Let's face it; as Malaysians, we are not that different. Despite our diversity, the one thing we all have in common is our love for food. And it doesn't matter which part of the country we're from.
Our local cuisine reflects the multiethnic makeup of our population. Each cuisine has its own unique and distinctive flavours, which makes Malaysia the ultimate foodie playground.
Back in 2014, graphic designer Faye Lim realised how we could use food to bring us together. After three major air disasters (MH370, MH17 and QZ8501) that year, the entire country was in mourning. Faye felt the need to nurture hope in a hopeless situation.
She formed the Rojak Projek
with friends Johnathan Chong and Rachel Lee.
The idea was to host gatherings called Rojak Parties, and take black and white photos of Malaysians of different heritage. What the photographed subjects didn't know was that the trio had something more colourful in mind.
"Intially we led people to believe that the Rojak Projek was all about colourblindness. There was a trend back then where people were taking photos in black and white. They believed that being colourblind was one way of achieving unity," Faye said.
She added: "We didn't want to go that direction because Malaysians are some of the most colourful people in the world. By being colourblind, we would be blinding ourselves from seeing the true potential colours that we have as a nation."
A Different Kind Of Party
Phase one of the initiative started at home with a small group of friends. Noticing the limitations, team Rojak decided to go out of their element and reach out to different communities that create Malaysia's diverse population.
They have hosted 11 soirees thus far and have travelled to all 13 states in the country. What started with a mere 60 artworks eventually turned into 540.
Faye elaborated, "We couldn't really represent all of Malaysia with just 60 artworks. That's why we needed to go more in depth and discover other cultures. Food speaks about culture and leads back to the people so it all interlinks with one another."
"In KL, there is a huge diversiy of food, but when you travel to other states and towns you realise that Malaysia has so much more to offer. It's something that you can only experience and discover when you take the time to visit different places," Rachel chimed in.
In the beginning, the group found it challenging to use food as a medium. It was very tedious work and it took the three of them five hours to complete just three artworks.
They became better the more they practiced.
According to Faye, the key to creating food art is to seperate all the different elements before putting it back together. The trio have become such pros that they now conduct food art workshops.
Besides the artworks, the Rojak Projek will be releasing a one-hour documentary entitled Rediscovering Each Other
. The documentary, scheduled to be out later this month, is about the discoveries they made when they travelled acrossed the country.
"When we travelled to different kampung
s, we realised how different things are from the city. Everyone is so united. Everyone is so friendly. They all know their neighbours and no one cares about the colour of your skin. They respect one another and adapt to each other with culture, language and food," Rachel said.
Stopping The Hate
Undoubtedly, Malaysia has been getting a lot of negative press lately. Through this documentary the Rojak Projek hopes to change the perception that people have of this country. They intend to shine a positive light on Malaysia and her people.
The usually very quiet Jonathan said that there is so much to love about this country. It's not just the people, food and culture. As a developing country, Malaysia has so much to offer. We are at the tipping point where everything is progressing and changing.
Rachel explained: "Malaysia is at a sweet spot where everything is happening. We are starting up new economies, exploring new technology, and fighting for basic human rights.
"To be in this position is very risky, but we have the opportnity to be changemakers. It's a great privilage that a lot of people especially those living in developed countries won't experience."
Change has to start with us. Instead of focusing on the negative, perhaps it is time that we become a more problem-solving nation. The possibilities are endless if we stay united and move forward together.
The country's future is bright, but it is up to us to decide how it will look like.
As for the future of the Rojak Projek, the next step is to mobilise and not just promote their cause online. The team is exploring different cultural elements to futher ignite pride in country. However, they are keeping mum about what exactly we can expect from them next.
By creating awareness about unity, they hope that they can eventually play a role in policy changing levels.
What Faye, Rachel and Jonathan know for sure is that it starts with getting to know one another. We are not just Melayu, Cina, India and Dan Lain Lain
. We are Malaysians and that's something to be proud of.