On Our Radar

Meet the Malaysian Artist and Ice Hockey Player Who's All About Empowerment

For 22-year-old Dhaniya Illiani Yusof, “The truest form of empowerment is to do things genuinely for yourself without intending it to be a form of contempt or dedication to anyone or anything."
December 20, 2019, 11:11am
dhaniya illiani yusof
Photo courtesy of Dhaniya. 

On Our Radar is a VICE Asia series that profiles young, upcoming creatives across the Asia-Pacific, giving an inside look into their interests, communities and inspirations.

Dhaniya Illiani Yusof, 22, who hails from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, is a visual artist and art editor for indie publication Mulazine. Having been able to find her voice through art, she breaks down labels and identifiers placed on women in a largely conservative society.

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Keen to share her knowledge and strength of conviction with other women, she is an inspiration to those who at times struggle with the balancing act of being liberated by self-expression, while still veiled by societal expectations.

“The truest form of empowerment is to do things genuinely for yourself, without intending it to be a form of contempt or dedication to anyone or anything," she said.

When she’s not blazing a way through the thicket, you can find Dhaniya in the rink playing ice hockey.

“It took a while to get the hang of it without feeling overwhelmed by the choices, but I learned the key is to let balance create itself as I go,” she said about juggling her creative pursuits with sports.

Read on to find out what’s on Dhaniya’s radar.

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Still from 'Bunga Garang' exhibition, a performance visually inspired by Heroshi Nakyamera's art. Image courtesy of Dhaniya.

I believe that… I have many mothers and that supernatural entities live among us.

My friends say I am… eccentric and ethereal.

But I like to think I am… a hardcore daydreamer or a pink axolotl.

I've been working on… my upcoming exhibitions in Jakarta and Yogyakarta, as well as an art film project curating various filmmakers to start a community for video art in Malaysia. I'm creating experimental visual works that tie together fashion, photography, video and poetry with a very Malaysian twist.

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The Illiani sisters. Photo courtesy of Dhaniya.

I am inspired by… strong females like my mother and my sister Haida (@haidayusof), a fashion stylist – you know it’s a gift when God gives you a sibling who shops for a living! Sailor Moon, Yoko Ono, Bjork, fka twigs, the 17th-century warrior princess Cik Siti Wan Kembang and my feminist icon, the Pontianak.

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Air To Air

Air to air, art directed by @amania_. Photo courtesy of Dhaniya.

Recently I've been really into… exploring music, especially since I've been introduced to Indonesia’s thriving music scene and am hooked on Harlan Boer's lo-fi pop song "Jatuh Cinta Diam Diam."

As for Malaysian artists, I have Takahara Suiko on repeat – that woman can make music out of anything. Ramayan has some cool jams, Lust's Tekesima, and not forgetting my favourite local girl band senja.

Forgotten old Malaysian films, such as Perempuan Isteri Dan jalang (1993), which I am fond of. Next on my list to watch are Sumpah Wanita (1960) and Putera sangkar maut (1960).

I've also been hooked on the manga Vagabond, which has gorgeous art style and a plot line that does not disappoint! It was recommended to me by my poet friend Jack Malik.

I'm always anticipating new work from my favourite local artists, Amani Azlin, Sharina Shahrin and Soraya Feizal.

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Photo by @rightinthenads courtesy of Dhaniya.

You can usually find me at… the ice rink in Sunway Pyramid, the Malaysian National Ice Skating Stadium and my room / studio.

If you came to visit Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, I’d bring you to… Lorong Panggong – hidden and only accessible through the back-alley staircase is an artist-run community space called moutou; it’s one of a kind. One very Malaysian thing to do is to 'lepak' (hangout) till late, at the mamak food joints that don't close until around 3 or 4 in the morning. And Batu caves is quite a sight!

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Per-empuan Exhibition. Photo courtesy of Dhaniya.

On bad days, I… always unwind with tea. I stay in and take time to reflect on what's bothering me. Any song from Lovelier Other is almost meditative to me. I also like reading mangas, annoying my cat and staring at something green and leafy. If all else fails, a face mask and watching P Ramlee or Adam Sandler movies work too. Or cooking, but only if I've got the energy to do the dishes after.

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Still from "Kobis Merah" film courtesy of Dhaniya.

I live for… Genuine connections (friends who check up on you), chocolate (but consider me dead ever since my doctor's temporary dairy ban) and cats (I like that whole confusing tough love relationship).

In five years… I would love to see myself as a creative editor and art directing, but who knows, no pressure, I could be anything, and even better if I’m not just one thing. I might just end up in music, or in the circus, maybe even an activist. One definite goal is to have a studio for myself to craft and work, and enough money to support my friends’ creative ventures too.

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Art directing and styling for editorial titled "Oi botak" with Mulazine managed under Alia Soraya Feizal. Photo by @aliaon courtesy of Dhaniya.