Twenty six artists have come out in support of the second edition of Sisters In Islam’s (SIS) charity art exhibition SISArt, which is currently showing at private art space Cult Gallery in Bukit Tunku, Kuala Lumpur till Nov 12.

The exhibition titled Halal Haram, lines up an eye-catching list of established and newcomer names. With 42 artworks, mostly paintings, there is plenty of artistic styles and techniques on show.

There is always a certain art scene buzz when you have notable artists like Ahmad Zakii Anwar, Yee I-Lann, Jalaini Abu Hassan, Ahmad Shukri Mohamed, Bayu Utomo Radjikin, Chong Siew Ying, Saiful Razman, Ilse Noor, Datuk Sharifah Fatimah Zubir, and sculptor Umibaizurah Mahir@Ismail on board.

Some of these artists were also involved in last year’s inaugural SISArt exhibit themed Heaven, Hell.

Not to be forgotten this year are emerging talents such as Hana Zamri, Sophia Kamal, Nia Khalisa, Dinn Diran, Anniketyni Madian, Arif Fauzan, Fatah Taib, Izat Arif and Zulkifli Lee, who are welcome additions.

“We wanted the artists to engage with what they think is happening in Malaysia in relation to the concept of halal and haram,” says Hana, who co-curated the exhibition with Nia and Noor Mahnun Mohamed.

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Visitors viewing Bayu Utomo Radjikin’s Scent (acrylic on canvas, 2018), on the left, and Chong Siew Ying’s Ceci Nest Pas Un Rambutan (This Is Not A Rambutan) (charcoal, plaster, acrylic on paper mounted canvas, 2018).

For Rozana Isa, the executive director of SIS, there is a more fundamental issue at hand.

“For women in Malaysia, especially those who observe the faith of Islam … things are very much drawn in terms of what we can and cannot do,” says Rozana.

“There are a lot of expectations on women on what we can do, on how we should dress and so on. Society passing judgements is one thing, but when it is enforced through law, it can really have a detrimental effect and we need to be thinking about the halal and haram of those kinds of laws, and their consequences on women and society,” she elaborates.

Throughout this exhibition, the artists address an array of topics, from social and political issues to personal narratives.

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Anniketyni Madian’s Begarasi (mix of hardwood, 2018).

For Chong Siew Ying, her contribution is inspired by Belgian surrealist artist Rene Magritte’s The Treachery Of Images. The renowned painting shows a pipe, with the words Ceci n’est pas une pipe (This is not a pipe) painted beneath it.

With a very Malaysian flavour, the 49-year-old Chong’s (138cm x 138cm) artwork called Ceci N’Est Pas Un Rambutan (This Is Not A Rambutan) shows rows of rambutans.

“It’s how you perceive the image. When you look at it, the rambutan is hairy and round. But at the same time, it’s not a rambutan. It’s a drawing.

“If you just see it as a fruit, then it’s halal. But if it makes you think of something that is not supposed to be halal, then it’s not halal,” says Chong cheekily.

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Sophia Kamal’s Lonely Dog (acrylic and gold leaf on canvas, 2018).

As for Fatah Taib, 27, there is a more personal take to the exhibit’s theme.

Fatah’s diptych titled The Last Toast is a dreamy and gloomy offering. It shows a male figure, looking at a flower which Fatah says represents desire while a dark, spectral figure stands next to him, presumably whispering sinful thoughts.

“It’s about an experience of trying to stop drinking. Relating to the theme of this show, the haram part is the alcohol itself and the halal part is having the desire because the desire of itself is not haram. Only when you act upon it does it become wrong,” he says.

In this exhibition, part proceeds from the sale of the artworks will go to SIS and Telenisa, SIS’s legal aid clinic that provides women with legal assistance.


Halal Haram is on at Cult Gallery, 10A Persiaran Bukit Tunku, Kuala Lumpur till Nov 12. By appointment only. Call 03-7960 3357 / 03-7960 5121 / 03-7960 6733. FB: Sisters In Islam.