IM GROUP helps makes big noise for world’s smallest bear

Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) Malaysia, has received a surprise gift of two Sun Bear sculptures, from IM GROUP and Lai Lai Art Gallery/Studio, to raise awareness of the endangered species in the runup to Malaysia’s 65th independence-year celebrations.

The sculptures, originally part of the “Healthy Forest, Happy Wildlife” art exhibition—organised by Lai Lai Art Gallery/Studio in support of BSBCC in Sabah—were amongst the pieces that most impressed the conservation centre’s founder, Dr. Wong Siew Te.

‘Although the exhibition featured creations from many artists, who had already donated 50 percent of the proceeds from their sales to the BSBCC, I saved this piece, in particular, as a form of encouragement and special thank you to Dr. Wong for his cause,’ explained Malaysian-born artist Alice Chang Guerra, owner of Lai Lai Art Gallery/Studio and Chair of the IM GROUP Foundation.

‘I am particularly touched by this generosity and wish to express my sincere thanks to Alice Chang Guerra for helping to bring further global attention to the smallest bear in the world,’ said Dr. Wong. The sun bear, with its distinctive sand-coloured chest patch from which its name derives, is native only to the tropical forests of South-East Asia, and plays a vital role in their ecological balance. yet today, as a result of poaching and deforestation, it has become an endangered species.

The BSBCC specialises in the rescue and rehabilitation of sun bears, providing them with a safe environment in which to grow, whilst monitoring their well-being. The conservation centre is also one of the main contributors to research on sun bears whilst promoting ecotourism.

“Bacio”—meaning kiss in Italian—as the pair of flower-patterned mosaic sculptures are known, are inspired by a parent bear giving her cub a reassuring kiss of encouragement as it struggles for independence, ‘I felt these sculptures were evocative; both of the conservation centre that rehabilitates rescued sun bears, as to the strength that our own people have given to our nation, especially since the Covid-19 challenges, to help Malaysia stand back up on its feet again, for this the 65th anniversary of our own independence,’ continues Chang Guerra.

The sculpture, patterned with flowers to represent “blooming parental love” is also meant to encourage people to be more understanding and affectionate towards one another other. Chang Guerra believes the world needs more empathy, like a patient parent that listens and kisses problems away, ‘I chose an Italian word, because aside from it acknowledging my husband, who is Italian, it is in itself a demonstration of the understanding shared between different cultures—so, whilst the sun bear is Malaysian, the title of my sculpture is Italian.’


The sculptures, made from recycled pieces of broken ceramics, cemented together with love symbolically carry a powerful message of strength, as Chang Guerra concluded, ‘Together, we can pick up the pieces and start to build a better world; each of us just needs to do their bit and slowly slowly, just like a mosaic, a new whole will appear.’