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.