Poetry, photography in the new Malaysia

Azalia Suhaimi is one of the young and upcoming poets in the city. She exemplifies the new generation of observant Muslims – she is a hijabi, well-educated and creative. Yuna (the singer) changed the landscape for many young Muslim women in Malaysia. You can cover your aurat, but you can do it in a colourful and trendy way.

Azalia’s Facebook statuses and Instagram account are odes to poetry, books and her life. They are a photographic library of a creative life, enhanced by social media. She is also a wife and soon to be mother. Anything else?

“I am a poet.”

In an email interview, she also describes herself as an occasional photographer.

“I craft stationery too sometimes. I have a thing for love - of any kind and to anyone at all. I wear rose-tinted glasses and prefer to see the lovely aspects of things and talk about them in a nice way. I tend to notice little everyday things as really beautiful things we're blessed with. All of these inspire me to spread just exactly that -love, kindness and nice things - to the public that often seems angry at the things and news we're surrounded with each day. So I spread that through art - be it poetry, creative photography or crafts.”

And there is so much to love about Malaysia, she says. The sunshine. The way Malaysians can enjoy a beach-loving holiday at anytime of the year. The country has amazing beaches around the country, gorgeous diving spots, beautiful greens, mountains, rocks, lakes, waterfalls, to name a few. There is a whole lot of beauty if we could just notice a little more.

Chilli sauce.  “I remember when I was studying abroad, the food outlets did not have chili sauce. They only offered tomato and mayonnaise and sometimes, BBQ. So we didn't have to go as far as missing our nasi lemak - we even missed the simple bottle of Sos Cili Life or Maggi or Aminah Hassan or what-have-you that are so easily accessible at any possible gerai or restaurants.”

The multiple dialects Malaysians use to communicate. The variety creates a diversity not often found elsewhere in the world. She enthuses even about the humble mamak restaurants. The familiarity of phrases like "Boss! Kira!" when ordering food.

“The rakyat. The way we never stop trying. The passion a lot of us have in trying to make a change. Despite differing points of view that may go to the extremes or sometimes cause a little chaos, the essence of it is that each of us have some level of passion in trying to make our country a better place. And that passion in itself is admirable. And yes. The PETRONAS Twin Towers. This might be a cliched answer, but the Twin Towers really is among some of Malaysia's amazing developments that's hard not to be proud of.”

Azalia says she writes poetry to spread love and happiness. The Malaysian Insider pic by Afif Abd Halim, September 16, 2013.

Is Azalia a walking Hallmark greeting card?

While she is certainly proud of the developing local arts scene (“We're starting to have movies that dare to break the norm but with amazing messages, creativity and cinematography by some of our brilliant local filmmakers. And there's also certainly a rise in local art events promoting our music, films, painting, sculptures, poetry, dance, theatre, graphic design, photography and so much more,”) she is no Pollyanna.

Malaysians don’t have the right priorities, she says. Look at our newspapers: Headlines that don't seem like "headlines".

Malaysians argue back and forth over a word; now everyone wants to protect their territories. All that time and energy could have been used either improve the state of education, or improve the state of “our roads, solve traffic jams, and consecutively bring the rakyat together instead.”

That’s what Malaysians are good at. Arguing over trivial matters.

She is hoping that education will be reformed. There can only be change and development when there is stellar education. Teachers and educators need to be recognised for their hard work too. Teachers who are where they are because of their passion in teaching and not simply because teaching is the only profession left when they're out of choices.

“I hope for our children to not be afraid to think, ask or speak up their minds, albeit with respect. For them to learn that there are no right or wrong questions. For them to understand that learning really is that - to understand. And to discover new things, to think and to ask questions. And never to memorize. I hope for our children to be given a chance to actually learn, and not just memorize or follow the pack, in classes. I hope for this opportunity to be given fairly to all of our children, in the city or the rural areas, wherever. I hope for us to understand that education is far beyond the number of As we get in exams. I hope for parents to understand that.”

In the meantime, she will continue writing poetry to spread love and happiness. Look for her at her website. Her Instagram account name is azaliasuhaimi. - September 16, 2013.


Other Malaysia Day package stories:

When we finally become Malaysians

Life lessons for Malaysia at 50

What Malaysia Day means to me now – after the shame of not knowing

Malaysia yesterday and where to, tomorrow?

This hurts, what say you Mr Landlord?

While wishing Malaysia “Happy Birthday”...

What’s there not to be optimistic about Malaysia at 50?

In Malaysia, Sarawakians look for a fairer deal

Why my father, an ordinary man, took to the streets during the elections

After 50 years, time to think as Malaysians first, says Nazri

Imagining a Malaysian Malaysia

Sabah and Sarawak at 50, ignoring history at your own peril

“I was apolitical before… May 5, 2013, changed it all”

In Sabah, a haunted voice on what was and what could have been

Why celebrate Malaysia Day?

Whither the curiosity for a better Malaysia

In Malaysia, the Orang Asal feel far away from home

A DAP man tells how Malaysia’s future “is tied to the BN”

Neighbours in spirit

Sabahans say time to clear haze of fuzzy history

A Merdeka baby asks a new generation of Malaysians to be patient with change

For this Malaysian, “puisi is a lost art”

After all these years, Malaysia still held hostage

In an older Malaysia, a Chinese healer says Malaysians must mix more

As Malaysia turns 50, Nurul Izzah fights for inclusive politics

Can Malaysia’s third generation reinvent this country?

Malaysia at 50, my story and yours