Sulaiman Suhaimi

1922 , Singapore

Sulaiman Suhaimi (1922–2008) was known as a modern and batik artist in Singapore. Born in 1922, he studied at the Tanglin Besar Malay School, Kota Raja Malay School, Sultan Idris Training College and International Correspondence School.   

It was after graduating from the Sultan Idris Training College in Tanjung Malim, Kedah in 1941 that he joined the education service. He was a student of Richard Walker, as well as J.H.E. Flake, both Superintendents of Art in the Ministry of Education. He also learnt oil painting from a Mr. Saburo at the Information Bureau during the Japanese occupation; in return, Cikgu Sulaiman taught him Malay. In 1952, he became a specialist teacher in Art and Physical Education. He was made an Inspector of Schools in 1962 until he retired in 1977.  

Cikgu Sulaiman participated in his first art exhibition for teachers in 1947, organised by the Education Department. In March 1950, he was one of the artists at an exhibition at the British Council, alongside Liu Kang, Cheong Soo Pieng, Chen Wen Hsi, Suri Mohyani, C. A. Gibson-Hill and his teacher Richard Walker and others. In October that year, he joined another exhibition for teachers organised by the Singapore Art Society and held at the British Council Hall, together with Suri Mohyani; both were considered “two of the best Malay painters”.

He started his passion in khat or Islamic calligraphy in 1978 when he visited Jordan after performing his Haj or Islamic pilgrimage. A special form of Arabic writing, khat blends rich Islamic art traditions together. It comprises verses from the Quran or Hadiths (Sayings of Prophet Muhammad). His khat works were exhibited for charity; beneficiaries include Jamiyah, National Kidney Foundation, St. Andrew’s Mission Hospital, Darul Arqam and various mosques in Singapore.  He had his first solo show, Wanasari, organised by APAD, in 2002.

As one of the cofounders of the Persatuan Pelukis Melayu Malaya (PPMM) or Society of Malay Artists, formed in 1949, Cikgu Sulaiman was also a mentor to the younger artists such as S. Mohdir  and Sarkasi Said . He received the Pingat APAD (APAD Award) in 1975, together with seven other recipients such as Ho Ho Ying and Yeo Hoe Koon.  

Sulaiman Suhaimi’s excellent artistic achievements and exceptional contribution to the Malay art community and the local art scene should be acknowledged in Singapore’s art history books. 

Batik painting
circa 1970s
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Batik painting
circa 1970s