Team of lecturers bring Malaysian and Rohingya kids together through the arts

Team of lecturers bring Malaysian and Rohingya kids together through the arts

University Sains Malaysia collaborates with Penang Art District to gift the arts and build values in Rohingya and local children.

By Lynette Low

Every child is born blind to differences, worthy of respect and entitled to an education. A brainchild of Dr. Pravina Manoharan from the Music Department of University Sains Malaysia (USM), Jungle Book The Musical aims to give Rohingya children the opportunity to learn and experience the arts in sync with their Malaysian peers.

Adapted from Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book” and with original songs composed by the USM team, the project comprises of two Holiday Art Workshops which precede the final production. Kipling’s story was chosen as both local and Rohingya children know it well, and it’s good news to kids when they get to jump and swing around with permission!

T-shirt silkscreen printing class
How it started

Dr. Pravina, the project director, was driven to design this project from the simple desire of doing an art-based project with children. She had the insight to choose the Rohingya kids living right behind USM, rather than work with local kids who have access to arts education. Rohingya refugee children in Malaysia lack the legal status for access to public education, resulting in the need for informal learning centres.

“Rohingya children do not have the same privileges as Malaysian children. In their school (Peace Learning Centre), they learn the Malay language, English, and Maths but they do not learn Arts or Music.”

“I want to give them the opportunity to experience the arts – to paint, sing, dance and act like every other Malaysian child.”

Dr. Pravina, Chairperson of the Music Department at USM School of Arts, facilitating the music class during the holiday art workshop
Bringing it all together

A fun-filled Holiday Art Workshop was held for five days from March 25 – 29 at School of the Arts, USM. Coached by highly skilled and dedicated lecturers from USM’s School of the Arts, 33 Rohingya and Malaysian kids aged 8-12 years old participated in Jungle Book The Musical’s script-reading, drama, art, craft, music, and dance sessions. On the workshop’s fifth day, the kids enthusiastically performed what they learned in a showcase exclusively for parents.

Dr. Pravina explains that the workshop teaches kids the performing arts and intensively trains the Rohingya kids who will perform in the final production. “Practicing to perform for a small audience gives them good exposure. This way, September’s final performance for an audience of approximately 500 people will not intimidate them. Also, we are training them to have muscle memory, to dance without having to think.”

What’s beautiful about the workshop is how well the Rohingya and local kids integrated with each other. A swish of the brush, little light leaps on soft ABC mats, singing in unison and swinging on artificial vines did magic from the workshop’s very first day.

The teachers observed that in the morning, the kids stuck to their own cliques but soon adapted to each other through the activities.

“By lunch, the Rohingya kids were saving seats and braiding the hair of their newfound Malaysian friends!”

One of the workshop’s goals was to encourage kids to embrace another race or community. Clearly, discrimination is only an adult’s concern. “Kids get close to each other very fast, they do not see colour. ‘Come let’s play’ is what they think of,” emphasises Lay Chin, an assistant dance teacher.

Nur Hilyati Ramli, Drama & Theater lecturer at USM School of Arts and Penang-based theatre practitioner in acting, directing and dance.
Dr. Mohd Kamal Sabran, New Media Design & Technology lecturer at USM School of Arts and artist-researcher in interdisciplinary art practices which includes sound art, experimental music, theatre and electronic installations.

The workshop is not just a five-day affair as the kids walked away from the workshop with an armful of skills and values. Puan Hilyati, a lecturer from USM’s Drama and Theatre department who is the workshop’s dance trainer asserts that the kids “learn how to communicate with each other in order to complete a task…and to endure, focus and listen.” While Dr. Pravina expresses that kids “learn how to respect people regardless of who they are…to foster love and friendship.”

The testimonies of the teachers are reflected by the children. Anisa, 11, says that she has learned how to dance, sing, draw, and act like an elephant. While Ong Yu Her, 11, shares that he learns how to be helpful by sharing his script with those who forget to bring it.

How you can support

The project, initially designed to introduce arts and music to the Rohingya children, has grown to incorporate a fundraising element. The tickets for the final performance on 5, 6 and 7 September 2019 will help raise funds for the Rohingya school in terms of buying school books and paying the teachers.

In the meantime, do look out for the second Holiday Art Workshop in July 2019 for your child to experience the performing arts in a fun, safe and loving environment. Come on board for a good cause as RM50 from your child’s RM200 registration will sponsor one Rohingya child to experience the arts.

