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Nawwar Shukriah Ali

Nawwar Shukriah Ali

Meet multi-disciplinary creative from Kuala Lumpur, Nawwar Shukriah Ali aka Bono Stellar.


Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m a multi-disciplinary creative born in Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia, the state where all the pretty beaches and islands are in. I graduated in Architecture then furthered my masters in Industrial Design.
I started my brand Stellar in 2010 as a fashion boutique, later curated few local brands to be featured under my store. At the same time, I started designing graphics, interior design and customized furniture for my clients,
I, later on, focused on only design and art, I do set design, art direction, visual merchandising, photography, art installations and started a platform called Make It Happen in 2017 where I curate exhibitions on creative process by different creatives from various background and hosted few talk series.


Describe the city you’re living in and what it’s like to live there.

I am now based in Kuala Lumpur, moved here half of my life but always been a nomad, I moved around a lot to spaces that inspire me after I graduated from architecture school. KL just like any other city is another hectic city, but where I live now is a hidden gem not too far from the city surrounded with trees and monkeys. The beauty of the city is that you can get whatever you want and still get away and be around nature. I think the weather is a blessing, although it can get very hot most days but I can’t stand winter and cold weather. Living in KL is more expensive than other states of Malaysia, but it is where all the opportunities are in as people keep growing and where you can explore more in arts and design, most creatives are based here and always catching up on each other at exhibitions, studio visits and learning to be better every day. The scene is really small and everyone practically knows everyone if you’re in the creative industry.


The beauty of the city is that you can get whatever you want and still get away and be around nature.

What is the best and worst thing about living in your city?

The best thing would be the food. Don’t get me started on the food, there are just too many food spots that are so good and you can get anything local or international like an almond croissant as good as one in Paris. I’m a big fan of Indonesian and Thai food, and you don’t have to travel out when you crave for some good Tom Yam. The worst thing would be, there are too many malls in KL and they have the same brands in almost every mall, I just wished that we have more art and design museums, and create a culture where people go out on weekends to see and appreciate art better rather than spending money at the shopping malls.  It would be nice to see families going out on weekends educating themselves on art and design, it is sad to see that some people here don’t know how to look at art,if they can interact or should not, there’s a lot to educate ourselves with but we are growing and hopefully using our voice for the better.


Give us 3 words that describe what it’s like to be a creative in your city.
+ Challenging
+ Growth
+ Insane


How did you start your career in art?

It all happened organically, never intended to be an artist. Back then I always consider myself as a designer having a design background and all. But art has been with me since I was small as my late mother was a textile graduate who became an art teacher, she was really passionate and supportive,  she was the one responsible for getting me into arts at a really young age, I started drawing and painting at the age of 3. It always has been with me since then, so while I was doing my design work I studied more on arts while creating for fun. One thing led to another and I accept every project as a challenge to learn and understand the possibilities of creating besides painting on canvas, I learn to understand myself along the way too.


It all happened organically, never intended to be an artist.

Were the people around you supportive of your decision on working as a creative?

It was hard to be one at first, some people still don’t understand what I do today. But I learn to just keep moving on doing what I do, that I don’t need to prove anything to anyone. I am surrounded with mostly creative friends too, I believe it’s important to curate your life from who you surround yourself with to how would you want to live your life, ignore the other noises you know yourself better and you owe yourself to live your life to the fullest and be happy. Of course, I have my breakdowns in between and taking care of our mental health is really important too, I reach out when I need to but only to those who understand what I do!


It was hard to be one at first, some people still don’t understand what I do today. But I learn to just keep moving on doing what I do, that I don’t need to prove anything to anyone.

What are some goals and ambitions you have for your future work?

I dream of exploring more mediums or collaborative works with programmers, videographers or my favourite musicians. I always wanted to do stage design, lighting or visuals. To create an art installation and exhibit outside of my country would be a dream too.


If you could collaborate with any person in the world who would it be?

I always loved Michel Gondry way of creating things, he explores with so many mediums in his videos and his experimental approach always moved me to create better without limiting myself to only one approach. If I could collaborate with anyone it would be him or Olafur Eliasson.


How would you describe the women around you?

The women around me are strong, passionate, drama-free, respectful, respected and honest. I learned to avoid the unnecessary and just surround myself with the women who are positive about growing better every day. I joined an all-female residency recently and I was lucky to be surrounded with such loving and supportive energy, we helped each other on our weekly progress and also focusing on taking care of our mental health. I am so proud of the women around me.


I am so proud of the women around me.

Were there any local female creatives that you looked up to when you were growing up?

My amazing late mother. I am blessed to have had a creative mother, the closest creative I looked up to who shared stories of Van Gogh or The Carpenters, teaching me on how to paint and draw, also extremely supportive. What mattered to her for me was that I just do whatever makes me happy be it singing, acting in a school play, entered as many drawing competitions. More than scoring at school, funny I ended up in a science stream boarding school which was a bore but of course I was more active in the other fields besides academic and I remember her telling me it doesn’t matter as long as I score the arts.LOL.


Are there any challenging aspects of being a female in your industry?

For sure there are challenges for women around the world in the industry, one of the challenges would be a female leader. I worked with teams of men mostly, builders and makers. Coming from this country we are so used to having men as leaders from work to family life, and in this modern setting women no longer nod and follow, I believe there is no gender at work. If you’re good, you’re good regardless of gender, race, anything. I went to a university where I can’t share and speak up or I would be humiliated in front of the class by men. I did it anyway but some girls became too timid to speak up and it saddened me when they have really amazing talents but are too scared to give an opinion. It is a challenge to use our voice and be heard too but some of us do it anyway. Today the females in the industry are bolder. They speak up verbally or through their works. Being an individual and having an identity can be challenging too, people would conform to what other people are doing or need, or look like. They settle with familiarity and ease. I adore women who found themselves and are not scared to brave the world.


I adore women who found themselves and are not scared to brave the world.

Do you have any advice to young women who are aspiring to work in your field?

Do it for the passion, not because everyone is doing it, or money, or to have more followers, or because it looks cool just like what you saw on social media. There are struggles and beautiful process behind every pretty thing created and stories that we can’t see. Most importantly do it for yourself. How bad do you want it? Set your intentions right and be brave to explore new things. Failure is normal but we learn from those and grow better every time.  Dare yourself every day, you are your biggest challenge.



Photos courtesy of Nawwar Shukriah Ali.