Contemporary artist Jalaini Abu Hassan — better known as Jai — was awarded the coveted Anugerah Akademik Negara (National Academic Award) for the visual arts category today at the Palace of the Golden Horses in Seri Kembangan, Selangor.
He received RM50,000 as prize money, as well as a trophy and certificate from the Higher Education Department of the Ministry of Education, from Prime Minister Tun Mahathir.
“I feel acknowledged as an academician,” says Jai. “It’s definitely a significant recognition from the country. I am honoured to represent all the struggling and committed artists all over Malaysia. Art is what we do best and what we do best is who we are.”
The annual award is the highest recognition for Malaysian scholars who are serving or have served in Malaysian higher education institutions. It aims to acknowledge academics committed to the discovery and development of knowledge for the country and the world. Jai, an associate professor, has been teaching fine art at Universiti Teknologi Mara’s master’s programme since 1988.
“I realise it takes a good artist to be a good teacher and vice versa,” Jai concurs. “Most of the artists I idolised were teachers, such as Joseph Tan, Redza Piyadasa, Ismail Zain and Sulaiman Esa. Teaching is the best learning for me. It’s a never-ending journey.”
However, nurturing a new generation of artists was never his goal. “I was never focused on being a teacher,” Jai admits. “I studied fine art because I wanted to be an artist. And after my London and New York studies, my focus was stronger.
“My mother, however, always wanted me to be a teacher as she thought it was the noblest career to pursue. I guess she saw the sharing and giving trait in me that I never knew I had. Now I realise that secretly, she prayed to God for her wish and God granted it. Not only did I achieve my dream to be an artist but I also became a teacher. I can’t be more grateful. Tonight I brought my mum to sit next to me at the award ceremony. It’s definitely her night as much as mine.”
Jai was the cover personality for Options’ July 8, 2019 issue. Read the full cover story here.
Stay tuned for more updates on the awards soon.