Contact Dr. Pravina (016 377 3308) or Puan Hilyati (017 3191674) for more information.

Facebook: junglebookthemusical

Images by Rae Hong

Celebrating Malaysian women in arts

Celebrating Malaysian women in arts

Although a day shy of the International Women’s Day, we would like to take this opportunity to celebrate the women in our lives who play an important role in shaping our community. Penang Art District compiled a list of women who dedicate their lives to perfecting their art and to telling compelling stories of our society. This is a collection of names nominated by their Penang-based peers along with short introductions written by journalists, galleries and various art platforms.

1. Aida Redza

Credit: K. E. Ooi/Malay Mail

Fans of theatre and dance know Aida Redza as a fearless performer. But if you asked her, she would probably describe herself as someone who uses dance to speak on behalf of the community, and the environment. Trained in both Western contemporary dance and traditional Malay dance, Aida has also worked in various dance companies abroad. Her passion for dance spills over into her work with young people through Ombak-Ombak ARTStudio where she, along with five other artists, seeks to bring the performing arts to the everyday people in a language everyone understands.

Text credit: Malay Mail

2. Aisyah Baharuddin

Credit: Fergana Art

Aisyah Baharuddin’s practice is not confined within the gallery or studio system; she is also a performance artist, producer and facilitator for community projects. Her practice is infused with emotions and socio-political commentary, expressed in a reflective and critical way.

Text credit: Fergana Art

3. Annabelle Ng


Annabelle conveys her thoughts in a subtle way to communicate in the arts. The poetic nature of her works combining various medium with the elements of found objects are often unexpected in two or multidimensional sculptures, forging a physical space for her thoughts in the contemporary world.

Text credit: Vin Gallery

4. Bibi Chew

Credit: UOB

Bibi Chew’s life has been anything but ordinary, much like her works. Educated in Singapore’s LASALLE College of the Arts, she marched straight to the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology soon after and completed her formal art education. She returned home in the late 90s and began teaching at The Malaysia Institute of Art where she still lectures today. From her animated conversations about her students, you can immediately tell she loves her role as an educator, and is fiercely loved in return.

Text credit: New Straits Times

5. Charis Loke

Credit: Top 10 of Malaysia

Charis studied illustration at Rhode Island School of Design and has a Bachelor degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Brown University. Her approach to digital art is versatile but grounded in the priority of the subject matter. She enjoys taking on a wide range of projects, adapting her visual language and style to fit each subject and to create images that tell stories.

Text credit: Top 10 of Malaysia

6. Chong Ai Lei

Credit: Kow Leong Kiang/The Edge Options

Chong has concentrated mainly on portraying lone female figures in an intimate setting. The paintings are a glimpse of a moment in a woman’s life, set in an environment where she can behave in a playful manner, and not feel self-conscious of the world around her. In a voyeuristic way, the artist has invited the viewer to surreptitiously observe the subject’s actions and demeanour whilst appreciating the female form in various languishing poses.

Text credit: Jada Art

7. Chong Siew Ying

Credit: The Edge Galerie

Chong Siew Ying’s practice is grounded in both Eastern and Western painterly sensibilities. Although well known for her dynamic gestural brush strokes and expressive compositions, she continues to develop new techniques and approaches to subject matter to explore painting as a distinct form of visual poetry. A lyrical and elegant painter, her work is profoundly emotive, embracing broad themes such as nature, human sentiments, as well as referencing on literary themes and concepts.

Text credit: Asia Contemporary Art

8. Dhiyanah Hassan

Credit: Rimbun Dahan

Dhiyanah Hassan is a full-time artist and writer whose works seek to map out the terrains between memory and healing. She explores how art, poetry, and storytelling are used to reclaim a sense of selfhood in the aftermath of trauma. While working on her studio project, she freelances as an illustrator and editor.

Text credit: Rimbun Dahan

9. Eng Hwee Chu

Credit: The Edge Galerie

Eng Hwee Chu’s works are a visual narrative of her “inner struggle, culture, tradition and change, a celebration of her love and marriage and an outlet to rebel and break free. They are also vehicles in her quest for the truth.” Not only does Hwee Chu explore her own personal issues through her work but also the wider issues of a woman’s experiences and role in society.

