Art Detail | Ilham Gallery
Gadis Melayu
Gadis Melayu

In this portrait by Mazeli Mat Som, a young Malay girl (gadis melayu) is depicted in a naturalistic style. She is dressed in traditional baju kebaya, as she gazes into the distance. Her arms are folded across two books, perhaps she is a college student or a young teacher. Throughout his career, the artist has used the figure as a means to communicate the lives and values of the Malay world, as seen in Yati (1963) -  the delicately rendered Malay child, the modest bride in Untuk Bunga Rampai (1963), as well as the forlorn maiden waiting by the coast in Menanti Nelayan (1961).

Pastel on paper
55 x 43 cm
Credit Line:
Collection of ILHAM Foundation
© Mazeli Mat Som
About Mazeli Mat Som

Mazeli Mat Som (b. 1938-1990) was largely a self-taught artist. A protégé of Dato’ Hoessein Enas, Mazeli received formal training from him during their time together in Angkatan Pelukis Semenanjung (APS), a Kuala Lumpur-based art group, founded by Hoessein in 1956. As stylistic variety continued to flourish in the local art scene, Mazeli maintained his representational approach towards painting and eventually went on to take over as President of the collective in the 1970s. In 2015, Mazeli Mat Som’s work was included in a group exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, entitled Jelitawan, along with works from his wife Hamidah Suhaimi, mentor Hoessein Enas, and fellow artist Nora Abdullah.

Further Readings

  • “The Treatment of the Local Landscape in Modern Malaysian Art, 1930-1981”;
    “From Paddy Fields to Fake Plastic Palm Trees: Negotiating a Changing Social Landscape”
    Narratives in Malaysian Art, Vol 1: Imagining Identities. 2012. RogueArt.

  • Absenteeism of Malaysian Identity in Art in the Early Years of Independence. 2010. Dr Sarena Abdullah.

  • Figurative Approaches in Modern Malaysian Art. 1996. Galeri PETRONAS.

  • Rupa Malaysia: A Decade of Art 1987-1997. 1998. National Art Gallery.

  • senikini#24 by senikini - issuu

Learning Section
  • Look carefully at the woman in the painting. What age is she? How is she posed? How is she dressed? Other than describing her appearance what other clues has the artist given us about what kind of person she is? Do you think the artist knew this woman?

  • Many of the artists in the Ilham collection create portraits as a way of describing the people of Malaysia. Why do you think that is? Do you think that painting people is a good way of describing a country? Spend some time looking at different portraits in the collection. What do they tell us about life in Malaysia? Are there certain aspects of Malaysian life or certain groups of Malaysian people which are not represented by the portraits in the collection? Why is this, in your opinion?

  • This painting was painted in 1964. Do you think this woman is still alive? Where is she and what is she doing? What kind of life has she had? Do you think she knows about this portrait? How does she feel when she looks at it?