SINGAPORE - Abdul Ghani Abdul Hamid, who died at home on Sunday on his 81st birthday, was a prolific poet, painter, dramatist and cartoonist who not only inspired his peers but also groomed new generations of arts talent.
Widely referred to as a "Renaissance man" for his body of art and literary work, the father of four is perhaps best known for the non-profit arts group he co-founded in 1962 and led till 1984, Angkatan Pelukis Aneka Daya (Apad) or Association of Artists of Various Resources.
He was also a prolific writer of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, winning two major honours in 1998, the South-east Asia Write Award and top Malay literary prize Anugerah Tun Seri Lanang. A year later, he was awarded the Cultural Medallion.
He leaves a legacy of hundreds of poems, dozens of paintings, drama scripts with theatre group Perkumpulan Seni and two definitive non-fiction books on art and architecture in Singapore.
He is survived by his wife, two sons and two daughters. He had been in ill health for a while, according to his son, Kamal.
A stroke in 2008 reduced his ability to write and he died after prolonged fever and a second stroke about three weeks ago.
Artists and family members agree that Abdul Ghani was synonymous with Apad - son Kamal credits his architect career to drawing lessons from his father and recalls helping out with art exhibitions organised by the group.
Now housed at Aliwal Arts Centre, the group under Abdul Ghani's leadership encouraged Malay artists to experiment with modern trends such as Cubism and abstract art in the 1960s; taught art to children in Malay-language schools and held regular exhibitions that were supported by pioneer artists such as Georgette Chen and Liu Kang.
He established the semi-regular Apad medal to recognise excellence in the arts and recipients include artists Anthony Poon and Tan Swie Hian.