When Ilham Gallery in Kuala Lumpur threw open its doors to the public last month with its inaugural exhibition Picturing The Nation, it was with the fervent hope of reaching out to as many people as possible.

The gallery was set up with the aim to appeal to a diverse audience – so whether you have been long engaged in the arts or are just taking your first tentative steps towards a new and colourful world, there is something for everyone at this new art space.

Students are encouraged to visit; tours can be arranged and there are specially-designed gallery guides available.

Picturing The Nation, which centres on Datuk Hoessein Enas’ art as well as contemporary artists Dain Iskandar Said, Yee I-Lann, Vincent Leong and Ahmad Zakii Anwar), is on till the end of the year.

Running concurrently with this exhibition are public programmes which include forums, workshops and talks, and other cross-cultural events like film, music and dance performances.

“We wanted the programmes to be as diverse as possible. We are a public art gallery, so education and public programmes are very important to us,” says gallery director Rahel Joseph who has been in the arts and culture field for over 18 years.

One of the most well-known dances of the Mah Meri people is the mask dance called Mayin Jo-oh. It will be performed on Sept 26 at Ilham Gallery in conjunction with the Kuala Lumpur International Arts Festival. - Filepic

One of the most well-known dances of the Mah Meri people is the mask dance called Mayin Jo-oh. It will be performed on Sept 26 at Ilham Gallery in conjunction with the Kuala Lumpur International Arts Festival. – Filepic

She points out that although Ilham is a gallery, it is interested in venturing into cross-cultural programmes, hence the broad spectrum of activities lined up for the rest of the year.

“We do not limit the conversation to just fine arts, we are interested in cross-cultural programming. The exhibition theme is Picturing The Nation, so we wanted to invite artists from a diverse background, including writers, actors, composers, cartoonists, filmmakers to share with us their inspiration for making work that contributes to the Malaysian national narrative and ‘pictures the nation’,” she says.

Among the invited speakers for the talks that will be held at the gallery are writer/publisher/filmmaker Amir Muhammad, cartoonist Datuk Lat and author/composer Saidah Rastam.

Some of the highlights at Ilham from now till the end of the year include traditional heritage organisation Pusaka’s curated series. This month sees the Mayin Jo-oh performance by the Mah Meri from Pulau Carey in Selangor (Sept 26, 3pm). Held in conjunction with DiverseCity 2015: Kuala Lumpur International Arts Festival, this traditional mask dance is usually performed to invite the ancestral spirits to join in the festivities.

The Mah Meri are one of the 18 tribes of indigenous people in peninsular Malaysia. They are known for their wood carvings, masks, songs and dance. On Dec 12, the 1511 O Maliao Maliao Dance Troupe, from Malacca, will present the festive Songs Of Padri Se Chang performance (5pm) at the gallery.

Have  A Conversation With Lat at Illham on Nov 14. Photo: The Star/Brian Moh

Have A Conversation With Lat at Ilham Gallery on Nov 14. Photo: The Star/Brian Moh

On Oct 17, Saidah Rastam will speak on the legacy of Surya Buana, a key figure in composing patriotic songs during the troubled Konfrontasi years in the 1960s.

In creating a Malaysian Narrative: A Conversation With Lat (Nov 14, 5pm), art enthusiasts may look forward to a dialogue with Datuk Mohd Nor Khalid, better known as Lat, one of Malaysia’s best loved cartoonists and a cultural icon.

Fancy being in the company of an influential homegrown artist? Don’t miss out on a masterclass by Ahmad Zakii Anwar (Dec 7-9, 10am to 6pm). Young artists who are working with charcoal are welcome to apply for this three-day masterclass. E-mail info@ilhamgallery.com by Nov 10. Limited places are available.


Visit www.ilhamgallery.com for more information. Interested schools and colleges may e-mail: info@ilhamgallery.com to arrange a tour.