“Would these women have been given the right tools to unlock their fullest potential had they remained in Malaysia?”
“Talent is like a little seed; when nurtured, it will flourish.” This quote by Matshona Dhliwayo is what came to mind when I first caught a glimpse of Acacia Diana’s body of work, “Faraway Blooms” which casts light on successful Malaysian women who’ve made a name for themselves in the United Kingdom.
In this work, Diana features some instantly recognizably faces. Dr Amalina Che Bakri and Haliza Hashim Doyle are two women, who even prior to this feature, come to mind when the topic of successful Malaysians overseas comes up. Anisa Sanusi, Sue and Kat are younger Malaysian women who’ve made a name for themselves in their respective fields on British soil.
“Faraway Blooms” highlights some important topics that matter to the urban Malaysian woman; brain drain, thriving within a patriarchy, identity, and deviating from societal expectations to name a few. I suppose this body of work raises a question in my mind: “Would these women have been given the right tools to unlock their fullest potential had they remained in Malaysia?” This collection celebrates uprooting, creating a new life for yourself outside familiarity, and then exceeding expectations. In this case, the narrow and confining expectations of a Malay Muslim woman in Malaysian society.
Visually, this collection is striking. Diana collaborated with the internationally recognized artist, Shahrina Shahrin, whose signature style never disappoints. Their use of mixed media resulted in a loud and colorful visual crescendo. Each portrait is surrounded by abstract renditions of the protea flower to symbolize strength and resilience, the frangipani to symbolize devotion and the poppy to symbolize sacrifice–qualities that all these notable women possess. The portraits even strike me as Kahlo-esque to some degree, the way their eyes gaze so strongly at me while colors form a bold, harmonious blend in the background.
Its feature being for an International Women’s Day exhibition is a fitting one, as we are left to wonder whether Malaysia provides the right soil for its feminine seeds with the most potential to flourish.