SOAS University of London

Department of the History of Art and Archaeology, School of Arts

Malay and Islam-Centric National Narratives: Reappraisal of Malay/Islamic Art Historicisation during the 1980s

Dr. Sarena Abdullah

Date: 23 January 2018Time: 5:15 PM

Finishes: 23 January 2018Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: B211

Type of Event: Seminar


This paper will examine the indirect consequences of the 1971 National Culture Policy and several Islam-centred policies since the late 1970s pertaining to the canonisation of certain modern art forms in Malaysia. The first section of the paper will discuss the general affinities that can be argued as aligned with the rhetoric of national agendas such as ‘Malay-centric art’, ‘Islam-centric art’, or both i.e., ‘Malay-Islam centric art’, that have appeared in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s. This was a period during which Malay and Islamic aesthetics were canonised and heralded in the writing of Malaysian art. The second part of this paper will discuss the incongruity within contemporary Malay and Islamic art historicisation. This paper will address the simultaneous acceptance of Abstract Expressionism as part of the mainstream art alongside Malay/Islam-centric art and conclude with a discussion on several artworks that were excluded from the common narrative of Malaysian art history during this period.

About the Speaker:

Sarena Abdullah, Ph.D is the current Deputy Dean (Research, Networking and Linkages) at the School of the Arts, Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) and a Research Fellow at Centre for Policy Research and International Studies (CENPRIS) USM. She recently was awarded the London, Asia Research Award, by Paul-Mellon Centre, London and Asian Art Archive, Hong Kong. She was one of the Field Leader for “Ambitious Alignments: New Histories of Southeast Asian Art,” a research project led by the Power Institute, The University of Sydney and funded by the Getty Foundation in 2015. She was also the recipient of the 2016 and 2017 CAA-Getty Travel Grant as part of the CAA-Getty International and Reunion Program. Her book on Malaysian art entitled, "Malaysian Art Since The 1990s: Postmodern Situation,” forthcoming will be published by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka.

Organiser: Pamela Corey

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