Oil on Canvas, 2021
The overall concept of the painting illustrates how the Malay language has lost its earlier significance and standing as a unifying force for the country.
Seen as a social glue to bring together the diverse people of post-colonial Singapore together, the language was also seen as a way to increase the prospects of merger with a somewhat reluctant Malaya. Malay was a common language then, and believed to be the easiest language for the communities to learn.
Learning Malay language, as depicted in Chua Mia Tee’s painting, was therefore an important step for the people of the time to move forward. However, how many Singaporeans now are aware that Malay is the country’s national language? The Malay language class is now empty and the Malay words in the original painting have been replaced by Chinese words. Is Chinese language now the de facto national language?
Fahmy Said has always been interested in art. The pathways he chose therefore were related to this interest, and his diplomas in Architectural Technology from Singapore Polytechnic, in Visual Communication from La Salle and in Art Education from the National Institute of Education, exemplified this. He figured though after all these diplomas, it was time for him to get a degree. He was conferred the Bachelor in Contemporary Arts degree from the University of Tasmania in 2008. Despite these, Fahmy was never formally trained as a fine artist and in painting, and much of what he does in this area is self-taught.