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Cultural Medallion batik artist Sarkasi Said dies aged 81

Cultural Medallion batik artist Sarkasi Said dies aged 81

Batik artist and Cultural Medallion recipient Sarkasi Said. (Photo: Facebook/National Arts Council Singapore)

SINGAPORE: Renowned local batik artist Sarkasi Said died on Thursday (Oct 14) at the age of 81, inspiring tributes from Singapore's leaders and the arts community.

He had been diagnosed with kidney failure, BERITAmediacorp reported on Monday.

Mr Sarkasi was the 2020 recipient of the Cultural Medallion – Singapore's highest honour for the arts – for championing batik as an art form and its role in Malay culture.

He was known for his unconventional wax-resisting technique, bold use of colours and depictions of nature in his work, the National Arts Council (NAC) said of his award then.

On Friday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong paid tribute to Mr Sarkasi, saying he was deeply saddened by the death of the pioneer of batik artworks.

"Pak Sarkasi never forgot his roots, and made every effort to groom the next generation of artists. He was committed to developing our local arts and culture scene," Mr Lee said in a Facebook post.

The Prime Minister added that Mr Sarkasi had personally designed several batik shirts he wore for national events.

"Pak Sarkasi will be deeply missed by generations of artists and the many Singaporeans that he has inspired. My thoughts are with his family in this time of loss and grief," said Mr Lee.

President Halimah Yacob also gave her condolences to the family of Mr Sarkasi, whom she said was known as the "Baron of Batik".

"He will be remembered for his passion and determination in pursuing his craft. He leaves his legacy on the walls of the Istana," said Mdm Halimah in a Facebook post.

Also known as Tzee, Mr Sarkasi dropped out of secondary school at the age of 16 to pursue his interest in art. He would go on to travel around Indonesia learning from batik masters, according to the NAC.

His batik paintings have been exhibited around the world, and in Singapore, Mr Sarkasi's work graced the halls of the Istana, government and embassy buildings as well as hospitals.

Sarkasi Said's 2017 work Istana Garden. (Photo: Facebook/Halimah Yacob)

His 2017 work, Istana Garden, comprising a triptych of three abstract batik paintings inspired by the gardens of the national monument, is among the artworks on display in the Istana.

In 2003, Mr Sarkasi also created a 103.9m-long batik painting that set a Guinness World Record.

Aside from his work as an artist, Mr Sarkasi served the community as a board member on the Malay Heritage Centre Committee, the NAC's Arts Advisory Panel, Singapore's Modern Art Society and the NAC Council.

According to the NAC, he also donated many of his paintings to charitable organisations and taught art as a volunteer in Changi Prison, Sembawang Drug Rehabilitation Centre and Jamiyah's Children Home

"We will always be grateful for Mr Sarkasi's contributions to the arts and his generosity in imparting knowledge to the younger generation and underserved communities. We will miss him dearly," said the NAC in a Facebook post.

Source: CNA/dv(ac)

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