How much of Malaysia can you pack into a single artwork?
As it turns out, a lot. For instance, in Lang Wei Jin’s digital illustration titled Our Home, she captures the many facets of a lively community going about their lives and interacting with each other.
“In Malaysia, having good relations within a multicultural neighbourhood helps to enhance the foundation of race relations and understanding. It can brighten our life with friendship, peace and happiness. Living in a healthy neighbourhood gives us a sense of who we are, both as individuals and as members of society,” she says.
In Muhammad Umar Iskandar’s manga comics-inspired Celeste, we see an elegant woman against a backdrop of the crescent moon and star from the Malaysian flag.
“This is a Malay woman in an Indian saree, with a Chinese hairstyle... sitting in a state of serenity. The illustration portrays the harmony between the races and cultures of Malaysia. The Chinese characters on the scroll, directly translated as, ‘A droplet cannot form an ocean, a single wood cannot form a forest,’ is a reference to togetherness and unity,” he explains.
These are just two artworks from Dengan Kasih Dan Harapan, a new virtual exhibition under Maybank’s Balai Seni Art Series.
Dengan Kasih Dan Harapan features 33 digital artworks from 26 participants that capture their observations, thoughts and aspirations for the country and the community we live in.
Twelve of these works are new, while the rest are selected from the four editions of Maybank’s MyTiger Values annual art and design competition, which invites participation from tertiary level art and design students.
The result is a melting pot of ideas, perspectives and styles – an apt reflection of our colourful multicultural community.
“Dengan Kasih Dan Harapan highlights a message of hope from these young people who believe in pushing for a better future. The impression I get from their artworks is an optimistic, forward-looking mindset that the country can achieve much and that we can do it together,” says Tan Sei Hon, guest curator for Maybank’s Balai Seni Art Series.
“While we navigate this challenging period, we all need a fresh reminder of what Malaysia is, and what being Malaysian is all about. These young participants are excited to share their views and perspectives of Malaysia that might have been forgotten, but bears repeating,” he adds.
So what does Malaysia mean to these young participants?
There are artworks that emphasise on unity in diversity, like Venese Rengasamy’s The Unifying Piece that depicts the many different people who make up Malaysia, coming together to complete the puzzle.
“I was inspired by real-life examples of unifying moments, such as the ethnically-rich makeup of Malaysian food and the badminton finals involving Lee Chong Wei. These powerful experiences unify Malaysians despite our many differences. My work portrays the idea that a country’s success and completeness are strongly impacted by the unity of its citizens. It captures the strong bond between different races, the spirit of teamwork to achieve a goal, and the honest intention of coming together as one,” he says.
There’s also comfort and tradition in some other works, like we see in Leong Yi Zhen’s A Good Rest, which is inspired by her great-grandmother’s hand-sewn quilt that has been passed down through the generations.
“The patchworks on the quilt contain the many facets of Malaysia that I hold love for. It is a reminder that despite it all, there are moments worth holding on to, worth celebrating, and worth looking forward to. I hope to provide a sense of comfort, that the time of a good rest is in sight,” says Leong.
Then there are personal and heartfelt tributes to our frontliners, like in Chong Kai Qi’s Me.
“Even as the nation is now being ravaged by the pandemic, I am safely at home and well-protected. This is due to our Malaysian heroes at the front lines who are working hard to serve and help those in need regardless of race or religion. I am grateful to all of you, and proud that I am a part of you,” she says.
The title of this show, Dengan Kasih Dan Harapan comes from National Laureate Datuk Usman Awang (1929-2001)’s poem Tanah Air (Menjelang Kemerdekaan).
This poem, together with Jiwa Hamba, Mahkota Cinta and Merpati Putih, Jelajahilah Dunia Ini, are reproduced with permission as part of the exhibition.
“Though the pandemic has kept us apart physically, it has brought us closer together both in mind and spirit. In such trying times, we have seen how Malaysians from all walks of life rise to the occasion to help their neighbours and strangers.
“We hope that the works in this exhibition, mostly by the younger generation, will inspire and spur us to work harder to quickly overcome the challenges posed by this unprecedented event,” concludes Tan.
View the exhibition here.