Text credit: Core Design Gallery

10. Engku Iman

Credit: Rojak

Bold, straightforward and culturally observant, Engku Iman is an artist who isn’t afraid to touch on topics generally swept under the rug and considered taboo in our society. One may categorize her illustrations as provocative, but upon closer inspection, it is undeniable that the issues raised by her works are very true, and very present.

Text credit: Rojak

11. Esther Geh

Credit: Ester Geh Twitter

Esther Geh is a self-taught artist with no formal training in art. She graduated in medicine and practised as an anaesthesiologist for several years. She founded The Art E Space to promote art in the community and give artists of all calibres and experience an affordable place to create art, gather to share and exchange ideas, techniques and advice.

Text credit: The Art E Space

12. Esther Reutens

Credit: Esther Reutens

Since 2006 self-taught artist, Esther Reutens, dived full-time into the art world of painting. The Penang-born Eurasian artist prefers to be labelled a rebel-of-sorts. Even after three solo exhibitions and numerous group exhibitions she refuses to be stereotyped into having a signature style, genre or trade-mark subject.

Text credit: Art Malaysia

13. Fadilah Karim

Credit: CENDANA/My Malaysia

Fadilah Karim first fell in love with art through colouring contests of her childhood. However, it wasn’t until a two-month mentorship under Malaysian figurative painter Amron Omar and a group show after her graduation that becoming an artist began to seem like an attainable goal. Fadilah frequently refers to her works as autobiographical in nature. Every image tells a story – melancholic scenes of a girl, her face partially hidden from the viewer (sometimes with a sandy rabbit), or characters falling into the unknown – there’s a sense of despair about it all.

Text credit: CENDANA/My Malaysia

14. Faridah Merican

Credit: S.S. Kanesan/The Star

Before she became Malaysian theatre’s First Lady, Faridah Merican was a school teacher, newsreader and radio talk show host. For those who do not know Faridah, they may be surprised to find out that this all-round theatre veteran was once a primary school teacher. Recognising the need for an independent theatre space, Faridah and Hasham founded The Actors Studio at Plaza Putra, Kuala Lumpur, in 1989 but an untimely flood destroyed the place in 2003 and became the catalyst for the formation of KLPac.

Text credit: The Star

15. Fatimah Chik

Credit: Fatimah Chik

In an impressive artistic career spanning over a quarter of a century, Fatimah Chik has earned a reputation as one of Malaysia’s more significant middle-generation artists. Discovering the rich, symbolic textile traditions of the Southeast Asian region, she attempted to transplant the traditional craft-oriented influences onto new art forms, more suited to the contemporary fine art contexts. By combining the techniques and aesthetic principles of painting and craft, forging an entirely new relationship between the two, she has truly put her stamp on Malaysian art.

Text credit: The Batik Art by Fatimah Chik

16. Foo May Lyn

Credit: Low Lay Phon/The Star

Foo May Lyn is not your average gallery-bred artist. In fact, it took her years before she could even come to terms with that very idea. Penangite Foo never had a formal education or even training as an artist. Her passion has always been in theatre. She started performing at 13 in veteran theatre researcher, practitioner and activist Janet Pillai’s Teater Kanak-Kanak Malaysia. May Lyn approaches her art as an actor, immersing herself in the characters who are her subjects.

Text credit: The Star

17. Goh Choon Ean

Credit: Visual Story Network

Penang-based Goh Choon Ean fills much of her time and mind dreaming up contemporary art installations and collaborations that would spur people on to live life fully and bring positive change to their communities. Deep convictions, infused with an increasingly hodge-podged intrigue with the visual and verbal arts, led to the pioneering of the media department at DUMC, the LiveWire! media network (2005) and the LUMA media arts centre.

Text credit: TEDxWeldQuay

18. Ho Mei Kei

Credit: Shaari Chemat/The Star

Ho Mei Kei is an artist, festival organiser, and an art & music teacher. Mei Kei brings into her artwork personal experiences, thoughts and disagreements with education in Malaysia; while being inspired by the kids who surround her. Mei Kei is a member of Titikmerah collective.

Text credit: Urbanscapes

19. Ilse Noor

Credit: Ilse Noor Twitter

Ilse Noor is one of Malaysia’s most prominent printmakers. Her early works in the 1970s documenting rural landscapes and heritage buildings won her a commission from Shell Malaysia. She has since participated in many international exhibitions representing Malaysia around the world. Ilse’s art stems from the classical training in the art of intaglio, and especially her love for etching. In depicting a glorified mystical reality her works are charged with an emotionally involved semi-autobiographical look at her journey past present and future in the realm of South East Asia and its rich cultural heritage, rituals and animist traditions.

