal populace of pigs, horses, donkeys, sheep, hens, cows, dogs, raven, goat and cat are central figures to the fable.

Similarly, in Jamil’s work, he incorporates Malay literature as the basis of his sculptural narrative with faunas as his protagonists. Mat Bunga depicts a large-scale primate donning a pair of sunglasses and holding a flower. Its oversized figure is disproportionately placed on a single seater sofa, painted in white. Deriving from the idiom “seperti kera mendapat bunga” (like an ape getting flowers), which means someone who takes things for granted, Jamil playfully incorporates the title Mat Bunga – a casual term to describe Casanovas – and in this case, not a very attractive one.

Another installation features a flock of sheep and a wolf. Inspired by the children’s tale “kambing dan serigala” (the sheep and the wolf), which tells the story of a wicked wolf attempting to trick the flock of sheep. Jamil also refers to “musang berbulu ayam” or the Biblical idiom “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” as one of his inspirations for this work.

Makan Besar (Feast) depicts an eagle attacking a swine with its claws and is elevated to portray its flight motion. Deriving from the idiom “rezeki helang takkan dapat dimakan oleh musang” (one’s sustenance cannot be pilfered by others), this work conveys life lessons on greed.

Other sculptures include a cat, a dog and a mouse to depict “seperti kucing dapat tikus” (like cats getting mice) and “bagai anjing dengan kucing” (like cats and dogs) as well as a snake tightly coiled around a wolf to portray the proverb “seperti gajah ditelan ular lidi” (like an elephant swallowed by a snake).

Although galvanized wire mesh sculptures are typically created for landscape beautification, Jamil intends to elevate the appreciation for this medium by showcasing the works in a gallery setting. As a shepherd to his immortal herd, Jamil narrates his own story by observing human nature, navigating them to righteousness.

Kedah-born Jamil Zakaria (b. 1985) obtained his Masters in Fine Art from Universiti Teknologi Mara, Shah Alam in 2013. His artistic practice in contemporary sculpture specialising in galvanized steel wire mesh makes him one of the few Malaysian visual artists to explore this medium. Having actively participating in local and international group exhibitions since 2004, Jamil’s receent exhibitions included Young Malaysian Artists III (2016) and Readrawing (2013) at Galeri Petronas, Kuala Lumpur; Art Triangle (2010) and Destiny: Young Group Show (2013) at the National Visual Arts Gallery, Kuala Lumpur. In 2016, he presented a two-man show at Ritz Carlton, Kuala Lumpur organised by Gallery 69 Fine Art. He was one of the finalists for the international OITA Sculpture Competition, Japan in 2010. With Andrew Shire Gallery (Singapore), Jamil participated in the Art Fair International, New Delhi, India and Spoon Art Fair, Hong Kong, China, in 2012 followed by a group show at the Malaysian Embassy in Beijing, China a year later.