Local Stories: Creative Female Entrepreneurs in Malaysia

Updated: Jul 23, 2020

Or more lovingly known as Artepreneurs (Art + Entrepreneur)!

In our research while making an article on one of the most famous female artist Frida Kahlo, we look towards creative female entrepreneurs who are putting a 'ding' in our local Malaysian art scene.

We spoke to MTMT Studios, a quaint art jam space in Petaling Jaya (P.J.) where you can explore all kinds of creative mediums, and The Art Seni, a personalised guided art tours in the Klang Valley. We were intrigued on their views of Frida Kahlo and wondered if Frida Kahlo's legacy continues to inspire female artepreneurs of today.

Maggie of MTMT Studio assisting one of her little customers during Midori workshop

Maggie Tan, the owner of MTMT Studio (@mtmtstudios) said Frida’s courage to embrace herself is something to be admired for. Maggie decided to quit her corporate job to specialize in sneaker painting. Even after completing her art residency program with global exposures under her belt, Maggie isn’t entirely immune to snarky remarks in the scene.

“People (in the art industry) think I don't deserve the publicity and recognition that I'm getting so far due to my background (as a business graduate) and that I am commercializing pop art. I do not do a style of my own at the time being.”

To Maggie, Frida’s courage in advocating her cultural values has proven ways of dealing with societal pressure. Maggie’s collaborative work with international brands proves that you can achieve anything if you put a dedication to it. Although generally desired, no one should be pressured into the definition of success when not ready, Maggie told Artesque. For that, she sees that as something she can relates with Frida – not succumbing to the pressure of the people.

Frida kept her quirky unibrow when it was seen as rather peculiar at that time – She even took it as far as highlighting it in her own self-portraits and remained true to herself until the end of time.

Maggie (sitting down) with her students and their works after an art jam session.

I never paint dreams or nightmares. I paint my own reality.Frida Kahlo

On quirks, Aza from The Art Seni shares Frida’s boldness to be the strongest attribute that appeals to her the most. As an organization that fosters accessibility to art, The Art Seni has a goal to grow in the industry via the concept of building bridges. She would like to invite as many non-art enthusiasts to explore the art scene in Malaysia.

In order to do that, they strongly believe in the forte of telling stories. With Frida being an example here, each set of portrait she creates has different elements to tell story of her cultural and personal experiences.

The original team behind The Art Seni, Aza, Founder of The Art Seni (right) & Nina (left).

Editor's note: At the time of publishing, Nina has since departed from The Art Seni to pursue her passion in books.

When asked about the business model, Aza spoke to Artesque that venturing the business as female proves a set of distinctive challenges on their own. Yet, they have not encountered with any forms of discrimination when running the tour in the city.

After successfully curating the International Women’s Day exhibition last year, they had even participated in a women empowering grant contest, the small things that remind them of the milestones in this business. They can be found on Instagram (@theartseni) & Facebook (The Art Seni) for more information about art tours in the city.

If you want to read more on Frida Kahlo, click here!

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