Text credit: Ilse Noor LinkedIn

20. Intan Rafiza

Credit: Pohon Bintang

Intan Rafiza is an artist and a curator. She works on many mediums of art, like painting, sculpture, writing, installation and performance. In her works, she express women issues, usually from a feminist perspective. Intan believes that art is the best medium as process being a human being in the way in understanding meaning of freedom, equality and human right.

Text credit: and FINDARS

21. Janet Pillai

Credit: Gerak Budaya Penang

Janet Pillai is a researcher, practitioner and activist in the field of arts and culture education, specializing in creative pedagogy, cultural research and community-outreach. She chairs Arts-ED a non-profit organization which works in community area revitalisation projects in partnership or consultation with professionals, local agencies and community. Pillai also contributesas an expert resource person with the education training units of UNESCO Bangkok and APCIEU Korea and has authored numerous articles.

Text credit: Gerak Budaya Penang

22. Jasmine Cheong

Credit: whimsigirl

With children playing inside a box of gigantic crayons with amusing labels like, “Noob” and “Swag”, Jasmine Cheong’s profile in her work has influences of surrealism and cheekiness. Her motto is to make art by returning to nature and what began from painting life-like pictures of owls using watercolour grew into making smiling children in play as her subject matter using oil and acrylic on canvas. Jasmine who has been listed in Maybank’s Emerging Young Women Artists 2018 also expressed that her reason for painting children is because of her previous job as an art teacher.

Text credit: whimsigirl

23. Lina Tan

Credit: Choo Choy May/Malay Mail

Lina Tan is an almost anonymous, enigmatic, figure on Instagram – which shouldn’t matter when her identity shines through the acrylics on her canvas. Her style echoes a vintage atmosphere, like the simple cartoons of illustrators of the ’80, mixed with a foggy, daydream-esque colour scheme. Although without any physical awards, her artistry needs no trophy to be recognized as wonderful.

Text credit: The Daily Seni

24. Lizzie Zany

Credit: Lizzie Zany Behance

Lizzie Zany started making comics around early 2015, covering on current issues and Malaysian things. Now, her current comic: ‘Lizzie and Catman’, written by Shazwan Zulkiffli and her, showing the slices of life of Lizzie and Catman, a millenium and a talking cat battling stereotypes and old-fashion Malaysian taboos. Lizzie is also one of the members of DIF/CULT, a group of artists under REVOFEV Asia.

Text credit: Lizzie Zany Facebook

25. Louise Low

Credit: Mistah Fong

Louise Low challenged the younger generation about their views on superstition with her “Fatal Attraction” art installation for the George Town Festival in 2014. She displayed thousands of brassier on sculptures to combat superstition against women’s underwear. Apart from her bra sculptures, Louise also works with paint to create female portraits in camouflage, exploring the dichotomy between hiding and self-expression.

Text credit: Says.comNÜVOICES and Malay Mail

26. Mandy Maung

Credit: Home & Décor Malaysia

Born in 1985, Mandy Maung also known as MāMa is a self-taught artist from Penang. After completing her studies majoring in Graphics & Multimedia Design, she diverted her career pursuing her passion for fine art and mural paintings. Her interests in portraits was stemmed since young by the beauty, peculiarity and the uniqueness of human features and figures. Her works tap on portraiture both in subdued figurative and contemporary style. MāMa is a full time fine-art painter and illustrator.

Text credit: Mandy Maung

27. Marion D' Cruz

Credit: The Nut Graph

The Malaysian identity is a central concept in Marion D’Cruz‘s life work. She’s a founding member of the Five Arts Centre, which has played a key role in developing boundary-pushing Malaysian local theatre. Her works of choreography often have political themes and as a teacher at colleges and universities around Kuala Lumpur, she battles what she calls the “lobotomising” forces of the Malaysian school system by encouraging her students to think critically about race and politics.

