Sisters in Islam fundraising exhibition explores notions of ‘halal’ and ‘haram’ through art

Ahmad Shukri Mohamed’s ‘Parti Durian’ is one of the 44 artworks being exhibited for the fundraiser. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Ahmad Shukri Mohamed’s ‘Parti Durian’ is one of the 44 artworks being exhibited for the fundraiser. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 2 — Following the success of last year’s art exhibition, Sisters in Islam are back with its second SISArt series, this time exploring two concepts under Islamic jurisprudence, halal and haram.

Themed Halal Haram, the fundraising exhibition features 26 artists and 44 works of arts, all of which interpret the vast notions that govern what is permissible and what is not.

The impressive roster of veteran artists includes big names like Ahmad Zakii Anwar, Yee I-Lann, Jalaini Abu Hassan, Datuk Sharifah Fatimah Zubir and many more, while emerging talents such as Nia Khalisa, Sophia Kamal and Dinn Diran will also be showcased at Cult Gallery.

Art enthusiasts will appreciate Ramlan Abdullah’s scaled-down ironwork sculpture, marking a departure from his usual imposing black-and-white sculptures and Sharifah Fatimah’s eye-catching fabric collage created from pieces of batik, songket, ikat, cotton, linen and silk.

The latter is a highly sought-after artist whose works are displayed at The Museum of Modern Art in New York and a favourite among collectors around the world.

Halal Haram co-curators Nia Khalisa (left) and Hana Zamri are also showcasing their art in the exhibition. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Halal Haram co-curators Nia Khalisa (left) and Hana Zamri are also showcasing their art in the exhibition. — Picture by Hari Anggara

One of the emerging artists and co-curators of Halal Haram, Hana Zamri, chose to present an artwork focusing on a woman’s body.

She told Malay Mail her observations about what it means to be a young Muslim woman in Malaysia are captured in the mixed media artwork.

“The whole concept of the exhibition is haram and halal so this is me questioning myself about what I’ve noticed in our society in Malaysia, in particular, the fact that people perceive or interpret things based on physicality.

“Everything is judged on a surface level and it doesn’t matter if the issue is about the aurat, what is halal to eat or anything to do with God’s law,” she said at the launch yesterday.

A woman walks past Bayu Utomo Radjikin’s ‘Scent’. — Picture by Hari Anggara
A woman walks past Bayu Utomo Radjikin’s ‘Scent’. — Picture by Hari Anggara

Her fellow co-curator Nia’s ancient manuscript-inspired art may seem like a straightforward gardening guide on how to take care of plants, but it contains a cryptic message.

“I picked up gardening as a hobby recently. There is a technique in the guide called cloche that protects outdoor plants from strong wind or animals, but I used it as a metaphor to remind me to take care of myself,” said Nia.

Emerging artist Sophia Kamal at the launch in Cult Gallery, Bukit Tunku. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Emerging artist Sophia Kamal at the launch in Cult Gallery, Bukit Tunku. — Picture by Hari Anggara

Cult Gallery founder and Sisters in Islam board member Suryani Senja Alias hopes the exhibition will get people talking about the Muslim identity in a multiracial context.

“Values along with what is right or wrong exist in many religions including Islam, and halal and haram can just be that. What’s permissible and forbidden can evolve and change according to society,” Suryani told Malay Mail.

“Slavery in the old days in Islam was permissible, but now it’s not. Corruption was seen as halal in the previous government and now, it’s something that needs to be completely banished from our society.

“I want people to start thinking again, and questioning openly and fearlessly.”

The exhibition’s theme explores the Islamic concepts of halal and haram. — Picture by Hari Anggara
The exhibition’s theme explores the Islamic concepts of halal and haram. — Picture by Hari Anggara

Halal Haram runs until November 12 at Cult Gallery, 10A, Persiaran Bukit Tunku, Kuala Lumpur. Half of the proceeds will be channelled to Sisters in Islam and is tax deductible. Contact 017-457 5143 for more details.

There will be a dialogue on Lived Realities of Female Artists and the Muslim Identity in Malaysia with poet Sheena Baharudin, dancer Zamzuriah Zahari and cartoonist Faizati Mohd Ali taking place tomorrow from 4.30pm to 6.30pm at Cult Gallery.

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