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Read the following news for latest development over Ernest Zacharevic’s Lego Mural:

Malaysian authorities paint over Ernest Zacharevic’s Lego mural over fears it will hurt tourism

A STREET mural depicting a mugging involving two Lego figures has been white-washed on the orders of angry authorities in a Malaysian border city known for its crime rate and a Legoland theme park.

Officials in Johor Baru, which borders on Singapore, ordered the mural by Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic be painted over because it harmed the city’s reputation.

The mural showed a woman drawn in the style of a Lego toy and carrying a Chanel bag walking toward a corner around which a black-clad and knife-wielding Lego robber waits to pounce.

Aziz Ithnin, an official with the Johor Baru City Council, said the mural was done without permission and amounted to illegal graffiti.

“It’s vandalism. The robber gives an image that is not good for our country, investment and tourism,” he said.

“If the painting stays, everybody will be scared.”

Before the mural was white-washed, a Lego police officer waiting to arrest the crook had been painted on the wall by other artists.

Johor Baru has long struggled against a reputation as a seedy and crime-ridden counterpoint to adjacent Singapore, an ultra-modern city-state with one of the lowest crime rates in the world.

The crime issue is particularly sensitive now that Malaysian authorities have earmarked the city and a huge surrounding area for a massive development zone called Iskandar.

The plan has already lured billions of dollars in property and other investment commitments, including the Legoland Malaysia resort and theme park which opened last year.

The park is the sixth worldwide opened by the Denmark-based makers of the popular children’s building-block toys.

Zacharevic has become known for his street art in Malaysia, and also has done works in Singapore, Japan and elsewhere.

It was not immediately clear when the mural was painted, Zacharevic could not be reached for comment.

But he posted on his Facebook page above a photo of the Lego mural showing the later-added policeman.

“Now that’s a true vandalism! Malaysia never fails to amuse me,” he wrote.

Malaysians have expressed increasing concern over a perceived rise in crime, an issue that exploded this year with an outbreak of gun violence that police have blamed on warring gangs.

However, the federal government, which set ambitious crime-reduction targets in recent years, has released figures showing a dramatic decrease in crime, drawing accusations that it was covering up the problem by tweaking with data.

Senior opposition politician Lim Kit Siang said Johor authorities should focus on crime, not murals.

“The authorities show a completely wrong sense of priorities,” he said in a statement.


Is it so ‘art’ to love murals?

(By Dorairaj Nadason, The Star’s Executive Editor.)

Dorairaj Nadason is The Star’s Executive Editor.What do Justin Bieber, the Middle East and Malaysia have in common? Well, they have all been caught in street art controversies, for one thing.

OH, dear! I had thought the cop had settled matters in Johor.

No, I am not talking about the guys who took down the killer security guard in an early morning raid in Kota Tinggi.

I am talking about the Lego-cop on a wall who I believed had finally brought to an end a debate that went international.

And about Lithuanian Ernest Zacharevic’s mural that showed a woman walking towards an armed snatch thief hiding around the corner.

I think it was clever. In fact, it reminded me of Sergio Aragones, that “marginal” artist who kept us all on edge with his brilliant work in Mad magazine.

But Malaysia’s legendary we-must-not-laugh-at-ourselves authorities were enraged.

The mural is insulting to Johor, they screamed.

So, some guys drew in a policeman, with handcuffs at the ready, next to the snatch thief.

And all was well.

Or so I thought, but it’s not.

Despite their effort to remodel the drawing and show our policemen in a good light, the overzealous Johor city fathers decided to paint over Zacharevic’s work and the new Lego cop as well.

Too bad for them, the situation has now become sticky.

People are making stickers of the woman with the Chanel bag and the snatch thief and sticking them at all sorts of corners in Johor.

Zacharevic must be laughing his head off.

The artist had tried to head off the controversy by remodelling his work, at least on Facebook.

He transformed the snatch thief into a flower-wielding besotted lover in one posting.

We in The Star were left wondering what else could be done.

So, we passed the buck to readers.

And they came up with Bruce Lee, Batman, Santa Claus, and even a broom in the girl’s hand to shoo the snatch thief way. It was all quite funny.

Which is why I really cannot understand all the fuss.

I mean, it’s a mural.

And snatch thefts happen. Not only in Johor but around the country.

Just check your Facebook account. If you don’t have at least a couple of shares about snatch thefts and robberies in Malaysia, I’d advise you to get some real friends on Facebook.

Johor should, in fact, consider it an honour to have Zacharevic come over and draw his murals there.

Look at his work in Penang. Thousands flock to see his art.

The still 20-something artist has been rated as one of the best street artists in the world.

I have to agree. I have seen his work in Penang.

The mural of children on a bicycle was named by England’s Guardian newspaper as one of the best in the world.

Then, there are the kids on a swing, two others on a motorcycle, the girl in blue balancing herself over two windows and the old lady and her grandchild at one of the Weld Quay jetties.

There’s also the relaxing trishaman hovering over the Penang Road car park which was once my favourite haunt.

They all strike awe in you.

Street art can indeed be beautiful.

In Penang, there are also the street metal sculptures by local artists.

The tok tok mee man (what a quaint name, that), the Goh Ka Kee (five-foot way) fellow and the nasi kandar chap – they are all amusing and enlightening.

Then, there is the guy climbing the tree only to find out it’s not the toddy palm that he wanted but a pinang (betel nut) tree.

It’s right next to the Market Lane toddy shop, another old haunt of ours – not the toddy shop, but Kassim’s stall opposite it where, as rookie reporters and sub-editors, many of us would have nasi lemak and teh tarik late in the night.

Just days ago, Penang even came up with its great wall of murals. That will be another tourist draw, for sure.

Even squeaky-clean Singapore has commissioned Zacharevic to do a few murals in the city-state.

Singapore, obviously, has learnt from Penang.

Street art is even becoming a way of making political statements, with many cities in the Middle East, from Syria to Egypt, all covered with graffiti by youth with statements to make.

Even celebrity VIPs are getting into it.

Justin Bieber was in Colombia recently.

And the cops there stopped traffic and cordoned off a lane to allow the young artiste to turn street artist.

That opened the doors for hundreds of other graffiti artists in Bogota.

It’s Bieber’s new-found hobby. The young lad has a lot to learn, though.

He drew what was obviously racist graffiti outside a Brazil hotel and may now face charges.

I don’t agree with racist and abusive graffiti.

But if someone wants to draw a mural about what is really going on in our midst, why not?

It’s quite silly, really, to have the truth whitewashed.

> The writer, who can be reached at [email protected] is off to Penang to take in the great wall of Penang, another of those dour places that has been brought to vibrant life, thanks to street art.

Source: thestar online