RELIVE the poignant stories that have touched the hearts of many Malaysians at Galeri PETRONAS’s latest exhibition, #tanahairku: Two Decades of Bringing Malaysians Together.
#tanahairku features 21 iconic and memorable award-winning PETRONAS festive commercials over the past twenty years.
A collection of works since 1996, this potpourri of commercials has captured the hearts of Malaysians by portraying slices of life with heart-warming narratives reflective of our shared histories, memories, and values as a multiracial nation.
Project Manager Fitri Mydin explained that up until today, PETRONAS is still the only organisation that produces commercials for all cultural festivals in Malaysia — they do one each for Hari Raya, Chinese New Year, Hari Gawai, Hari Keaamatan, Hari Merdeka, and Deepavali.
Fitri further elaborated that these commercials seek to find universal values in each celebration.
Inspired by Tanahairku. a poem by late national laureate Dato’ Dr Usman Awang, this inaugural exhibition aims to present Malaysia as a unique melting pot of cultures and traditions while engaging with Malaysians in their love and quest for unity.
“We always look at Malaysia as a multifaceted society. To us, it has become a norm, however if you look at other countries across the world, our community and values are rarely found elsewhere. The foreigners actually appreciate our diversity,” said the Director of Galeri PETRONAS Rosli Abdul Rahim.
“Unfortunately, within our society, trapped in our own bubble, we tend to fragmentise rather than unify. We must recognise the strength in our diversity. It is what makes us unique. Through PETRONAS commercials, they acknowledge the diversity as our strength. Let’s value it. Let’s celebrate it,” urged Rosli.
The exhibition offers as an immersive and interactive experience where visitors can view the behind-the-scenes, props and scenarios used as well as watch each of the commercials at their respective exhibits.
#tanahairku takes visitors on a nostalgic journey through six themes.
Exhibit 1: Proud To Be Malaysian
The first exhibit lets you discover quintessential Malaysia — a glimpse of Malaysian life, its people, and its lasting values.
One Little Indian Boy (1996) is the first National Day TV commercial which presented storytelling instead of the usual public service announcement. It captured our proudest moment in celebrating the birth of our nation by focusing on a childhood memory shared between a son and his father during the Declaration of Independence.
Local Hero (1998) meanwhile was produced at a time when the world economy was in its darkest period. According to Rosli, the commercial addressed the economic downturn in Malaysia, and was a call by the government for the nation to come together and support each other.
During the curatorial tour for the media, we were joined by Alekxander Ahmad Saladin and Cyrus Justin Pountney, both actors from 2014’s, A Walk Through Time. We found them sitting together with wide smiles, watching the web film which tracks the progress of our nation as seen through the eyes of two young boys.
Exhibit 2: Our Diversity Makes Us Beautiful
The commercials in the next section serve as a reminder that we will always have faith in our similarities despite our different beliefs.
Duelling Masseurs (1996) is the first-ever Deepavali TV commercial produced, reminding us of the intrinsic values we inherit in our culture and tradition that helped establish our unique identity.
Exhibit 3: What’s Life Without Love?
Love transcends boundaries. Love does not judge. Love is what brings people together.
What’s Life Without Love displays the unwavering love between family and the unconditional love within our multiracial society.
Here, we were joined by the cast of 7 Sons & A Cow (2003). The Hari Raya commercial revolves around the story of a widow, her seven sons and their journey to procure a cow for Hari Raya.
This is Rosli’s personal favourite, as the story reminds him of how blood is thicker than water.
Exhibit 4: A Lifetime Of Friendships
Who could forget Tan Hong Ming, the cheeky schoolboy who professed his admiration for his classmate, Umi Qazrina to the late Yasmin Ahmad?
Yasmin made a series of commercials titled Tan Hong Ming, Karate, Race and Kawan Baik back in 2007 — perhaps the most memorable of all PETRONAS commercials as we celebrated our 50th year of independence.
The common theme in all of these videos is innocence, and how children arecolour blind when it comes to friendship.
Exhibit 5: Kerna Kita Satu Sama Dipunyai
This part of the exhibition displays a series of murals created by local artists in the city’s heritage quarter of Johor Bahru, Sabah and Sarawak, under the street art project of this year’s National and Malaysia Day celebrations.
Exhibition 6: Negaraku Powered By The People
PETRONAS commercials began producing Malaysian stories as told by the people.
We often think of Malaysia of consisting of three main races, and we love that PETRONAS does not marginalise those on the other side of the sea.
Keaamatan & Gawai (2015) is part of a special web edition series told through insightful narratives that showcase our indigenous people and their unique identities. During their respective festivities, these web films explored the devotion of the people of Sabah and Sarawak to their cultural heritage despite the nation’s shift in progress.
Make sure to catch this special showcase dedicated to our homeland. #tanahairku exhibition is open for public viewing from 11 December 2015 to 7 February 2016 from Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 8pm at Galeri PETRONAS, KLCC. Admission is free.