IN TTDI, Kuala Lumpur, in an upstairs gallery so new that it is not located on Google Maps, visitors will find the biggest showcase of appreciation for our Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, in toy form.
A brainchild of toy designer Michael Chuah and local toy designer brand Hebatoys, Tun M is a vinyl figure designed in the image of our very own prime minister.
Since March this year, three versions of the figure were made by Chuah.
The first was a coloured, slightly orange-skinned figure wearing sandals; the second was a blank white figure with sandals; and the third was another coloured figure, with a more natural skin tone, wearing shoes instead of sandals.
All three were produced in limited quantities.
Chuah then invited 40 artists to customise their very own Tun M figure, to be put on display at the Tun M Custom Show. The talents ranged from students to professionals and from fashion designers to street artists.
Best of all, the figures exhibited are also available for sale.
One of these artists is Arifin Amin, also known as Double A.
His toy figure depicts a sun-kissed Tun M with three small dragons. Around its waist is a pouch with what looks like a fish’s tail sticking out of it.
Arifin’s Tun M custom figure is only the second he has ever produced.
His first, Naga Guy, is based on the Anatoy figure, and was displayed during the Designer Toy World Cup 2019 in the US in May.
“My first custom was a character in a dragon suit,” says Arifin. “It incorporates animal themes and costumes.
“So when I started on Tun M, I questioned my designs. Is it appropriate to put these elements on such an illustrious figure?
“When I designed it, it only had two dragons, but I felt it was imbalanced, so I added a third.
“For the colours, I used water-based acrylic paints. For the flushed skin tone, I diluted the paint to create a wash.”
It was a challenging process as it took him three weeks to complete the figure.
For Aizat Amir, ‘M’ stands for ‘Metal’, and he expressed that idea with a Tun M figure wearing a black jacket, KISS-like face paint, and the logo for local thrash metal band Cromok on its back.
Aizat is a graduate from the Academy of Arts, Culture and National Heritage (Aswara). He held his first solo exhibition, Reach for the Gold – Malaysian Series, last year.
“I have created an art piece as a tribute to Mahathir before, a pair of portraits of Mahathir and [wife] Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali that I called Iron Man and Iron Lady.
“Iron and metal symbolise something strong. Mahathir is a strong character, and I wanted to express that. Make it iconic.
“Why give him KISS face paint? Because to me, KISS, as a metal band, has a terrifying exterior but their songs, by metal standards, are soft.
“This is like Mahathir, who can be strong and tender at the same time. The face paint is also recognisable, much like the man himself.”
Aizat only received his Tun M figure approximately a month from the Tun M Custom Show deadline, and was one of the last to get the figure.
Chuah said: “We started sending out the figures to the artists roughly two months before the exhibition.
“The first month was nerve-wracking. My phone didn’t ring, and I had no updates from the artists.
“In the second month, I spent a lot of time travelling and personally picking up the completed custom figures whenever I could”.
This is the second Tun M custom exhibition for Chuah and Hebatoys. The first took place at the Toys, Anime, Games, Comic Con (TAGCC) in June this year.
The Tun M Custom show is on until Oct 20 at Titik Merah Collective on the upper floor of the shops right next to the TTDI MRT station. It opens daily from noon to 6pm, except Mondays.