Today’s conversation with Jin looks briefly at Malaysia’s history, and some of the challenges Zakii faced to become an artist.
Zakii was born in 1955, and he was raised in an interesting era of Malaysia’s history. Malaysia used to be called Malaya, when it was under British colonial rule. It became independent in 1957 and renamed itself Malaysia in 1963, incorporating Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak as it did so. Singapore split with Malaysia in 1965. Zakii’s politically active father actually gave what is now the country’s biggest political party its name.
“Zakii grew up in a very interesting family…he is the youngest of six, and he was always the rebel, he chose to do art. Which was interesting because in those days, much like Singapore, Malaysia was looking for its own political identity, coming as they were out of British colonialism.
“There was a big push for children to pursue engineering, hard sciences, law, that sort of thing. And Zakii grew up in an environment where he had to really fight for his right to do art, which is what he was always passionate about. He was always drawing, and making pictures for as long as he could remember. I guess there was an element of being aware of politics going on around him. At the same time, he perhaps in some ways was also a regular teenager, and living life to its fullest!
“His time in Malaysia has now spanned nearly 60 years: he has seen a lot of change in terms of Malaysia trying to find its own way. So for me I think Zakii, both in terms of his life and his thinking, represents in some ways Malaysia’s journey as well.”
Intrigued? Let us know in the comments!