Mataga Lait, an artist based in Long Pasia wants people to see how precious his district is before it is all gone. He often paints nature, the animals and birds, the trees, branches and their roots, with the hope that the love he feels for his abode, his home, will also be felt by others. Here is a story about how he arrived at this page, and hopefully, set the momentum for change in all of us to care for the environment around us:
Mataga Lait was but a stranger that I probably passed by at the Sabah Art Gallery each time they have an event. With never as much as a ‘hello’, I would never have gained his acquaintance if not for my daughter, Maya. Yes, it is Maya again — the one who is always intrigued about arts and music, and listens and hums to Queens, evangelical songs, Beethoven and Chopin.
I remember her telling me “Mami, I met this artist. He is from Long Pasia. He is selling his painting.” I thought, “cool”, and that was that. I really ought to listen harder because I am missing so much information from her.
Recently, I posted my nephew’s drawing of Maya — it was a rough job but I love the ‘fun and intimate elements’ of it — on my social media account. As a family, we all knew how much Maya loved her ‘green tea’, so it was his way of making fun of her. With him so far away, it was nice to be reminded how much joy it is to be a family. Anyway, there was a name I never heard of who commented “Amazing” to the drawing on my social media account, and Maya explained that this was the artist she mentioned months before. Intrigued that he could become my next interview subject, I commented “I know”, and he replied back “macam pernah jumpa” (it is like we have met before). Sounds so much like a line from a novel, I know, but that was how it was.
So, story cut short, we chatted and I asked him several questions (as I do normally), and lo, it becomes a story here.
Mataga: I began to actively draw since 2002 and has not stopped since. I have been interested in it since I was young. I always excelled in the Art subject while at school and in the use of water colour, and I continued drawing even after finishing high school.
What transpired after that?
Why do you like your art in black and white?
I like black and white. I find black and white paintings therapeutic to relieve stress for working people. There are people who prefer black and white artworks.
How do you come up with the inspiration for your work?
Usually, I draw why I see in front of me. I enjoy drawing nature, including animals and birds, the trees, large rocks and so much more. I find inspiration in all that is around me.
What about the message embedded in each of your work?
The main message I want to relay is how priceless and precious the nature in Long Pasia is because one day, it will all perish, probably. However, each painting has its own message. Perhaps there are pros and cons in the painting, but in truth, only the painter knows its true meaning.
Is there a future for artists in Sabah?
For me, this all depends on how the artists think to further appreciate the value of art and characters and to nurture every space available. Artists, like everyone else, wants a bright and glorious future. In my opinion, it is difficult to assess each artists because sometimes, they can produce works that are worth thousands and even millions of ringgit. But the more famous and successful artists are the ones who work hard and never give up. They show their maturity as artists with each work.