Malaysian artist showcases country’s diverse cultures with artwork focusing on women’s traditional attires

Anne Grace Savitha
·3-min read
Noor Sarah and her portraits of her artwork featuring Malaysian women and their traditional attire. — Picture courtesy of Noor Sarah Reza.
Noor Sarah and her portraits of her artwork featuring Malaysian women and their traditional attire. — Picture courtesy of Noor Sarah Reza.

PETALING JAYA, August 4 — Malaysian artist Noor Sarah Mohamed Reza, 30, is always eager to learn about the country’s rich heritage, especially its unique traditional attires worn by different races.

About a year ago, she decided to embark on a journey to create illustrations of Malaysian women donning traditional outfits such as the Iban ‘Ngepan’, the cheongsam and the saree.

According to Noor Sarah, the idea to draw sketches of women garbed in their cultural heritage lingered in her mind after attending a beauty pageant in Borneo about 11 years ago.

“I was extremely fascinated by the different attires worn by the ethnicities and soon after that, I started drawing them.

“But it was only last year that I had refined my drawing and watercolour painting skills, which was why I started selling the portraits of my girls online.”

Noor Sarah's artwork which shows the women and their unique identities. — Picture courtesy of Noor Sarah.
Noor Sarah's artwork which shows the women and their unique identities. — Picture courtesy of Noor Sarah.

Noor Sarah who graduated with a degree in mass communication told Malay Mail that she loved art from the age four.

“Drawing and painting was always my hobby when I was younger, but it was only last year in August that I wanted my artwork to be my full-time career.

“Since last year, I’ve been selling my original portraits, reprints and I also work on a commission basis.”

Noor Sarah who is of Malay and Chinese parentage, said that she picks up one or two elements from her favourite artists and incorporates them into her own.

“The portraits of my girls in their traditional attires all have a certain style.

“And I have also added my own description of them on Instagram to create authentic characters that have their own identities.”

Creating their own identities was not an easy feat initially for Noor Sarah as she would usually need to research the history behind that particular costume or ask people about it before drawing them.

“If I’m familiar with that particular costume or have a mental representation of it in my head, I would take about two hours.

“But if I don’t know much about the traditional attire, I would sometimes spend three days to properly study the attire such as the colours, the adornments and its unique styles.”

As to why she wanted the portraits in traditional attires, the 30-year-old said that traditions in the form of costumes should be celebrated or it would be forgotten by newer generations.

“The Tudung Keringkam, for instance, is a hijab usually worn by most of the older generations in Sarawak and it has gold and silk embroidery.

“And usually the making of this hijab is passed down from generation to generation, but for some communities, the younger ones are not interested in learning them.

“It is sad because when the older generation passes away, who is there to teach us - the younger people about it?”

She also said that if Malaysians do not take the initiative to understand each other’s culture, it would be difficult to love and appreciate the diverse cultures in the country.

Noor Sarah who used to sell her portraits at Amcorp Mall prior to the movement control order has shifted her artwork online and will be launching her new website featuring the drawings from next month onwards.

Her next series of artwork would also include men from all races donning their traditional attire.

“The men series would be my next goal as I still need to figure out their characteristics and the type of costumes they would be wearing.”

For more information on Noor Sarah’s artwork, head over to her Instagram.

Related Articles Malaysia has always been ‘broken’, and that’s just fine Kedah’s Sivagangga cluster: What its emergence tells us about Malaysia’s Covid-19 fight Tok Mat urges govt to focus on rural economy in light of Covid-19 economic impact