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Did You Know That An Awesome Malaysian Cultural Icon Is On Google Doodle Today?

Did You Know That An Awesome Malaysian Cultural Icon Is On Google Doodle Today?

Azah Aziz was a pioneer in the field of journalism and was also a cultural expert on Malaysian textiles and literature.

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Today (21 August) would have been the late Azah Aziz’s 94th birthday. She was one of the pioneering women journalists in Malaysia and a Malaysian cultural icon. Google Malaysia is honouring her today by having a Google Doodle of herself and her love of Malay textile on today’s Google’s Search page.

She’s remembered for her life-long work toward preserving the Malay culture, textiles and traditional attire for future generations.

(Credit: Google)

She was also named Tokoh Budayawan Melayu, the figure of Malaysian culture.

Her early days

Sharifah Azah binti Syed Mohammad Alsagoff or known fondly known as Mak Ungku was born on the 21st of August 1928.

She developed an interest in the fields of language, culture and the arts thanks to her mother, Azizah Jaafar, who was a pioneer in domestic science studies. Along with her passion for Malay textile, she also inherited a fine collection of early Malay textile and garments from her mother.

Her interest in the Malay language and culture was also deeply influenced by her marriage with Royal Professor Ungku Abdul Aziz bin Ungku Abdul Hamid, a Malaysian economist and lecturer. They were blessed with a daughter, Ungku Zeti Akhtar binti Ungku Abdul Aziz (Zeti Aziz) who became Malaysia’s first woman governor from 2000 – 2016.

Azah Aziz honed her skills in writing and literature when she took up secretarial work at the Malay studies Department, working under the department head Tan Sri Zainal Abidin Ahmad, more popularly known as Pendeka Za’ba, a renowned Malay language and literature scholar.

Azah Aziz, when she was young.
(Credit: Courtesy of Tan Sri Dr. Zeti Aziz)

Pioneering woman journalist & her love for literature

She dedicated more than two decades of her life to journalism. She has contributed her expertise to the New Straits Time, Berita Harian, Utusan Melayu, and the Malay magazine, Wanita.

Besides that, she championed issues like salary equality, separate taxes for working wives, and Muslim family amendments. She also chaired many positions as the founder or president of certain organizations including the Malaysian Women Journalists Association (Pertama) and Pertubuhan Tindakan Wanita Islam (Pertiwi).

Some of the famous figures she interviewed were the former Prime Minister of India – Indira Gandhi (first and to date the only woman Prime Minister of India), the boxing legend and his family – Muhammad Ali, and the first woman cosmonaut that went into outer space sent by Russia, Valentina Nikolayeva-Tereshkova.

Apart from her journalistic achievements, Azah Aziz also became the first woman in Malaysia to publish books on poetry, games and songs for children through her own publishing company, Akaz. Some of her works include O! Bangau dan Burung Kenek Kenek, Pantun-pantun Melayu, Dendang dan Dondang Kanak-kanak, Adik Comel and many more.

A Cultural Expert

Azah Aziz has collected quite a few astonishing collections of antique garments and fabrics from the old Malay world. She has a collection of 100 types of heritage clothes such as the baju kurung, baju Melayu and kebaya.

Azah Aziz was always seen wearing a Baju Kurung that it was deemed her official outfit.
(Credit: Courtesy of Pahang State Museum Corporation)

She introduced the Malay costume, jewellery and textiles to art festivals and international seminars. She was very particular about the ways to wear them as well as which accessories needed to match them and that made her a source of reference for people involved in the field.

She even wrote around ten books on Malay textiles and costumes including Rupa dan Gaya: Busana Melayu and Selayang Kenangan. What’s unique about her books is that she was the only first few to incorporate the classics and poetry that were written hundreds of years ago into her books. This further deepens the explanation and gives us insights into the beauty of these exquisite textiles.

A few words from her daughter

Marc Woo, the Managing Director of Google Malaysia with Tan Sri Dr Zeti Aziz, honouring her mother’s contribution to society with a Google Doodle of the late Azah Aziz.
(Credit: TRP)

During the launch of the Azah’s Aziz Google Doodle at Google’s headquarters in Axiata Tower, Tan Sri Dr Zeti Aziz shared stories and thoughts on her mother’s legacy.

“My mother would always joke that she is known as the wife of a Professor – Ungku Aziz, and a mother of a Governor – Zeti Aziz. But she herself was a woman of extraordinary talents and should be known for her name only, Azah Aziz, the Malay cultural icon.

“She was a path-breaking journalist, she wrote without fear or favour. As a journalist in the 1950s, she wrote really well and was a very engaging writer. I remembered she used to travel to India, Russia and all that to interview some prominent people of those times.

Tan Sri Dr Zeti Aziz, sharing intimate moments of her mother and her to the media.
(Credit: TRP)

“I wouldn’t describe her as a feminist but rather more as an advocate of women’s issues and issues relating to children as she wrote passionately about those.

“She also wrote about textiles, costumes, how they would be worn and also about our cultural heritage. Her book on textiles is so special as they were the only ones to contain classical poetry in it.

“I want the world to know about the Malay cultural heritage embodied in the textiles and costumes that I had the book translated to English. It will soon be published and widely distributed this year.”

If you want to know more about Azah Aziz, watch this video that Google Malaysia has made in honour of her here.

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