Mask Art project raises over BND10K for COVID-19 Relief Fund

James Kon

Rainforest Gallery owner Dato Haji Shofry bin Haji Abdul Ghafor handed over BND10,180 in donations to Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar, to be donated to Brunei’s COVID-19 Relief Fund. The money was raised through Rainforest Gallery’s Mask Art Project.

Dato Haji Shofry said the project stemmed from an international exhibition organised by the UNESCO Beirut & MEADOWS Artists against COVID-19 project, where artists from around the world exhibited their artwork on a mask to honour the frontliners.

UNESCO Beirut extended an invitation to Dato Haji Shofry and Adi Zain from Brunei Darussalam to participate in the exhibition.

Dato Haji Shofry submitted a painting titled ‘Thinking of You,’ depicting a frontline medical official in a personal protective equipment (PPE) suit.

Dato Haji Shofry said, “When COVID-19 hit Brunei, many of our medical frontliners endured long hours of hardwork, away from their families, from loved ones. We had no way of knowing how Brunei would fare. We prayed of course, but we just never knew. It was heart-wrenching to me to imagine being in the shoes of those frontliners.”

Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar receives the donation from Rainforest Gallery owner Dato Haji Shofry bin Haji Abdul Ghafor. PHOTO: BAHYIAH BAKIR

Carrying that feeling of uncertainty, Dato Haji Shofry took to his paint brushes.

“I wanted to make some kind of tribute to our frontliners, and so as an artist, I went to my canvas and painted what I felt. The painting depicted that sense of loneliness – a frontliner in PPE looking out of a window in a hospital ward, mind filled with uncertainty, heart filled with a heavy longing for a better situation,” he said.

Dato Haji Shofry felt the need to go beyond merely producing an artwork. He wanted his artwork to have a more tangible impact by raising money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund. On June 16, 2020, Dato Haji Shofry and family put the mask art up on their social media, and within three days, all 100 mask art were sold. Each mask art was numbered (one to 100), and signed by Dato Haji Shofry, making each piece a unique collectible.

“Alhamdullilah, I am beyond thankful and happy that friends, family and even those we don’t know have come together to support this cause. The target was clear from the beginning – raise BND10,000 for the COVID-19 Relief Fund. We met that target,” he said.

“The Mask Art is a piece of memory and in the years to come, we can reflect back to a time where the whole world came to an abrupt halt. A mask has in many ways symbolised this moment in time for us,” he said.