Interview with Oyen’s Creator
Oyen, the cat who captured the nation’s heart.
1. Thank you for taking some time to talk to us. Let’s start with who you are and what do you do?
Assalamualaikum and hello! My name is Mohammad Edy Aswandi bin Awang Haji Matassan. I graduated from Universiti Teknologi Brunei in 2021 with a Bachelor of Science in Creative Multimedia and currently, I’m working at the Ministry of Health as a graphic designer and handling their social media accounts.
2. How long has art been part of your life? Can you share with us how you got interested in drawing?
In 2009, I got into art as a hobby. I liked to draw random characters during my free time and always read comics from Lawak Kampus, Ujang, Cuboi (a local Bruneian comic artist) and some comics from Gempakstarz art like that.
From there, I furthered my interest to learn further by continuing my studies in digital media at Politeknik Brunei. During my A-levels, I had actually wanted to take Art as my core subject, but my lecturers felt that I should pursue more in sciences as the majority of my subjects are more in the science stream.
3. Let’s talk about the Oyen. How did you come across the inspiration for Oyen?
It started when our Head of Corporate Communications, Puan Athirah, asked me to do the guidelines for wearing face masks. She wanted to do some cartoon cats wearing face masks. So I had this idea of a friendly and helpful ginger cat. As we (cat lovers) all know, ginger cats a.k.a orange (Oyen) cats, are always perceived as naughty, gangster-ish, playful but smart.
The name Oyen was inspired by cat lovers across Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia, referring to all ginger cats as Oyen. So Oyen was named with agreement from the Corporate Communications Team.
4. Was Oyen based off an actual pet?
Nope, but I do have an orange cat called Fitri, who’s the most active cat that I have. So from his attitude, I got inspired to create Oyen.
5. How did it feel when you were asked to make Oyen the mascot of the Ministry of Health?
I was so excited when Puan Athirah asked me to use a cat graphic to spread awareness. Technically, Oyen is not a mascot of the Ministry of Health. Oyen was created just to give awareness to prevent the spread of COVID-19. When Oyen made its first appearance and got popular, the public started to think Oyen was the mascot but it is not. Maybe Oyen is more like an influencer who spreads general good awareness and tips?
6. Did you realise before just how much of an impact Oyen would make?
I didn’t think it would go viral at all! Somehow I woke up one morning and I checked Instagram (IG) and found out that my followers and a lot of people were sharing Oyen’s post on their Instagram stories, WhatsApp stories and people started talking about it. I even heard someone say “Dangar tu cakap Oyen, pakai mask macam Oyen” (“Listen to Oyen, wear a mask like Oyen). The fact that people wanted to listen to Oyen to spread safety awareness really made me feel appreciated.
7. Do you have any messages to the general public? Or something you would like to say to the front-liners?
Yes, I want to take this moment to thank all the front-liners who are working hard to keep our community safe and functioning. Insyallah, I hope that Oyen posts can make them happy and stress-free during this difficult time.
8. How can people interested in your art find out more and what’s the best way to reach out to you?
If anyone was to check out more of my work, they can check my Instagram at @EdyAswandi where I post my arts just for fun.