Reka Malaysiaku: Celebrating Malaysia’s industrial designers

The exhibition, which is a collaboration between the National Art Gallery and Pereka, features 35 works from local talents


ONE would normally feel like being in a museum once they walked into an art gallery, being at awe as abstract and complex masterpieces surrounded them, telling the stories of their creators.

Such is not the case, however, at the National Art Gallery’s Design Gallery.

(From left) National Art Gallery DG Datuk Dr Mohamed Najib Ahmad Dawa, Muhammad Bakhtiar and Khairul Aidil Azlin during the launch of Reka Malaysiaku exhibition at the National Art Gallery

Visitors would feel warm and cosy, like walking into an IKEA showroom, as it has been transformed to accommodate the Reka Malaysiaku exhibition, which showcases unique product designs ranging from a brightly coloured set-up of a bedroom to a Formula One (F1)- inspired wheelchair.

The exhibition is a collaboration between the National Art Gallery and the Malaysian Association of Industrial Designers (Pereka).

It features 35 works from local talents such as Zafri Zakaria Merican, Saharudin Busri and even the curator and president of Pereka himself, Prof Dr Khairul Aidil Azlin Abd Rahman.

“Exhibitions are usually only three days long, so we can’t really see much of the works showcased. But Reka Malaysiaku is three months long, therefore visitors can take their time to take a closer look at the designs and appreciate them,” said Khairul Aidil Azlin, who also teaches at the Department of Industrial Design in Universiti Putra Malaysia.

The president is known for his curry puff inspired stool, the “Karipap Ottoman”, which is one of the highlights at the exhibition. This adorable stool’s curry puff motif is aimed

at paying homage to one of Malaysia’s identities and to indirectly promote Malaysian culture. To make the stool comfortable for sitting, Khairul Aidil Azlin used a soft velvet fabric for the cushion’s cover.

The Karipap Ottoman would make a perfect stool in Malaysian restaurants and cafes.

Award-winning Creations
“There is more than meets the eye at this exhibition, as designers are also trying to share their ideas behind the products. These designers are the talents that we need — professional and experienced,” Khairul Aidil Azlin said.

The Karipap Ottoman would make a perfect stool in Malaysian restaurants and cafes

He believed that the capabilities and creativities of local talents can fulfil the local market demand and that Malaysians do not need foreign industrial designers.

“Our local designers are really talented and qualified; I hope they get the recognition that they deserve. Some of the designs displayed at the exhibition have won awards overseas.

The F1 wheelchair by Saharudin Busri won an award at the International Exhibition of Inventions 2018 in Germany.

The red-and-black-coloured wheelchair was designed for a corporate social responsibility project for the Bangi Industrial and Rehabilitation Centre (PLPP Bangi).

The Erascan, which was created by Mimos Bhd, an agency under the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, won the Red Dot Design Concept Award in Germany.

Built with a liquid crystal display screen, the prototype acts as a scanner for drawings and Reka Malaysiaku: Celebrating Malaysia’s industrial designers The exhibition, which is a collaboration between the National Art Gallery and Pereka, features 35 works from local talents writings on a whiteboard and converts the images digitally.

Nurture Through Education
Having high hopes for aspiring designers, Khairul Aidil Azlin said: “Our universities are of international standards and they are able to produce young and talented designers, and this is what has been said about the Vision 2020 policy.”

Pereka was established in February 2012. Its members were the results of the Vision 2020 policy, through the education system from the primary to tertiary levels.

“The world of design gave us the opportunity to become globalised. There are some designers who work in Malaysia, but their products can be found overseas. They also offer their services internationally, so in the process, they have created their own job opportunities. With knowledge, a designer can be self-sustainable even with limited resources.

“Creativity is of utmost importance because it can change somebody’s life.

“We have a lot of colleges and universities that offer design courses, where students are professionally trained to become entrepreneurs,” Khairul Aidil Azlin said.

In primary and secondary schools, students are taught “Kemahiran Hidup” or Living Skills as a core subject, where they learn basic carpentry.

This is a part of industrial design but not many are aware of it until they enter college or university.

To overcome this problem, Pereka collaborated with the Malaysia Design Council to organise back-to-school events with the aim of raising awareness on industrial design.

The F1 wheelchair by Saharudin Busri won an award atthe International Exhibition of Inventions 2018 in Germany

“We provide training and workshops. By raising the awareness, more students will be familiar with industrial design.

“Previously, the only available options were becoming an engineer, doctor or lawyer. Now, there are more options,” he said.

The establishment of secondary art schools has allowed Pereka to focus on these specific students, who are aspiring artists and designers.

The first secondary art schools were established in 2007 in Johor and Sarawak as an initiative by the Ministry of Education to hone artistic talents in students.

“These schools have many teachers who were trained in the many forms of arts. The problem now is that parents are sceptical about their children’s career paths.”

Also present during the opening ceremony of Reka Malaysiaku on Aug 26 was Tourism, Arts and Culture Deputy Minister Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik.

“Malaysians are talented, but the creative industries only contribute about 1.5% of GDP. Malaysia is known more as product users, for example, other countries produce phones and we use them,” he said.

Muhammad Bakhtiar believed that Malaysia does not have enough industrial designers as most of them work overseas.

He commended Pereka for its initiatives which can expose Malaysia to the world.

“We encourage hotels by giving them higher ratings when they display locally made crafts. This is a good move not only for hotels but other popular tourist destinations as well.

“With Visit Malaysia Year 2020 coming up, we hope these institutions will use this opportunity to showcase the unique designs and products that our talented Malaysians have created,” the deputy minister said.

Not a Playground
On a sadder note, the National Art Gallery received some irresponsible visitors last month.

The mirror in Mesita Jee Mei-Jane’s Meeting I’s artworks in the Bakat Muda Sezaman (Young Contemporaries) exhibition was broken.

Some visitors even sat on Haffendi Anuar’s Member-Member installation works.

The National Art Gallery recorded its highest number of visitors, which came to more than 80,000, due to the Leonardo Da Vinci: Opera Omnia exhibition held from July 15 to Aug 15. On the first day itself, over 1,000 visitors flocked the gallery.

Muhammad Bakhtiar said although the number of visitors was very encouraging during the Leonardo da Vinci exhibition, some visitors treated the National Art Gallery like a shopping mall.

“Whether it is at the National Art Gallery or at the National Museum, the rules and ethics are very simple, and we must follow them.

“First and foremost, just follow the signs. If you are not allowed to sit on the display, then don’t sit. If you are not allowed to touch the display, then don’t touch it. If there is a barricade, don’t jump over it. Very simple, if you just follow these rules, then there would not be any untoward incidents.”

For The Eyes Only
Surely, the Reka Malaysiaku exhibition has comfortable furniture, but they are all meant for display. After all, it is a gallery and not a showroom.

Luqman Mohd Rosli, a visitor at the Reka Malaysiaku exhibition, said it was a good experience, not only for artists but also to expose the arts to visitors who may not know much about them.

Commenting on visitor ethics, he said Malaysians are generally not quite familiar with art exhibitions, therefore they are not aware of the rules; the do’s and the don’ts.

Luqman added that visitors should do their research before visiting any exhibition as it may not be appropriate for children, for those with photophobia, and so on.

The Reka Malaysiaku exhibition is open daily from July 30 to Oct 20, from 10am to 6pm. Admission is free.