Oon Zheng Yeow grew up in Kampung Selamat, Penang, and every Chinese New Year, the 20-year-old would help his family make ‘kuih kapit’ – also known as love letters.
Making ‘kuih kapit’ is painstaking work that requires patience, but the reward is crispy deliciousness that brings joy to the visitors who throng Oon’s family home.
Fast forward to today, Oon is now a Fine Arts student at Equator College. He still vividly remembers sitting on a stool across the charcoal fire, delicately flipping the iron moulds on the makeshift barbeque pit as his grandmother and mother prepare a mixture of coconut milk, castor sugar, rice flour, corn flour, and eggs.
Those memories inspired him to capture the essence of the beloved culinary tradition on canvas. It won him the top prize in the watercolour category at the recent Usaha Tegas Heritage (UTH) Art Competition.
The art competition has been going on since 2001, and this year’s theme was ‘Intangible Malaysian Cultural Heritage’, which is in line with Malaysia’s entry into the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, under Unesco for the 2022-2026 term.
There were five categories – oil/acrylic, watercolour, mixed media, charcoal/pencil/ink and printmaking.
“I love making and eating ‘kuih kapit’,” joked Oon after receiving his prize at a leading hotel in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.
“I decided to depict the making of ‘kuih kapit’ as it has been a part of my life. I grew up being surrounded by relatives who would come to our home to make it.”
Oon’s painting, however, was not of ‘kuih kapit’, but rather the process of making the snack.
“The reason for doing so is because not many people know how to make it. In the modern world, many simply order ‘kuih kapit’ – from shops, or online,” said Oon.
“I wanted to show people the effort that goes into making something that seems easy, but requires a lot of patience and hard work.”
The winner of each category received RM8,000. The runner-up pocketed RM3,000, and third place won RM2,000. There were two consolation prizes for each category, of RM500 each.
The winners also received certificates and RM500 worth of TGV Cinemas vouchers.
There were 25 winners – five in each category – from a record 345 entries from all over the country, including Sabah and Sarawak.
The judges were Usaha Tegas Heritage Art competition chairman Henry Tan, chief judge Bibi Chew, Suridah Jalaludin, Param Nathan, and Syahrul Niza Ahmad Zaini.
“Art has the power to connect, bridge, and inspire Malaysians to have a greater appreciation of our rich cultural heritage and diversity. We hope these artworks continue to promote our unique heritage for future generations,” said Tan.
“We are encouraged by the participation of young students passionate about art. We are immensely pleased to observe the enduring appeal of traditional visual arts among today’s digital generation.
“We are committed to fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation of art through our annual competition, and confident that our commitment will continue to nurture this positive trend,” he added.
List of winners
Charcoal/Ink/Pencil Category: Jasper Junior (Universiti Malaysia Sabah) – Laga Biji Getah
Watercolour: Oon Zheng Yeow (Equator College) – Kuih Kapit
Oil/Acrylic: Wong Jia Jin (Dasein Academy Of Art) – Reminiscence
Mixed media: Goo See Min (Dasein Academy Of Art) – Fresh Outlook
Printmaking: Ong Wen Xin (Dasein Academy Of Art) – Pasar