Malaysian artist uses thumbprints to create portrait of Tunku Abdul Rahman


A thumbprint is the one of the most important parts of a person's identity. It is a clear and distinct representation of who you are, and cannot be found or replicated anywhere else.

For young portrait painter Vivian Ng Suet Yuan, this is a perfect metaphor for Malaysia's multicultural identity, which like a thumbprint, is also unique and irreplaceable.

Inspired, she decided to create a portrait of Tunku Abdul Rahman, Malaysia's first prime minister, using only thumbprints.

The work, titled Hargai Keharmonian, took her five days, and thousands of her right hand thumbprints, to complete. It contains three colours: yellow, black and red, signifying Malay, Chinese and Indian races.

Ng hard at work on her portrait of Tunku Abdul Rahman. Photo: Niuniu's GalleryNg hard at work on her portrait of Tunku Abdul Rahman. Photo: Niuniu's Gallery

“This is my first ever thumbprint portrait. Tunku Abdul Rahman is the Father of Malaysia. I hope that we will always remember what he had contributed to the country 63 years ago," says Ng, 28, referring with pride to Tunku Abdul Rahman's historic declaration of the nation's independence on Aug 31,1957.

"I am not a politician, nor can I make much change, nor do I expect any change. But I can use my own hands to pay tribute to the founding father of Malaysia. At least I hope that as long as one person sees my painting and reminds him (or her) a little bit of patriotism, it will be worth it," she adds.

The British-trained Ng, who is from Bentong, Pahang, is the founder of Niuniu's Gallery. She studied architecture and design, and holds an MA landscape architecture from Leeds Beckett University in England. She also lectures art at a college in Petaling Jaya while also concentrating on her speed and spray painting projects.

Ng enjoys creating artwork of prominent Malaysian leaders. Last month, she created a portrait of Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, which was presented to him.

To accompany her recent artwork of Tunku Abdul Rahman, Ng also created thumbprint portraits of Merdeka-era politicians Tun Tan Cheng Lock and Tun V. T. Sambanathan, who among other things, accompanied Tunku Abdul Rahman to Britain to negotiate independence.

Creating the portrait took thousands of thumbprints, says Ng. Photo: Niuniu's GalleryCreating the portrait took thousands of thumbprints, says Ng. Photo: Niuniu's Gallery

This series, she says, is her way of paying tribute to the founding fathers of the country.

“My hope for this Merdeka Day is that we continue to have a peaceful country. I would really like there to be harmony and peace among all the races in Malaysia, ” says Ng.

The portraits are on display at Niuniu's Gallery in Sungai Chua, Kajang, Selangor.

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