by Adline Abdul Ghani
Over the years, the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia (IAMM) has hosted numerous photographic exhibitions to showcase the diversity of Islamic people and culture throughout the world. However, this year, the museum decided to organise its inaugural photography competition and exhibition, entitled “A Spiritual Journey: Islamic Culture and Heritage in Southeast Asia”.
The initiative behind the competition was to inspire creativity among photographers, as well as to document the visual appeal of Islam in Southeast Asia. It is a platform for photographers to immerse themselves in a subject matter that has not been the focus of any photography competition before. Through the eyes of these enthusiasts, the Southeast Asian Muslim cultural identity will be shared with the public and the world, providing new perspectives and understanding of the region.
More than 120 photographers answered the call and submitted their works. This diverse pool of talent not only hailed from Malaysia, but also Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, the Philippines, France, Germany and United Kingdom. Coming from different backgrounds, both professional and amateur, these photographers shared their views and perceptions of the Islamic elements of Southeast Asia, which is home to over 230 million Muslims.
They’ve captured various glimpses, from intimate moments of solitary prayer and reflection, to the nurturing of the next generation onto the spiritual path, as well as occasions where Muslims come together, united by faith and community spirit. It is clear from the photographs that the fusion of modern and traditional practice has developed into a unique identity, which can only be appreciated by a journey through the peninsula and archipelago.
The top three photographers – Mazlan Bin Samion, Redzuan Bohari and Rahmat Hidayat, who are all from Malaysia, were presented with Grand Prizes totaling MYR 10,000 on the exhibition’s opening day. In addition to the winning entries, the exhibition, which was held at the IAMM’s Open Space Gallery from 14 July until 14 October 2017, also showcased the top 50 photographs selected from the many that were submitted.
The encouraging public response that the exhibition garnered is proof that photography exhibitions continue to have a vital role to play, not only as a visual art form, but as a medium for expression, documentation and understanding.