Soraya Abidin

Soraya Abidin (b. 1971) is a textile artist based in Sydney, Australia. The subjects and materials she uses to create her works are born of a love for the Primitive and Spiritual practices within her Malay cultural heritage. Soraya embroiders in natural raffia representing matter from the jungle and embellishes with gold leaf, as a mark of status and the prestigious gold culture worn by her aristocratic ancestors. During as recent visit to Malaysia, where her father is from, interpreted inquiries of her family members revealed her art making practice as an inherent genetic trait directly traceable to her Malay culture, which the artist expands on below:

“I am an Embroidress, the only member in the entire family that has inherited the passion for Benang Emas Sulaman from my Opah (grandmother). I have studied my parents wedding photos for many years, loving and attempting to recreate the motifs seen on all the wedding decorations. I had no idea these works even still existed, till I showed copies of the wedding photos to my family and the next thing I knew these incredible items where in front of me, in my hands to touch and marvel at the perfection of each piece. It was then that I learnt all the embroidered pieces in the photographs had been made by my Opah.

I never could have imagined what this information would do for me, so astounding that I am finally able to make this connection. Now I understand my passion for Embroidery has a strong thread directly linked to my inherent bloodline. This may seem simple but to me it provides powerful and auspicious meaning to the medium I have always instinctually gravitated towards as an artist. Now I have found the origins of my practice and that I am the one to carry on the family tradition.

During the residency I would like to study the use of motifs in traditional Malay textiles, Tekat and Songket, and gather motifs and their meanings to create a glossary for reference in my artmaking. I would like to create an artwork representing my cross cultural parentage, by use of the Traditional Quilting practices of my Australian mother, layered and embedded with embroidered Islamic Arts motifs of my Malay father.

The work will be embroidered with natural raffia and pure white silks and embellish with gold leaf, metallic threads and glass beads. My focus will be on the selection and placement of motifs that are layered over a quilt top created by my mother. The base cloth will be embellished with a combination of appliqued silks motifs then layered with interconnecting embroidered Malay motifs, intentionally leaving gaps and spaces to create a cross cultural conversation in both the positive and negative space.

The intention of the work is to portray a new found clarity and definition in my identity. Through the layering of motifs and utilisation of the powerful meanings in their symbolism to bind together the genetic behavioural traits of my two cultural heritages.”

Soraya will be in residency at Rimbun Dahan for the month of August. You can find more of Soraya and her work on Instagram.