Art Detail | Ilham Gallery
The Haji Family
The Haji Family

This mixed media work is part of Redza Piyadasa’s  The Malaysian Series, developed from silkscreen and photocopied images of old period photo portraits to tell the story of Modern Malaysia and its multicultural realities. From families to grand public figures, the artist composed various pictures  to highlight the various social histories of different ethnic groups. A Malay family poses in a studio portrait, dressed in a mix of traditional and Western attire. In a conversation with art historian T.K. Sabapathy, Piyadasa explained, “,,one could tell a story about Malaysia’s multi-ethnic character in terms of visual or pictorial images.It is not so much superficial picture-making but dealing with images with specific social contexts, determining a need for these figurative images in these new divisive bumiputera/non-bumiputera contexts that had emerged in this country.”

Silkscreen on paper
58 x 82 cm
Credit Line:
Collection of ILHAM Foundation
© Redza Piyadasa
About Redza Piyadasa

Redza Piyadasa (1939-2007) was born in Kuantan. A renowned artist, art critic and art educator, his rich practice and diverse range of works often grappled with the question of national identity in Malaysia. Under a government scholarship, he was sent to England for further studies, first at the Malayan Teachers College Brinsford Lodge (1959) and then the Hornsey College of Art in London, England (1963).  taught at Sekolah Menengah Sultan Sulaiman in Kuala Terengganu (1968-69), and subsequently became art lecturer at Institut Teknologi MARA, (1969-74), before going for his MFA at the University of Hawaii at Manoa (1975-77). He then joined Universiti Sains Malaysia as lecturer in art (1977-84). His awards include the Major Prize, Malaysian Landscape 1974; Minor Award (jointly with Lee Kian Seng), Salon Malaysia 1979; and the Prince Claus Award in 1998. He was a recipient of the Australian Cultural Award (1987) and the Japan Foundation (1992).  In 2001, the National Art Gallery in Kuala Lumpur accorded him a retrospective.

Further Readings
  • Piyadasa, An Overview, 1962 - 2000, Kuala Lumpur : National Art Gallery 2001, pg.126

Learning Section
  • Look carefully at this family portrait. Look at the way each family member is posing. Are they sitting or standing? Do they look relaxed? Are they leaning towards, facing or touching another family member? What does this portrait tell us about the personalities, status and relationships of each member of the family? Who is at the centre of the portrait? Why?

  • How has colour been used in this artwork? The artist has added colour to a black and white image. How has he decided where to use each colour? Do you think the colours he uses tell us anything about the connections between family members? What else could the different colours symbolise?

  • Posed group photos often have a slightly awkward air. Find an old family or class photograph. Make a careful drawing from it, and notice how each figure is posed. Respond to Piyadesa by adding colour in a limited way. Use colour as a secret code to connect the individuals in the group. (e.g. use red for all the boys, use green for all the people you have spoken to this week, use red for all the people who live in the same house).