Text credit: The Nut Graph

28. Melissa Teoh

Credit: Firdaus Latif/Malay Mail

When she decided to come back to Malaysia after nine years in the U.S.A. Melissa Teoh assumed she’d have to give up stage management. She’d had no experience in the local scene prior to leaving for the US and very little knowledge about the industry upon returning. However, as fate would have it, she met the Dama Orchestra team (now knows as Dama Asia Productions) through a neighbour so began her work in Malaysian theatre. Since then, Melissa’s career has been stellar. She has overseen large-scale performances and events in Malaysia and Singapore.

Text credit: Arteri

29. Minstrel Kuik

Credit: The Star

As a social actor, Minstrel Kuik continues to undergo tensions coming from different ideologies, social bounds, identities and interests. Not only these daily experiences help position herself between the political society and the authorities, they also shape her artistic practice. With a belief that the private space is the major battlefield of ideological, political and economic interests, she explores art as a historical trajectory where the personal mutation through the process of reading, thinking, making and revisiting is traceable and reflective, and hopefully, transformative.

Text credit: Richard Koh

30. Nadiah Bamadhaj

Credit: The Star

Malaysia-born, Indonesian-based artist Nadiah Bamadhaj is no stranger to the margins of society. Her practice encompasses drawing, sculpture, installation and digital media. Often investigating ideas of place, space and identity, Nadiah’s works explore the wider social and political fabric that make up the society of Southeast Asian countries. Primarily focusing on Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia – which are, as well, countries that she has lived in – Bamadhaj translates her experiences into works that are personal, but also very relatable.

Text credit: Art Radar

31. Nadirah Zakariya

Credit: The Daily Seni

Born and raised in Malaysia, Nadirah Zakariya found her passion for photography at the age of 17 in a small town in Japan and came of age in the Big Apple that is New York City. Drawing inspiration for her words through her non-specific geographical upbringing, Nadirah is recognised as an internationally acclaimed photographer with works published in various magazines such as The New York Times, NYLON, VICE, and Dazed & Confused.

Text credit: FABSPY

32. Nawwar Shukriah Ali aka Bono Stellar

Credit: Urbanscapes

Nawwar Shukriah Ali might be a name you won’t immediately recognise. But if you have been paying attention to homegrown names in the design and multidisciplinary art community in the last few years, then you might have heard of Bono Stellar. From designing her own art project and an indie fashion shop, organising art bazaars and planning out visual merchandising campaigns, you have probably stumbled upon her works. Hers have been a colourful art-filled journey, often consumed by music and popular culture.

Text credit: The Star

33. Noor Mahnum Mohamed

Credit: Yayasan AIDS Malaysia

Noor Mahnun Mohamed, widely known as Anum on the Malaysian art scene, may be petite but she ably juggles the roles of painter, curator, writer and educationist. Born in 1964 in Kelantan, she graduated with a master’s degree in fine art from Germany. After returning to Malaysia at the end of 1997, Noor Mahnun kicked off her versatile career in the arts with a job as a graphic designer. Later, she took up a teaching post in several local institutions and continues to lecture on art theory until today.

Text credit: The Edge Singapore

34. Norleen Nosri

Credit: St. Louis Public Radio

Norleen Nosri was born and raised in Malaysia, and immigrated to the U.S. in 1997 to study art. After exploring various media at Columbia College and then University of Missouri, she found in ceramics a set of material qualities that lent themselves to visual discussion of her relocation and adjustment to a second culture. Duality is central in her work; we see in each sculpture two distinct clay bodies, two methods, and two types of form.

Text credit: Braudis Gallery

35. Nur Hanim Khairuddin


Nur Hanim Khairuddin is an Ipoh-based artist, writer, curator and editor. Once a curator for the Perak Arts Foundation, she is the founder and editor-in-chief of Teratak Nuromar, which publishes the visual arts magazine sentAp! Contemporary Visual Art Magazine. Other work includes writing for exhibition catalogues, interviews and translations. She was co-editor-in-chief for three volumes of Narratives in Malaysian Art, which extensively documents and extends discussions on contemporary Malaysian art.

Text credit: CENDANA

36. Nur Hilyati Ramli

Credit: Universiti Sains Malaysia

Formerly a Production Manager / Academy Facilitator at Performing Arts Centre of Penang (PenangPAC), she is currently a Drama & Theatre lecturer at Universiti Sains Malaysia.  Since 2004 she has been involved in many aspects of the performing arts such as acting, directing, dancing, stage management, lecturing and art research.  She frequently volunteers in running children’s workshops and performing arts classes in Penang, under the Ombak-Ombak ARTStudio, Anak-Anak Kota and PenangPAC.

