The ha­lal and haram of art

The so­cial is­sues sur­round­ing ha­lal and haram have found a new space for deep con­ver­sa­tions, writes Elena Koshy

New Straits Times - - SUNDAY VIBES -

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.”

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