Professor John Sabraw speaking at the 10th Distinguished Tun Abdul Razak Lecture in Kuala Lumpur recently.

MOST artists would never think of using polluted streams as an inspiration, but Ohio University art professor John Sabraw did just that. His work has broken new grounds in fine arts by creating paint and paintings from toxic chemicals extracted from streams polluted by coal mine run-offs in the state of Ohio, the United States.

Sabraw recently delivered a keynote address entitled “Synergy of Curiosity: acid to art” at the 10th Distinguished Tun abdul Razak lecture organised by the Education Ministry (MOE), Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM), Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) and Yayasan Sime Darby (YSD).

YSD acting chairman Tan Sri Dr Wan Mohd zahid Mohd noordin said Sabraw’s lecture had exposed Malaysians to a novel approach in highlighting the importance of environmental sustainability for community health, which was a crucial aim in four of the foundation’s five pillars.

“By using art to highlight ways in which our interconnected way of life is dependent on the environment and vice versa, Sabraw is highlighting the delicate balance that ought to be struck between our consumption, growth and development with environmental needs.

“We hope this lecture will not only open our eyes to the ways in which sustainability can be achieved, even through the unconventional medium of the arts, but to also highlight that through science and innovation, there are many ways to undo much ofthe damage that has been done, and continue to be inflicted on our environment,” he said.

Present at the event was Tun abdul Razak Chair founder Tun Musa Hitam.

Sabraw also conducted a workshop with 40 young artists from UiTM, UPM and YSD to impart knowledge on his method of using paint pigments derived from toxic waste.

His artworks were exhibited and sold during his lecture at the Sime Darby Convention Centre in Kuala lumpur.

Proceeds from the sale, totalling RM12,950, were donated to the national autism Society of Malaysia as part of the organisers’ corporate social responsibility programme.

Established in 1979 and named after the country’s second prime minister, the Tun abdul Razak Chair at Ohio University aims to raise awareness about Malaysian history, culture and life in the US, as well as provide a platform for the exchange of knowledge on global issues.

The Chair is also the first such position to be established in an american university, which is unique in addition to Ohio University’s Centre for international Studies — Southeast asian Studies.

MOE Higher Education Department director general Datin Paduka Dr Siti Hamisah Tapsir said among all the chairs that the government established in foreign universities, the Tun abdul Razak Chair was the most successful.

“In existence for almost 40 years, it has been held by 15 Malaysian scholars serving as intellectual ambassadors to advance Malaysia-US understanding in higher education and related fields,” she said.

“The ministry seeks to strengthen the Malaysia-Ohio linkage through sustainable programmes and activities that enhance our presence in the global arena.”