Quietly but quickly, the annual Hari Merdeka is creeping up on Malaysians. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the nation’s independence from the British Empire which was declared on the historic day 31 August 1957. Among the many memories that will resurface during this glorious celebration, one key figure will always outshine the others.
In 1955, just 2 years before our independence, Tunku Abdul Rahman (who would soon become the first Prime Minister of Malaya then Malaysia) had asked Dol Ramli, then Head of Malay Services at the Department of Broadcasting, to announce a competition in search for a national anthem, signaling the dawn of freedom drawing near. All the entries however, some of which composed by big musical names aiming for the $50,000 reward, did not satisfy his search for a Malayan “love song”.
After enduring countless unworthy entries, Tunku and the panel of judges called off the contest and took matters into their own hands. Very soon after, the lyrics to ‘Negaraku’ were conceived with the very first line “Negaraku, tanah tumpahnya darahku” written by Tunku himself – a fact not known to many. This is one of the personal anecdotes about him in ‘Dialog: Thoughts On Tunku’s Timeless Thinking’.
This new anthology compiles 23 essays by contributors comprising of celebrities, actors, political figures and Malaysians from all walks of life and generation between 5 to 90 years old, to curate a more intimate yet enlightening conversation. The book was initiated by Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) and M&C Saatchi Malaysia.
Embedded within the pages of the book, which is now available in major bookstores, are illustrations by The One Academy Graphic Design students. Coalescing with one of the aims of Dialog to provide an opportunity for the younger generation to know more about Tunku, the illustrations complement the essays and allow for easier understanding through creative and colorful illustrations.
“By inviting art students from The One Academy to fill the pages with colorful illustrations, we are hoping that a younger generation also stays in touch with the vision and ideals of ‘Bapa Malaysia’”, said M&C Saatchi Malaysia CEO Datin Sharifah Menyalara Hussein who also happens to be Tunku’s granddaughter.
One illustration from the book depicts Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, then Minister of Finance, worriedly looking at his wristwatch while waiting for Tunku who was late for their meeting. Tunku stands in front of his second-hand broken-down car that he had gotten after retirement. Tengku then offered to replace his ride with a new one, to which Tunku declined because he did not want to “waste public money”.
Another highlight is an illustration of Tunku’s most cherished memory by students of The One Academy. It is an artistic perspective of the independence declaration ceremony where Tunku, standing on a towering pedestal, with other Malaysians extending their arm as if to reach the cloudy skies, yellow crescent and the Federal Star. The clouds are gloomy and dark as it had been raining, but as Tunku declared freedom, “the sunshine broke through a cloud, ever so brilliantly”.
The One Academy design team’s representative described her experience to be enlightening. Before taking on the project, Claire Tan only knew that Tunku was a leader who brought Malaysia together and that he is our father of independence, but didn’t really know much about.
“After doing a lot of research about him, I’ve learnt how humble he was, and he had a really good humour, he was punctual and also a man of compassion,” Claire said. “He inspired young people like us to stand up and be compassionate.”
Other The One Academy students who were involved in the creation of illustrations for Dialog are Anastasia Audrey, Nikholas Alviyanto, Anlyne Chen, Ralve Khor, Catherine Liew, Denice Loi, Tela Lynto, Joanna Mak, Tan Yee Mun, Samantha Yap, Zi Xian, Lim Mei Yee and Teh Pui Hun.
Others who provided valuable insight about Tunku in the book include Member of Parliament Zairil Khir Johari, wife of former prime minister Tun Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali, comedian Harith Iskander, rapper Altimet, former deputy prime minister Tun Musa Hitam and football legends Datuk Santokh Singh and Datuk Soh Chin Aun.
The One Academy of Communication Design