The halal and haram of art
The social issues surrounding halal and haram have found a new space for deep conversations, writes Elena Koshy
The narrow road lined by verdant trees snakes around the Bukit Tunku hill. It’s a quiet drive deep into the secluded parts of Kuala Lumpur still covered by towering trees filtering the bright sunlight of a typical sunny afternoon. Ensconced in a nook at the corner of the road, the gallery isn’t easy to spot at first. A little bungalow surrounded by tall trees, birdsong and curious primates peering from between leafy branches, the Cult Gallery looks peaceful; almost belying the fact that behind those whitewashed walls lies a collection of artworks aiming to do just the opposite.
The Halal Haram exhibition features 44 artworks by 26 notable and emerging artists exploring the concept of Halal and Haram, something that remains a heated topic of conversation in our country these days. The Arabic words halal, which translates to “permissible,” and haram, which translates to “unlawful” or “forbidden,” are based in Islamic scripture and describe acts that go against or conform with holy texts. It was that basis that inspired local NGO Sisters in Islam to come up with the theme in the first place — the second in the SisArt edition, the first being Heaven, Hell, exhibited a year ago.
“We really liked this idea of the duality of our existence and how we constantly live within the spectrum of halal and haram,” explains Majidah Hashim, Sisters in Islam (SIS) communications manager. Cult gallery owner and board member of SIS, Suryani Senja Alias adds: “We want people to have lively discussions about the concept of art and to look deeper into the limits of “halal” and “haram.”