Text credit: Universiti Sains Malaysia and

37. Okui Lala

Credit: Cargo Collective

Chew Win Chen aka Okui Lala is an artist based in Penang/ Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Her practice spans from photography, video, performance to community engagement. Okui looks into the migratory background and translation process to explore the notion of home and identities of herself in extension with the larger social, cultural and political milieu.

Text credit: Cargo Collective

38. Rebecca Wilkinson

Credit: Rebecca Wilkinson

Rebecca Wilkinson is a weaver and textile print designer by training. However, throughout her career she has been painting spontaneously onto paper and exhibiting her paintings. Rebecca paints dreamscapes and visual memories that give a sense of place, all influenced by a love for flora, fauna, and cultural heritage. These images fill her thoughts after journeys and travel. Colour, pattern and textures feature in all her images. Rebecca works between Penang, Malaysia, and Piemonte, Italy.

Text credit: Rebecca Wilkinson

39. Rozana Mohamed

Credit: Gvado

Rozana Mohamed is an Art and Design graduate from the Institute Teknologi Mara in Shah Alam. She started her business, Hana Creations, from her home in Johor Baru. According to Rozana, batik painting should not only be decorative, but also reflect the personality of the artist, her spirit, and her feelings. She prefers to explore a theme fully before translating her ideas into fabric designs.

Text credit: Lokalocal

40. Ruby Subramaniam

Ruby Subramaniam quit her job, went on a solo travel through Europe and South America and left imprints of her art along the way. This might sound like a mere daydream for most people but for Ruby, it is part of her reality. In 2017, she made waves across the world for her project This Body is Mine, and she has just completed her latest project titled Antidote, which featured 30 intimate stories by 30 different women, translated into art over 30 days.

Text credit: Eksentrika

41. Ruzaika Omar Basaree

Credit: The Star

Ruzaika Omar Basaree has been one of the country’s prominent artists and art educators for more than four decades. After her first forays as an artist, the entered the pioneering fine art degree course at Institut Teknologi MARA and was later awarded an MA in art education from University of Illinois. Ruzaika has brought her motifs as a practising artist to her work as an art educator, particularly with regard to the place of Islamic visual art and the connection between art and mathematics.

Text credit: Giving Our Best: The Story of St. George’s Girls’ School, Penang

42. Sharifah Fatimah Zubir

Credit: The Edge

As some may call her The First Lady of Malaysian abstract art, Sharifah Fatimah Zubir’s love affair with nature, which became the overarching theme in almost all of her paintings, started when she was only five years old. She was among the pioneer batch of fine art students at the Mara Institute of Technology (now known as UiTM). She went on to become a writer, delegate, judge, external examiner and curator in numerous high-profile exhibitions at home and abroad.

Text credit: The Edge

43. Sharmiza Abu Hassan

Credit: The Star

Sharmiza Abu Hassan, a senior lecturer at Universiti Teknologi Mara Shah Alam, is an established artist who has exhibited abroad, including in Germany, England, the Czech Republic and Australia. Alegori Ledang, held in Kuala Lumpur in 2004, was one of her most significant solo exhibitions, focussing on themes like history and myth. Sharmiza deals with Malay-Muslim female sensibilities, infusing her artwork with elements of her personal experiences, history and Malay folklore.

Text credit: The Star

44. Sharon Chin

Credit: Tongue In Chic

The journey to being an established artist is one that is filled with sacrifice, rejection and internal conflict. Sharon Chin has experienced all the above. Her art career has mainly been unlearning a lot of concepts about art that she acquired in university. Working across media, her work looks at how we negotiate geography, history, human relations and language in the contemporary imagination. She co-founded Arteri, a popular website about art and culture in Malaysia and South East Asia.

Text credit: Home & Décor Malaysia and The Edge Galerie

45. Sharon Kow


A self-taught coloured pencil artist living and working in Penang, Sharon Kow began seriously pursuing coloured pencil art in 2013 at the age of 43. Her style of art gravitates towards photo realism, paying extreme attention to details, nuances of colour and light. Her inspirations derive from simple and everyday subjects. To her, these common subjects reflect her perception of the many human emotions and therefore every piece of her art reveals a deeper meaning than just a beautiful subject.

