30 Chinese artists onboard

Updated: 2014-03-08 22:41

By Lin Qi in Beijing and Chow How Ban in Petaling Jaya (chinadaily.com.cn)

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A 30-person group of Chinese artists and their families and staff were the largest group of passengers on the Malaysian Airlines MH370 flight.

They attended an art exhibition themed "Chinese Dream: Red and Green Painting" which was held in Kuala Lumpur from March 4 until 6.

Daniel Liau, who is the director of Art Peninsula Enterprise in Malaysia which organised the exhibition, said he had last contacted the delegation head Hou Bo when they boarded the plane on Friday midnight.

"He (Hou Bo) told me on the phone that everything was fine with them. I regret this thing happened to them.

"Most of them are old people and very professional. Despite their age, they stayed at the exhibition venue from 10am until 10pm and yet they didn't complain of tiredness," Liau said when contacted yesterday.

Liau said he had never met the artists before but they had fostered friendship during the brief stay in Malaysia.

"We had really good communication. I am very saddened by the incident, more so I have a very good friend (Hou Bo) in the group.

"All of these artists are very famous in China. Some of them are national-class artists while others are provincial-level artists," he said.

Ma Yong'an, chairman of the Beijing-based China Calligraphy Artists Association, which was an organizer of the event, said 13 of the artists are from his association, including Meng Gaosheng the association's vice chairman. "His works are widely exhibited. He has carved out a name in the field because of his diligence and gift. He has always been a mentor and old buddy of me," said Ma.

Liu Hongwei, 37, said he was a friend of Meng who invited him to join the visit to Kuala Lumpur, but Liu declined because he was too occupied with the work.

"I really wanted to go. If Meng had insisted more, I would have gone with him," he said.

Also on board was Memetjon Abula, also known as Mai Mai Ti Jiang A Bu La, as printed on the award certificate presented to him by the Malaysia Chinese Assembly Hall. The Uygur painter, born in 1979 in Kashgar, the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, taught at Kashgar Normal University.

His friend, Kurbanjan Samat, a cameraman with the China Central Television, posted on his verified micro blog that Memetjon Abula was with the group and on board the MH370 flight. He also posted photos of Memetjon Abula with the award certificate he received in Kuala Lumpur.

Kurbanjan Samat told China Daily that Memetjon Abula has been taking refresher courses at the Chinese Academy of Oil Painting for two years, while his wife stays in Kashgar to take care of their nine-year-old daughter who attends the primary school.

He received a call from Memetjon Abula on March 1 to know about his visit to Kuala Lumpur. He was too busy with work to meet Memetjon Abula who he hadn't seen for a year and that was their last contact.

"We've befriended with each other for eight years. He is not a talkative person, but he can go on and on with the topics of fine art and especially, the oil painting which he falls for deeply and is so much devoted to," Kurbanjan Samat said.

"He always looks for opportunities to learn new things about oil painting. Most of the paintings on my micro-blog were created during his studies in Beijing, which show his broadened vision of art."

The Star in Malaysia and Asia News Network contributed to the story.