Art with a true taste of Malaysian flavour

PETALING JAYA: Instead of using traditional mediums, the founders of Rojak Projek are creating portraits out of the one thing that resonates most among Malaysians – food.

Rojak Projek’s co-founders, 28-­­­­year-old Rachel Lee and Faye Lim, are using an assortment of food such as nasi lemak and roti canai in their portraits of Malay­sians.

The idea sparked in 2014 to counter negative narratives about the nation following the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

The duo travelled to each state in the country to select cuisine unique to that area.

“Some of the materials that were challenging were curry and nyonya petai – anything that is oily or sticky,” Lim said at the Youth Festival of Ideas 2018 yesterday.

However, the project was more than just discovering different types of food, Lim said, as their objective was to learn about the different customs and traditions of the many ethnicities in Malaysia.

“Colour blindness” was the buzz­word to showcase unity in diversity, Lim said, but the concept didn’t feel right to her because it felt that the beauty of multicultural Malaysia was being diluted to plain shades of grey.

“In fact, Malaysians should see colours because that is simply just who we are as Malaysians,” Lim said.

For Lee and Lim, they were struck by the kindness of Malaysians they met.

“A friend, Anderson Kalang, took us to Miri to meet his mother.

“Towards the end of our trip, his mother ‘adopted’ us and whenever she introduced us to her other family members, she would tell them ‘this is your cousin’,” she recalled.

It was through these acts that Lim began to understand her own subtle prejudices and ignorance about the different races in Malaysia.

One particular incident was when she was in Ranau.

“I was watching TV and the news was focused only on Peninsular Malaysia. It was then that I understood the outrage Malaysians in Sabah and Sarawak feel of being unacknowledged and neglected,” she said.

She carried that moment with her and into Phase 3 of Rojak Projek, which she hopes will shine a light on all ethnicities in Malaysia.

“We did this project because we wanted to acknowledge that together we all matter,” Lim said.