Text credit: Art Malaysia

46. Shia Yih Ying

Credit: The F Club

Shia Yih Ying is a Malaysian fine artist from Kuching, the state capital of Sarawak. Her early education in art was from the Malaysian Institute of Art where she obtained her Diploma in Fine Art. Since then, she has been actively involved with the Malaysian art scene where her work has traveled across the region. Her body of work encircles around culture and heritage where elements of traditional clothing and such can be clearly seen.

Text credit: Chan + Hori Contemporary

47. Shika Corona

Credit: Alexandra Radu/SCMP

One of the biggest exports from Ujong Pasir, a small town in the Malaysian state of Melaka, is transgender musician and artist Shika Corona – not that the town officially acknowledges this. Shika created the band Tingtong Ketz in 2015 with a revolving cast of fellow queer and trans musicians. She uses her art and lyrics to try and break gender stereotypes that exist in the conservative country.

Text credit: South China Morning Post

48. Shooshie Sulaiman

Credit: The Edge Galerie

Susyilawati Sulaiman, popularly known as Shooshie Sulaiman, is one of the leading creative practitioners in Southeast Asia. Her work develops in various forms, from site-specific installations and outdoor performances, to a daily practice of writing and drawing. She started her artistic practice during the 1990’s, when Malaysia opened to the free market and became more international, not without psychological impact on its society. Thus, her work can be perceived as a precious testimony of what the country went through, an emotional landscape of what happened politically and socially during that time.

Text credit: KADIST

49. Sofia Haron

Credit: CLEO

Sofia Haron’s journey as a visual artist started during her days in UiTM Shah Alam where she enrolled to study Industrial Design. However, fate led her to pursue Fine Art. Her dreamy, therapeutic and mysterious artwork poses various questions revolving around the nature of human beings, specifically the portrayal of women in today’s society after years of experimenting and figuring how she wants her art to be defined.

Text credit: The Sun Daily

50. Soraya Yusof Talismail

Credit: MissCapitalFM

While some people see dyslexia as a learning disability, Soraya Yusof Talismail sees it as a gift. Sofya is often described as one of Malaysia’s finest portrait photographers who includes among her subjects’ luminaries like Queen Elizabeth II and the late Yasser Arafat. With dyslexia, grappling with numbers, symbols and written words can be quite a task, but this is compensated by astute observation of things around her and an ability to think in terms of pictures.

Text credit: The Star

51. Suzy Sulaiman

Credit: Awani Review

Suzy Sulaiman is a trained architect with a flair for historical and cultural research involving local communities. She has worked with many local institutions and non-government organizations like National Visual Art Gallery, Universiti Sains Malaysia, University Putra Malaysia and Arts-ED. Her works focuses on the convergence of community-building aspects through education, architecture and digital technology. She is also the managing director of DAM Interactive.

Text credit: Tedx Talks

52. Takahara Suiko

Credit: The Hive Asia

As The Venopian Solitude — a one-woman, experimental electro-pop band — Takahara Suiko is a homegrown performer taking Malaysia by storm. Her quirky, infectious sound brought her all the way to the reputable Red Bull Music Academy in Montreal as a Malaysian representative, amongst 69 other up-and-coming musicians from 38 countries.

Text credit: Tedx Youth KL

53. Tetriana Ahmed Fauzi

Credit: Penang Art District

Tetriana Ahmed Fauzi graduated with Bachelor of Honors in Fine Art from UiTM, followed by an MA in Drawing at Camberwell College of Art and Professional Doctorate in Fine Art from University of East London. She teaches drawing and painting at School of the Arts at Universiti Sains Malaysia. Currently her practice concerns her personal space which is the home, studio and office. She does mixed media drawing, digital prints and paintings on objects.

Text credit: Richard Koh

54. Tiffany Choong

Credit: Malaysian Tatler

Born on the beautiful island of Penang, armed with wings of a free spirit, her wanderlust lifestyle and curiosity for new experiences has taken her to different parts of the world. She has studied and worked in the UK, France, Tanzania and Singapore. Her art is created with passion and comes from the heart. Every work has a story to tell. She keeps a daily art journal, which has become her travelling companion. She takes on projects she believes in and uses her art to inspire and make positive social changes.

