Happy Malaysia Day! This day marks our 55th year since Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak came together to form Malaysia, and there’s no better way to describe our country than ‘diverse’ and ‘multicultural’.
Although, there are times when it gets hard to pinpoint what it is that makes us so. After all, every one of us has different sentiments on what it means to be Malaysian. Two weeks ago, in honour of the 61st Independence Day — local photographers Emma Khoo, Daniel Adam and John Kam produced their very own exhibition ‘Rojak: A Malaysian Exhibition For Merdeka’ , showcasing and celebrating our diversity.
“Rojak was born out of our common interests,” said Emma Khoo of FYi Photography when asked about their collaboration. She added, “Our three photo-series are completely different in style and concepts, but like rojak, these various components come together and enhance the story”. Each photographer showcased a series of portraits rendering their interpretation of true Malaysian attributes, putting emphasis on inclusivity.
It was refreshing to see a visual narrative that illustrated our differences with commonality incorporated the most subtle way possible. Daniel Adams, for instance, used batik prints to establish the culture element while his sitting subjects showcased unique individuality for The Batik Series. He noted, “I hope people are inspired to create and continue to put work out there. All three of us are so young and we managed to pull off an exhibition together and I hope others can see that if you put your mind to it and along with a little hard work, it’s not that hard to put yourself out there.”
The same goes for John Kam’s ‘Skintight’ photo-series in which he highlighted the many-hued skin we, Malaysian, possess. In his (reasonably) bare and stripped down portraits of individuals, John used skin tone gradation as background to display Malaysian diversity. When asked about his series, the co-founder of Gentle Rice noted, “I hope people would start embracing their identity as Malaysian and will respect one another because as cliché as it is, we are stronger if we are all united as one.”
Emma Khoo’s “I Am Malaysian” series, on the other hand, features more fashion narrative demonstrating our local lifestyle. Inspired by females who empower themselves, Emma used fashion and famous local landmarks to shine the spotlight on what makes Malaysia culturally rich. She mentioned, “I want people who look at these everyday backdrops of Malaysia and find the beauty in their own culture and in the mundane.”
There’s definitely more than meets the eye for these young, talented photographers. Inspired and motivated by everything around them, the Rojak exhibition will certainly not be their last.
Daniel Adams, @danieladamsphotography