24th July, 2012
LANGKAWI: Anyone dropping in at the Amanda Cafe in Pekan Rabu in Kuah can get to sample the numerous types of coffee on offer by Amandawati Zulkifli. Walk on to the table outside and you will find visitors appreciating her talent for painting as well.
Amandawati, 42, is the joint owner of the cafe where patrons are known not only to enjoy their coffee, but also her hospitality and unique works of art.
She has many paintings to show, but there is one type of painting that catches the eye like none other. These paintings are made from coffee beans.
This genial lady who hails from Kuala Lumpur has combined her passion for paintings and her knowledge of coffee beans in an unlikely marriage. She had once worked as a manager of an international coffee retail franchise Starbucks at the Kuah jetty.
She opted to work in Langkawi with her brother Fakhreez, 30, to get away from the hectic lifestyle in Kuala Lumpur, believing that life in Langkawi was peaceful.
However, both siblings worked only for a brief period between 2007 and 2009, and have since then been independently putting to use what they have learned during their stint at the coffee franchise.
Just one week after the cafe was opened on 9 Sept 2009, a coffee spill prompted her to combine her dual passions for painting and coffee.
“There was a customer who spilled over his coffee. I used a tissue paper to wipe the table clean and I noted that the coffee stain on the paper appeared as a goldfish. Since then I have been creating artwork using coffee,” told Amandawati to Bernama when we met her at the cafe.
Amandawati was at that time unaware about ‘coffee painting’ as an art form, which continues to be alien to most Malaysians.
“When I watched the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not show, only then did I know that coffee painting has been in existence since 1920. Once introduced by K.L. Chiew from Toronto, Canada, it is claimed that I’m the first Malaysian to venture into coffee painting here,” she said.
Initially, Amandawati started painting using ground-imported coffee nuts and locally available instant coffee powder.
“I noticed that in the following three months, mildew had started to grow on the parts where the coffee powder was used on the first paintings. The drawings using ground coffee beans remain in good condition even until now. So, now I only grind coffee beans,” she revealed.
She has been creating numerous drawings using ground coffee nuts along conventional drawings on the table outside the café ever since then.
“When there are not many customers, I can completely paint these coffee drawings within five days. The process starts with procuring the material and using the espresso grinder, until finally the beans are dried,” she explained.
“When completed, the drawing appears shiny depending on the thickness of the tones even as the coffee aroma permeates the air. It should never be dried under the sun since coffee beans melt,” she added.
Though there were people keen on buying coffee paintings, Amandawati preferred to showcase her works instead.
Amandawati pointed out that even though people showed interest in her works, promoting coffee painting in Malaysia was certainly an uphill task.
“While there may be a small demand, it is still difficult to change the local mindset which believes that paintings ought to come only in colors. That is why even those who buy these coffee paintings are mostly foreigners,” she said.
“A painting may costs up to RM1, 800 and can even reach as high as RM6, 000 depending on its size and the quality of material used. Sometimes, I get orders of up to 10 pieces a month,” she stated.
Foreign tourists were keen connoisseurs of the coffee paintings since they viewed them as a classic work of art, especially when done only in one colour.
Her work highlights traditional motifs like the wau (kite), gadis mak yong (mak yong dancer), congkak (game board), kerongsang (brooch) and the ones relating to culture and the beauty of Malaysia.
Initially, Amandawati’s coffee painting did not attract any attention but all that changed when she joined the 1Malaysia Contemporary Arts Tourism (1MCAT) exhibition held in conjunction with the 2011 Langkawi International Maritime and Air show (LIMA).
“I only showcased one painting which was purchased by Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen. Following that my works started gaining attention. It never crossed my mind that my artworks using coffee beans would become a profitable undertaking”, she remarked.
“In fact, Lava (Langkawi Artist Visual Art Association) has been helping me promote my works. They are the ones who took me to the LIMA exhibition”, she said.
Amandawati revealed that her artworks were being showcased at Galeri Perdana Langkawi, which also houses the private collection of former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, at Tanjung Rhu Langkawi Hotel and at the The Brush Art Studio Langkawi.
“I have also been requested to send a sample of my works to the National Art Gallery by August”, she said.