As for the celebration of diversity and unity, we would probably hear comments “I don’t see color” among Malaysians.
However, Faye, Rachel and Jon, celebrating Malaysian multiculturalism with color blindness, did not sit well with them.
“For us, the beauty of multicultural Malaysia must not be diluted to shades of gray, because beauty lies in our colors,” Faye shared in an interview with the Vulcan Post.
So in 2016, the trio decided to revive their vision Project Rojak, a series of conceptual works of art featuring Malaysian food from their friends.
Using Nasi Lemak to “paint” a portrait
Their project started with a great gathering of some friends, which they also call the Rojak party.
“I realized that the only thing we can all connect with is food. Our food has always been a gesture of peace that allows us to sit, eat and enjoy each other’s company despite our differences, ”Faye explained.
The 30 people who were invited to the gathering came to mix and share a common meal, and were later photographed by Jon.
Their photos were then printed in black and white, and the outlines were followed by the use of various Malaysian dishes like char kuey teow, nasi lemak, roti canai, and so on and so forth.
In addition to heavy meals like these, they also included local delicacies like murukku, shrimp crackers, seri flour, egg cakes, as well as local fruits like rambutan and mangosteen. They bought it all themselves.
“When you see the portraits, no matter how many times you try to guess what their ‘race’ is, I can tell you that you will make many mistakes because you will be surprised at how mixed they are.”
“When people try to guess, I’ll always say‘ no ’until someone says‘ Malaysian ’, then I’ll answer‘ yes ’,” Faye shared.
To fund these events, the founders would only ask their friends, family, and other connections to ask them if they would be willing to help.
Wanting to include more “lies” in their work
The term others for Faye at first thought only of the ethnic groups with which she was already acquainted, such as the Portuguese and the Punjab, but not of the indigenous Malaysians.
So they decided to travel to all 13 states to correct that and make a documentary, continuing the portraits of the art of food.
During the trip, they managed to produce 540 portraits of Malaysians they met along the way and added more dishes from different countries to their food art.
Part of their travel goals was to compile lists of different ethnic groups that would otherwise be categorized others, under what they call Nation Rojak.
Most of the data they collected on these lists consist of indigenous ethnic groups in Sabah and Sarawak, as well as the locations of these ethnic groups in their states.
One of their biggest milestones in this mission was the portrayal of American vlogger Drew Binsky video when he visited Malaysia. So far, he has made videos of his travels to 194 countries around the world.
When he came here, Faye and one of the members of the Rojak Project went to the KLCC in hopes of sharing their work with him, but to their surprise, he had already been informed of their work.
They even managed to get an interview with him, which they cared about to shout on his Facebook page.
Work continues despite COVID-19
As part of their goal of spreading awareness that we are less colorblind towards our diversity, they have also taken their artwork to several exhibitions in the country.
So far, they have worked in collaboration with Maybank, RIUH, Grab, Sunway University, Pakatan Harapan and others.
Speaking of which, they also collaborated with RIUH and The One Academy on a video series on which are Orang Asli from Kampung Sungai Buloh and their stories.
Because their work mostly takes place on trips and involves photographing people and solo exhibitions, it is difficult for them now to raise funds and continue to do the work they did before the pandemic.
Therefore, meanwhile, Faye is working to secure international collaboration to showcase her art and mission in doing so.
For now, Faye is the only one to regularly lead The Rojak Project, while Rachel and Jon are no longer involved, but still support that purpose.
- You can learn more about The Rojak Project here.
- You can read more social enterprises that we have written here.
Credits for featured paintings: Faye Lim, founder of the Rojak Project