Saturday, November 21, 2009

Loving Art - it's MIE MAMBO !

10.30 am, 3 Nov - I was to meet Nur Azmi Mokhtar aka MIE MAMBO, at Taman Melati Station, on the Putra Line . So the train wend its way to reach the station. It's been 3 years since I last saw him though we've spoken and he had invited me to his wedding.

MIE MAMBO was there, waiting to take me to his home. He looked 'cool' with his tapir motif t- shirt and woollen skull cap. Oh, where has his punky look gone? I guess family life has made a few changes as he's now the doting dad of little Kasih, all of 2 months old.

'I'm not famous. Why me?' MIE MAMBO sort of protested over the phone. 'Hey ! you'll be. Besides who knows you better as an artist ? ', referring to me having sought his skills for one of the 2 books I wanted publishing to create awareness on disabilities among school children . That project which I embarked on took off pretty well, thanks to the capable MIE MAMBO.

Sitting in his living room, we settled down to an 'interview'.' So, how did you venture into writing and drawing graphic novels?'

Amazingly, he had an early start, aged 10. He loved caricatures and befriended Dino, of 'Dino Portrait Corner' fame in the Central Market.That young 'un used to earn as much as RM200 per day, sketching caricatures of clients. Each artwork was charged a mere RM5 per piece! What a hard working fella! So much so he bought his own school shirts, shoes and bag. That was a real lesson in thrift.

It was Rejabhad , the well-known cartoonist who took him under his wings as an apprentice in 1990 when he saw young MIE MAMBO's skill. 'You don't know where to go with your talent', said his mentor. Thus he honed his skills with Rejabhad and is grateful the latter gave ' me space'. Isn't that what creative outlets need ?

Young MIE MAMBO found himself interviewed on RTM at Angkasapuri in 1991. Dino and his friends didn't let him into that but he performed admirably and was the pride of his parents when they heard him on air. Few months later, he created waves again when Utusan Malaysia wanted to find out more about this young raw talent.

It was at UiTM ( University Institute Technologi Mara ) that MIE MAMBO learned more about art and after 4 years, he graduated with a Bachelor of Art and Design Degree. Time was valuable to him and he dabbled in journalism with DBP (Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka), turned illustrator for government agencies and worked with the graphic novel publication 'GILA -GILA'.

'Tell me, when did you look at graphic novel seriously as a career?' I probed. The year was 2003 and to this day, he works with different publications to promote his art . As luck would fall on him, a publisher got to know him at an exhibition and the good news is that a close collaboration is underway to publish 'Tapir Ke Kuala Lumpur. True to MIE MAMBO's style, there is a certain naivety about his engaging illustrations as I leafed through the 3 mock copies he so keenly showed me.

Why the tapir? That shy, herbiverous, quaint animal which has that distinct band of white in the middle part of its body? 'Coz the celebrity status of the orang utan, hornbill is overdone. We must let the world know about our Malayan tapir - it is so unique!'. He's right and does not the MNS( Malaysian Nature Soc) have the tapir as its beloved logo?

( photo credits : by special permission of MIE MMAMBO and Malaysian Publisher, Oyez!Books)

The good news is that there is interest from abroad when his books went to Bologna, Spain and Frankfurt,Germany. Publishers are talking about his books of which he is the script writer and illustrator for translation. Well done, MIE MAMBO!

Soon turning 30 years old, MIE MAMBO is a prolific artist and has illustrated 40 children's books and graphic novels. To his fellow artists and relatives, he might seem to be working by fits and starts. Only he knows himself how to tackle the workload. Quite often a furious pace steps in to meet deadline publications. From the sound of it, MIE MAMBO is coping marvellously and still finds time to keep time aside with his family.

'What sells in the graphic novel market' was my next pertinent question. After all, bills have to be paid and a family to raise. It's dicey as to what the publishers think can sell - super heroes? aliens? Maybe, maybe not. But he knows, something with local flavour and definitely one has to be productive in a Malaysian market that is small. It is not all rosy for some fellow artists who are trying to find their niche.

'Ideas are everywhere,' he enthused. ' I don't have to travel far for ideas - just absorb the surroundings .' As he said that, he pointed to his pair of flip flops parked at the doorway, ' Ideas are there too!'. Hmm... I have to have my feelers out like him.

It is not surprising to find music in an artist's life. For MIE MAMBO, he jams with 3 other close friends as Nouras ,of which he is the second guitarist. His genre is modern rock and roll and they are ready to cut an album in Dec too.

Well, his life seems to rock with steady sweet success though he'd be the first to say it needs hard work, discipline and faith in whatever he does.

I gushed with delight as he wanted to do a caricature of me. We adjourned to the playground to have my picture drawn. That's a 'cool' ending to a visit with a old friend who's multitalented and loving his art. Ciao! MIE MAMBO. Good luck!


  1. what a great post and nice blog thanks so much for stopping by mine have a lovely weekend Rebecca

  2. MIE MAMBO is a very fantastic artist :-)
    I love his drawing ....
    Great post today :)
    (as always .... ;)

    Have a wonderful relaxing weekend !!!

  3. Hi
    Chow and Chatter, thanks so much for visiting my blog. Do visit again.

    wenn, mie mambo is a clever artist:)

    Anya, thanks so much for your encouragement. I'll let mie mambo know he has a fan from the netherlands too., just in case he misses your comment. have a good weekend yourself too!

  4. What a great interview, and what an impressive young artist!

  5. What a great post! It is always brilliant to highlight the work of other artists, particularly when they do such a fab caricature of you at the end :)
    To be able to do what you love as well as enjoy life with family is the best of all worlds don't you think?

  6. Hi

    Shaista, mie mambo is really special to me too as he illustrated one of the 2 books I published.You'll see it sometime :)

    Indrani, thank you!

  7. Hey, this is a great post! Didn't know the artist but love his style.

  8. I love to hear about your culture and the talented people that cross your lives. You write a great story.

  9. Hi
    Laura in Paris, yeah, that's mie mambo, one of our talented Malaysian artists!

    Lucy, thanks so much for your compliments! appreciate your feedback.

  10. I gave you ten stars for originality and content, Keats! What fun! OMG I want a tapir shirt like his, ha ha! Can we get him to design one for MNS, pro bono, please? His artwork seem so familiar! I may have read his comic strips/books before. His tapir is awesome! Look at the facial expressions! Ha ha! By the way, I've always thought that a tapir is herbivorous!

  11. Hi
    ~Covert_Operations'78~, thanks so much for all the 10 stars! I'll let mie mambo know about the t -shirt:)) A thousand apologies, I WAS thinking of eating some meat MYSELf, hence the omniverous. Of course, the tapir is herbivorous!Thanks for pointing it out. Shall make the correction.


Great to have you popping in!