Monday, July 09, 2012
Passing Of An Icon - Al Fatehah Azah Aziz (1928-2012)
Azah Aziz, cultural expert, cultural icon or activist as some have called her, - passed away today. She was 84.
She was wife of Royal Professor Ungku Aziz and mother of Bank Negara Governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz.
Bernama, quoting a close family member, said she passed away due to old age and a stroke at about 10am
Her remains were buried at the Bukit Kiara Muslim cemetery, here, after Asar prayers.
Among those present at the funeral were former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his wife Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali, Azah's family members and close friends.
Earlier, Azah's remains were taken to Masjid Saidina Abu Bakar As-Sidiq in Bangsar for prayers.
We, now the older journalists, remember her simply as Kak Azah because that was how she wanted us to call her.
Those days when we were young journalists, Kak Azah was a household name. Still is, though I'm not too sure if young Malaysians know her.
I was a little girl when I first met her (sometime in the early 60s) at the Straits Times office at Pudu Road. There were times Bapak would take us to his office. Among those we'd meet was Kak Azah, though I don't remember calling her by any name. She was just this nice beautiful lady at the Straits Times office.
She'd often "tegur" us.. She'd also ask about Mak, stuff like that. I remember she was always in a baju kurung.
I remember later on, Bapak and Mak would take us Hari Raya visiting to her house - (with Ungku Aziz and Zeti) - near the EPF building (I think) in Petaling Jaya.
Kak Azah was also a journalist for some 20 years during which she was president of the Women Journalists Association of Malaysia (Pertama).
After retiring from journalism, she devoted her time to promoting Malay culture, tradition and heritage.
When I began my journalism career, I got to meet her quite often during "cultural" assignments.
She would be invited to talk about Malay tradition and culture, in particular Malay traditional costumes. Indeed, no one was more passionate about the promotion Malay traditional wear than Kak Azah.
An excerpt in The Star report on the publication of her book "Rupa & Gaya: Busana Melayu", in 2006:
"Over the years, Kak Azah (as the niece of Dato’ Onn Jaafar, founding father of Umno is addressed by friends) has travelled throughout Malaysia and the region. In the process, she has amassed one of the best private collections of Malay world fabrics and costumes, rivalling those kept in the country’s best museums.
A lifetime spent collecting these textiles and garments has given Kak Azah a deep insight into the world of Malay culture."
Kak Azah had also written many other books that touch on the essence of Malay traditions. Among them are "Adik Comel", "Adik Sayang", "Ibu", "Keluarga Kita", "O'Bangau dan Burung Kenek Kenek", " Kenangan Budi", "Pantun-Pantun Melayu "and "Taman Seni".
An excerpt from the Sunday Mail (2004):
"In 1949, Azah started her first job at the Social Welfare Department in Johor Baru, as a Field Officer, before she moved to Singapore to follow her husband, who was assigned as a lecturer at University Malaya. It was here Azah took up a secretarial job at the Malay Studies Department.
While working at the university, Azah developed an interest in writing and literature. Her exposure to Malay literature came purely by chance when she worked with Za'aba, the famous Malay scholar.
It was during this period of self-education that she began to develop her life-long passion for traditional costumes and jewellery.
Later, Azah became the secretary to the New Straits Times Editor-in- Chief, Leslie Hoffman. He introduced journalism to Azah, to which she dedicated more than two decades of her career. Azah headed the Woman's column in Berita Harian, which was formerly headed by her mother.
Her experience in journalism enriched her life. In 1973, Azah joined Utusan Melayu as editor and later, became a consultant to a women's magazine.
Azah left her journalistic career to pursue her passion for Malay culture and traditions. She serves on several government advisory councils, such as the Malaysian Handicraft Development Board and the National Film Development Board. She was also a board member of the Tun Abdul Razak Foundation.
In 1992, she was awarded Tokoh Wanita Johor and on August 1, 1994, Azah was chosen as Karyawan by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. In October of the same year, Azah was one of the five women bestowed the AVON - Tan Sri Fatimah 1994 Women of Distinction Award.
In May 2001, public relations consultancy, Prestige Communications Sdn Bhd, appointed Azah as its chairman."
Kak Azah had been somewhat low profile in the last few years. I understand that in the last few months, she had not been well.
We have lost an icon. A treasure.
Rest In Peace. Al Fatehah!