Educational Site for Families & Children: Pillars of Sabah

Educational Site for Families & Children: Discover the 30 endangered wildlife at the Pillars of Sabah


When making your way to downtown Kota Kinabalu, it’s nearly impossible to miss the vibrant, prismatic and inspiring columns of “Pillars of Sabah.” Located just across Suria Sabah, right next to Standard Chartered Bank, Pillars of Sabah is a beloved community art project co-organized by Sabah’s very own Red Hong Yi, a renowned artist and architectural designer and Jared Abdul Rahman, a local filmmaker.

In an interview with North Borneo TV, Red Hong Yi stated “We came up with this project because we wanted to celebrate Malaysia, especially the new Malaysia.” She mentions alongside in The Star, “When the results came out, we wanted to do something great and meaningful to celebrate.” Over thirty artists were called to this abandoned site with thirty pillars. Each artist was assigned to one pillar and having to paint a portrait of a person that’s influenced or contributed to Sabah in a significant way and the artist’s self-portrait at the back pillar. The selection process was inclusive in varying aspects such as diversity in ethnicities, ages, skills and art styles.

“We did this so it would encourage the art community in Malaysia and Sabah. Jared and I wanted the pillars to be an open portfolio for artists, so they can be contacted for work and supported by the community.” Red Hong Yi mentioned in an online statement. On Malaysia Day, the 16th of September 2018, Pillars of Sabah was launched and was well-received with over 200 attended guests from the local community.

Image Credit to Pillars Artist Joanne Chin of Ideology Design Studio


For it’s next thematic project, Pillars of Sabah returned in conjunction with WWF Malaysia’s annual Earth Hour event on 30th of March 2019. The aim was to raise awareness on the various issues that threaten Sabah’s wildlife and biodiversity conservation as a whole, both locally and globally. The pillars were reprised with beautiful illustrations focusing on 30 endangered wildlife indigenous to Sabah by 30 local artists through the style of their personal creative vision. The process for the current cycle of Pillars of Sabah took 10 days beginning on the 20th of March 2019 featuring wildlife endemic to Sabah such as Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica), Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis). Bornean sun bear (Helarctos malayanus euryspilus) amongst other endangered wildlife.

The environmental concept came about following the success of the initial Pillars of Sabah launch, where Jared Abdul Rahman and Red Hong Yi began discussion on the second edition of Pillars of Sabah. “We started collaborating and having meetings with WWF-Malaysia. Knowing that Earth Hour was coming up in March, it steered the direction of our new and improved second theme. Just like how the first ‘Pillars of Sabah’ brought the community together, this second project brings people together. This time, it celebrates the environment as well as our state’s rich and unique biodiversity” stated Jared Abdul Rahman in The Star.


Image Credit: Pillars of Sabah on Facebook


Indeed, Pillars of Sabah’s contribution to the local community has not only been the beautification of an abandoned area, but creating awareness by highlighting social and environmental issues through the medium of art. Red Hong Yi adds in The Borneo Post, “What I love about Pillars of Sabah is how artists have come together to transform a neglected site into a safer and more welcoming public space through art. I love seeing how the artists express themselves on a slender pillar and I am blown away by the limitless talent and creativity the artists in my home state have shown. I hope everyone will visit the pillars when they’re in Kota Kinabalu, and be inspired by the project.”

As Pillars of Sabah is a free art gallery and safe open space that has become a popular point of attraction not only to locals but to tourists as well, why not use this as a unique outdoor learning opportunity to educate children on issues relating to the environment, conservation and wildlife?


Image by Parents Avenue


Image by Parents Avenue


Children have an innate sense of curiosity about the world around them. They’ll study rocks, identify different kinds of leaves, and spend hours outdoors exploring the natural world limitlessly and as parents, while cultivating their sense of wonder for nature is important, it’s crucial to relate their interests to why protecting, conserving and caring for the environment is essential to their future and the future of our planet.


Young Explorers Academy’s school trip visiting the Pillars of Sabah. (Image Credit: Young Explorers Academy)


Pillars of Sabah can be utilized as an educational space in an interactive way where children will be able to learn by identifying different endangered animals through graphical works and understand how and why these animals are in captivity as well. Parents can go further as to help their children connect their endangered status of the animals and how we can do simple everyday tasks to help lessen the implications of human impact on the environment. For example, we could explain to them why we shouldn’t waste paper, because monkeys, birds and other animals live in trees, and without trees, they wouldn’t have a home, or, to always throw trash in a trash bin because if we are mindless about where we throw our trash, marine animals like seabirds and whales will be harmed from ingesting what’s left of our it.

Instilling environmental awareness into our young ones should be an obligation considering the critical current condition of our planet. It’s pivotal for children to have a clear understanding of the finite resources we have and if we don’t practice a more conscious mode of living, our environment will be affected negatively and so will the rich biodiversity which depend on the environment as well. With proper grasping of these issues, children will have a more comprehensive understanding of the world and will develop a sense of responsibility in regards to his surroundings and will also be shaped by strong moral principles from a young age.


Names of the artists who contributed toward Pillars of Sabah 2.0 (Image Credit: Pillars of Sabah on Facebook)


Community based projects like Pillars of Sabah has the capacity to reach and transform local communities by highlighting social, political or environmental issues through a safe space that invites public participation and support through all levels or ages, races, customs or religious beliefs. It’s isn’t merely a vessel focused on a variety of issues that affect our local community but an invitation for change as well. Furthermore, it can be employed to teach children in a multi-disciplinary aspect about environmental changes through art.

Being in the middle of a creative site will stimulate children to learn not only learn about these issues, but to discover different styles of art, to dabble in their inventiveness, to inspire them to create along while simultaneously establishing a closer bond between children and parents. Through the spirit of inclusivity and involvement of Pillars of Sabah and supportive encouragement from parents, children will be motivated to learn and take charge of these issues. For in a world that is environmentally shifting, it’s our children who are the one’s who will determine the shape and outcome of our future. So, let’s give them the gift of a promising future by acting today.

To learn more about Pillars of Sabah, you may find them on Instagram at @pillarsofsabah and Facebook at or visit them at their physical location Lorong Bank 3, Pusat Bandar Kota Kinabalu.


Written by Eve Bandusena, Editorial Assistant.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *