McNally School
of Fine Arts

Masturah Sha'ari

Masturah Sha'ari

MA Asian Art Histories
2020 — 2021

Masturah Sha’ari is the co-founder of Maya Gallery, an art gallery with a focus on Singapore and Southeast Asian art. An accomplished designer with 25 years of experience, she has designed numerous publications. As a visual artist, her paintings have been exhibited in Singapore and Malaysia. Masturah holds a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Economics and Malay Studies, from the National University of Singapore and a Diploma in Design Communication from LASALLE College of the Arts. Her research focuses on the spirit of collectivism amongst the early Malay artists in Singapore and exploring traditions in Southeast Asian contemporary art. 

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Thesis abstract

Malay art societies in Singapore, 1940's–1970's

Art societies played a pivotal role in the development and art practices of artists in Singapore in the early years. At a time when the arts scene focused on the dominant Nanyang discourse, Malay art societies offered platforms and opportunities for Malay artists with similar interests, cultural backgrounds and language to come together, interact and learn from one another. While many Chinese artists received their art education at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, classes by art teachers Aman Ahmad and M. Sawoot at the balai rakyat provided aspiring young talents with an alternative route to pursuing art studies. Women artists also helped lay the foundation for art societies like the Angkatan Pelukis Aneka Daya (APAD) to continue to be relevant today as it reached its 60th year. Through looking at APAD and other Malay art societies that precedes it, selected key exhibitions in the late 1940’s to 1970’s and the works of the early movers, namely Suri Mohyani, Sulaiman Suhaimi, S. Mohdir and Rohani Ismail, the thesis examines the dynamics within which these collective undertakings operate and how the artists navigate issues of culture, tradition, religion and politics. This study hopes to expand the discourse on the early Malay artists, their spirit of collectivism and invaluable contribution to Singapore’s art history.