Revealed: The Malaysian talent, mind and inspiration behind The Rojak Projek
It is no surprise that it is a group of Malaysians behind The Rojak Projek's message of love, interpreted through food.
There are many things that go together without dispute – ketchup and fries, macaroni and cheese, karipap and teh tarik. Something else that cannot exist without the other are Malaysians and their food. Not just any food either, as you’ll discover. Malaysians are fiercely and passionately proud of the country’s local food.
This is the basis Lim Sheng Feiyan, also known as Faye Lim among her closest and dearest, drew from for her latest art installation, The Rojak Projek, that has sent the Internet world into a food frenzy.
The past few weeks got everyone hungry with the emergence of a set of photos of Malaysians, reimagined as their favourite foods. Nasi lemak, char kuey teow, kuih onde-onde, putu mayam and more Malaysian favourites are translated into equally diverse Malaysian faces of various ethnicities.
“Food is symbolic of love when words are inadequate,” says the official Facebook page where the artworks are being revealed in waves everyday. “Our food has always been the gesture of peace which allows us to sit, eat and enjoy each other’s company despite our differences.”
It is no surprise that it is a group of Malaysians behind this message of love, interpreted through food. It began as an idea by Lim, the creative director of Canvas Art in Bangsar Shopping Centre, but took a team of 14 friends from diverse backgrounds to cook up.
Here, she brings us through the inspiration behind the Rojak Projek and why it means so much to the Malaysian in her.
Inspired by a delicious Malaysia
It became clear why food was chosen as the medium for this masterpiece. As a Malaysian, Lim loves her food and doesn’t know any other Malaysian who doesn’t. Your favourite food also speaks volume about where you’re from and gives you an identity.
“Before starting this, I strived to come up with the one thing that all Malaysians can relate to. It became obvious – food. The more I thought about it, the more it was apt. Just take a look at the simple laksa. You have the Johor Laksa, Penang Laksa, Sarawak Laksa, Kelantan Laksa – each are all different yet so delicious. In fact, the beauty lies in how different each is yet are all well loved by Malaysians."
Born for a united Malaysia
The idea was born close to the end of 2014, a year every Malaysian knows to be particularly trying. Racial unity was rift following a host of unfortunate events, something that every Malaysian didn't miss.
“There was a point in time when negativity grew like a cancer which disturbed me. I prayed and it occurred to me, instead of sitting around and just lamenting, I should do something. So I asked myself, what am I good at? Then I asked myself, what is the one thing that all of us Malaysians can relate to -- it was food. Our Malaysian food! It slowly hit me that our food is exactly like our diversity. All so different and colourful yet so unique! There’s this emotional attachement we all share together."
Created by a group of Malaysians
The entire project took almost a year to complete, starting in March 2015. Working together with her close friend, photographer Jonathan Cool, they sought high and low for Malaysians who would be part of the project. It started with a Rojak Party where participants were photographed by Jonathan while being treated to – what else – rojak.
“It started out with just our friends. But the further we got into the project, the more friends we made and the bigger it got. We strived to cover as many ethnicities – we had the Malays, Indians, Chinese, Punjabis, even a few Portuguese and Indian Muslims. A stroke of luck brought others into the picture, we now have a few of our fellow Orang Asli's in the project as well as those from East Malaysia.”
A project for a rojak Malaysia
The message she intends to send goes deeper than just about Malaysians’ love for food. It is about being a nation that is diverse, and being stronger and more beautiful for precisely that.
“I wish to show that we are each unique and that’s not something to omit. If we give up hope, then everyone will give up. How can?” she implores with all her Malaysian-ness shining through. "I think it is time for us to heal, encourage and embrace one another. Let us be hungry for a better Malaysia."
"As Tunku Abdul Rahman once said, 'History has shown that no nation can survive if it does nothing. It only has two choices -- to progress or to decline. It depends on the capacity and consciousness of that nation to face changes and developments'."
(Photos: The Rojak Projek)
Another Malaysian artist making waves in the art world: Ali Nurazmal Yusoff who will be charting the progression of Malaysian art at ArtStage Singapore 2016.