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

The fundaraising exhibition features 26 Malaysian artists and 44 works of arts.

An artwork by Sharifah Fatimah (Photo: CULT Gallery)

Following last year’s charity exhibition, the SISArt show returns. Organised by CULT founder Suryani Senja Alias, in support of Muslim women’s advocacy group Sisters in Islam, 26 Malaysian artists have come together to pledge some of their finest works. The theme of the exhibition is Halal Haram.

The diverse mix of artists — established and emerging — includes 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. They explore the often misinterpreted, reinterpreted and misconstrued perceptions of what is permissible, not permissible or forbidden in the name of religion, delving into the nuanced albeit vast realms in between.

Some aim to challenge the status quo of societal constructs, such as in Ahmad Zakii’s charcoal drawing of a woman in kebaya, simply titled Perempuan Berdiri. The seemingly familiar visual contains some anomalies, a whip in one hand and a cigarette in the other. It converts what is traditionally viewed as docile and the epitome of modest femininity into someone poised to take control. In light of the recent whipping of Muslim women in Terengganu, the imagery resonates.

Saiful Razman contributes Study, a black-and-white patterned grid that comments on the often imposed black-and-white reality for a Muslim woman, though what is unseen is her struggle to realise her own ambitions and aspirations as well as her pursuit of self-actualisation.

An artwork by Ahmad Zakii (Photo: CULT Gallery)

A more harmonious note is Datuk Sharifah Fatimah’s Peacock in the Garden from her Garden of the Hearts Series, a rich collage that evokes the idea of a heavenly garden of solace and quiet contemplation.

Joining the more established artists are younger talents, such as Sophia Kamal, Nia Khalisa, Dinn Diran, Anniketyni Madian, Arif Fauzan, Izat Arif and Zulkifli Lee — many of whom are recognised artists in their own right.

Nia Khalisa, who co-curated Halal Haram with Hana Zamri, presents a work named Cara Cara Melindungi Tumbuhan-Tumbuhan. The analogy reflects her upbringing as the only daughter in a family with two sons. Alluding to the creeper Monstera, a plant that requires nurturing but that survives well independently once the basic needs are met, she questions how she was treated differently from brothers.

Half of the proceeds from the sale of the works will be donated to Sisters in Islam.


CULT Gallery, Until Nov 12, 10A Persiaran Bukit Tunku, KL. 012 295 8407. By appointment only. 


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