Text credit: 74 Escape

55. Tsa Meera

Credit: Urbanscapes

A nature lover and art enthusiast who loves to experiment with visual artistry, be it analogue or digital. Tsa Meera aims to merge traditional art practices with digital technology, transforming the two into visual metaphors. As a practising artist, she has collaborated and worked closely on making props, painting, illustrations, experiments, live video projections, and music videos for a number of workshops, creative events, art collectives, and musicians.

Text credit: Juice

56. Umi Baizurah Mahir

Credit: The Peak

One of Malaysia’s foremost contemporary ceramic artists, Umi Baizurah Mahir explores the human condition within the layers and depths of modern society. Umi, as the artist is popularly known, reflects on topics like community living, emigration and the constant collision between people and their surrounding environment.

Text credit: The Peak

57. Weinye Chen


Humorous and relevant, Weinye Chen’s comic is told through a red-headed cartoon girl. The character – who is actually a fictional version of herself – and the episodic storyline resonate so well that her art has amassed over 10,000 followers on social media. An alumna of San Francisco’s Academy of Art University, Chen recently returned to Malaysia and is now working as an assistant instructor at an art workshop while freelancing on the side. The 29-year-old is also a resident comic artist for a New York based art collective magazine, The Rack NYC.

Text credit: The Sun Daily

58. Winnie Cheng

Credit: FEMALE Mag

Winnie Cheng, or her artist pseudonym ERYN, uses a combination of pen and marker drawing, watercolour, acrylic painting and papercutting techniques to create meticulously detailed compositions filled with strange creatures in an otherworldly setting. Her use of fine lines to create form is largely inspired by book illustrations and the comic and animation industry. She focuses on themes of introversion and looking inwards to reflect on the interactions she experiences in her daily life.

Text credit: Rimbun Dahan

59. Yap Ley Min

Credit: The Star

Recently graduated from Equator College, newcomer Yap Ley Min recently earned herself a month-long solo exhibition titled The Human Form from a nationwide art competition by Penang Art District. Her works are inspired by observations of incidents and happenings which she found intriguing. All connected to one another, the works are Ley Min’s way of sharing the beauty of natural morphology and the emotions of humankind.

Text credit: The Star

60. Yau Bee Ling

Credit: The Edge Galerie

Yau Bee Ling’s creative force is impossible to impede. Every single time she produces a body of work, it leaves a lasting impression. Her works are a cacophony of colour, mood and interpretation. It tells a purpose, a story and is more than mere romanticisation of hands or figures. While working on her first exhibition, she was a new mother and her multi-layered paintings became a mouthpiece to express herself while depicting how superficial some relationships can be. In “The Women”, one can see how at ease she is with juggling her role as a woman, mother, wife, daughter and all that she can be.

Text credit: Malaysia Tatler

61. Yee I-Lann

Credit: The Edge Galerie

Yee I-Lann‘s primarily photomedia-based practice engages with archipelagic Southeast Asia’s turbulent history, addressing, with wit and humanity, the socio-political impact of current politics, neo-colonialism, and globalization. she has established herself over the past 20 years as one of the region’s leading contemporary artists, known for her digital photocollage series that deftly employ a complex, multi-layered visual vocabulary drawn from historical references, popular culture, archives, and everyday objects – works that speculate on issues of culture, power, and the role of historical memory in social experience, often with particular focus on themes and motifs that reference the indigenous cultures of Borneo.

Text credit: Tyler Rollin’s Fine Art

62. Yiky Chew

Credit: Yiky Chew Facebook

Yiky Chew is an actress for theatre, film, and television. Her acting credits include the Asia touring play Panic (2018-2019), play Lina Dan Lijah (2018), monologue Kenapa Tak Tukar Nama? (2017, 2018), touring play No Cover Up (2014) and a finalist in 8TV talent search programme The Ultimate Actor (2015). She holds a Diploma in Performing Arts (2013) from Sunway University. Yiky has recently completed her first-year training at Ecole Philippe Gaulier, a theatre school in France. She is now based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Text credit: Yiky Chew Facebook

63. Zamzuriah Zahari

Credit: VisionKL

Zamzuriah Zahari has built a name for herself like no other among her peers. Her extensive research into traditional dance form tari inai has made her an important figure and a pioneer among youths in the field. In 2006, she received a National Arts Awards; in 2012, she played the lead role in mak yong performance Usikan Rebab by director Norzizi Zulkifli; and in 2014 and 2015 shined in Khazanah Nasional Berhad‘s Malam Terang Bulan.


Text credit: The Daily Seni