Portraits Of Diverse M’sians Created With Local Food

When it comes to celebrating diversity and unity, it is likely that we would hear “I see no color” comments among Malaysians.

For Faye, Rachel and Jon, however, celebrating the multiculturality of Malaysians with color blindness was not right for them.

“For us, the beauty of being a multicultural Malaysia should not be diluted to shades of gray because our colors are where the beauty resides,” Faye said in an interview with Vulcan Post.

So in 2016, the trio decided to bring their vision to life with The Rojak Projek, a series of concept artwork featuring their friends’ Malaysian cuisine.

Using Nasi Lemak to “paint” portraits

Their project started with a large gathering of friends, what they call The Rojak Party.

Their 5th Rojak Party at Tom, Dick and Harry’s Damansara / Image Credit: The Rojak Projek

“I realized that the only thing we can all relate to is food. Our food has always been the gesture of peace that allows us to sit down, eat and enjoy each other’s company despite our differences, ”explained Faye.

30 people invited to the gathering came to mingle and share a meal together, then had their picture taken by Jon.

Their photos were then printed in black and white, and the outlines were traced using a variety of Malaysian dishes such as char kuey teow, nasi lemak, roti canai, etc.

Making portraits with nasi lemak, char kuey teow and roti canai / image credit: le rojak projek

Besides heavy meals like these, they also included local specialties like murukku, shrimp crackers, seri muka, egg tarts, as well as local fruits like rambutan and mangosteen. These are all bought themselves.

“When you see the portraits, no matter how many times you try to guess what their ‘race’ is, I can tell you that often times you will be wrong because you will be surprised at how mixed they are.”

“When people are trying to guess, I’ll always say ‘no’ until someone says ‘malay’ and then I’ll answer ‘yes’,” Faye said.

To fund these events, the founders simply turned to friends, family, and other connections to ask if they would be willing to help.

Jon, Faye and Rachel / Image credit: The Rojak Projek

Want to include more “Lain-Lain” in their work

The term layer for Faye initially meant only the ethnic groups she already knew, such as the Portuguese and Punjabi, but not the indigenous Malays.

Therefore, they decided to travel to the 13 states to remedy it and film a documentary while pursuing the culinary art portraits.

One of their many trips during this period / Image credit: The Rojak Projek

During their travels, they managed to produce 540 portraits of the Malays they met along the way and added more dishes from different states to their culinary art.

Part of their travel goals was also to collect lists of different ethnic groups that would otherwise have been classified as layer, under what they call the Rojak Nation.

Much of the information they have compiled in these lists concerns the indigenous ethnic groups of Sabah and Sarawak, as well as the location of these ethnic groups in their respective states.

One of their biggest steps in this mission was to feature in American vlogger Drew Binsky’s video during his visit to Malaysia. He has made videos of his travels in 194 countries around the world so far.

When he came here, Faye and one of the Rojak Projek members went to KLCC hoping to share their work with him, but to their surprise he had already been informed about their work.

They even managed to get an interview with him, which got them a shout on his Facebook page.

Work continues despite COVID-19

As part of their goal to raise awareness of being less color blind towards our diversity, they have also presented their works at several exhibitions around the country.

So far, they have worked on collaborations with Maybank, RIUH, Grab, Sunway University, Pakatan Harapan, etc.

One of their many exhibitions with RIUH and Grab / Image credit: The Rojak Projek

Speaking of which, they have also collaborated with RIUH and The One Academy on a series of videos featuring Kampung Sungai Buloh’s Orang Asli and their stories.

Because their work mostly takes place on travel and includes taking photos of people and holding exhibitions in person, it is difficult for them to receive funds now and continue to do the work they did before the pandemic.

Therefore, in the meantime, Faye strives to secure international collaborations to showcase their culinary art and mission.

At the moment, Faye is the only one running the Rojak Projek full time, while Rachel and Jon are no longer involved but still support the cause.

  • You can read more about the Rojak Projek here.
  • You can read more social enterprises than we wrote here.

Featured Image Credit: Faye Lim, Founder of The Rojak Projek

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Jothi Venkat

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