Alysha Rahmat Shah
Alysha Rahmat Shah’s work tumbuhan penyembuhan responds to the colonial tradition of illustrating plants and seeks to counter the perception that the discovery of local plants and their various uses originated in colonial times. Knowledge of such plants and their utility, in fact, pre-dates colonialism and has always been central to indigenous wisdom.
Alysha seeks to reframe the visual representation of plants in colonial botanical illustrations through embroidery techniques passed down by her mother and grandmother, and to share inherited knowledge of the healing powers of plants that arise from her family’s deep connection to nature and the land.
Drawing on ubat-ubatan, the belief that one can exist and thrive solely on what the earth has provided for us, the work focuses on plants that are central to her family’s healing practices, which marry the indigenous knowledge of multiple cultures.
Embroidery, as a practice, is deeply embedded in the artist’s personal history. She and members of her family began sewing their own clothes almost from the minute they could handle a needle. As a craft that has been passed down to her and that she truly cherishes, she harnesses the technique to reclaim the manner of illustrating botanical plants from colonial depictions. In doing so, she also transforms them into a more personal visual language that represents her culture.
As part of the work, members of the public are also invited to participate in an embroidery workshop with the artist. Participants can expect to create embroidery works of local plants and share their own experiences with traditional healing practices. Along with learning about the medicinal uses of plants, participants will learn how to thread yarn through a needle, properly stretch cloth on an embroidery hoop and pick up basic embroidery techniques like running, back and satin stitch.
Check out the video below to learn more about the origins of Alysha’s embroidery practice and her family’s belief in ubat-ubatan.
Alysha Rahmat Shah is a Singaporean visual artist. Trained as a printmaker specialising in Lithography, she now works with other mixed media including embroidery and textiles. She graduated with a BA(Hons) in Fine Arts from LaSalle College of the Arts.
Conceptually, her works often centre on South-East Asian mythology and mysticism. She creates artworks and embroidery pieces that explore themes pertinent to the supernatural realm. Expressing her affinity for the metaphysical in her work, she prompts her audience to view this through the lens of their perceptions and beliefs. Hoping to eradicate the fear that accompanies these topics, she portrays her works in an ethereal and occasionally comical manner.
Her work has been shown in recent group exhibitions including The Story of Calico (UltraSuperNew, 2022), Can we all just hug again (Starch, 2021), Between the Living and the Archive (Gillman Barracks, 2021) and Art Encounters: Into Softer Worlds (Art Outreach Singapore, 2021), amongst others.