Penang-based photographer extraordinaire Ismail Hashim passes away

Penang-based photographer extraordinaire Ismail Hashim passes away

Visual artist Ismail Hashim, one of seven founding members of social reform group Aliran, passed away in a road accident in Penang yesterday evening.

Ismail Hashim at work

Poet Cecil Rajendra, who described Ismail as a close friend, said he had a wonderful time yesterday with Ismail laughing and joking and reminiscing after the launch of Cecil’s new book on Rose Chan in George Town yesterday. Ismail left on his motorbike at about 4.00pm.

Joining Cecil at the launch was Penang-based black-and-white photographer par excellence Ismail Hashim, an Aliran founder member
Ismail Hashim (left) with one of his best buddies, poet Cecil Rajendra, at a recent event

Another founding member of Aliran, Senator Ariffin Omar, attended Ismail’s funeral last night.

For a black-and-white photography buff, the jovial Ismail, a former dean at USM’s Pusat Seni, was camera-shy when the tables were turned and he became the subject of the photograph.

Ismail will be sorely missed. Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, who had launched a retrospective exhibition of Ismail’s work at the Penang State Art Gallery in 2010, expressed shock and regret at the photographer’s passing. For more info on Ismail and his work, see here.

Cecil Rajendra had recently paid tribute to Ismail’s work in “Master photographers: The Professor and the Doctor” published by Aliran.


  1. Rest in Peace, dear Sir..I’m still teary eyed as I type this…I was extremely shocked and saddened by the news of his sudden passing. His lectures were the highlight of my days in USM. There aren’t a lot of lecturers like him..he got along well with students and saw us as peers. I am really gonna miss him…

    Although I graduated many years ago, I still think of him and the impact his presence had in my life.

    The last time I saw him was about 2 years ago at Ecco with Janet Pillay. He was smiling and jovial as usual. That’s how I will remember him :)

  2. So shocked and sad to hear of his sudden demise. He was my lecturer in USM back in the 80s. I remember he was very affable, witty and kind. He treated us more like friends than students! RIP En Ismail Hashim. May Allah bless your soul, .

    • Not many in the corporate world & consumeristic society will empathise with this open letter, let alone slow down any excessive consumption of resources in the name of ‘progress’ of society, lifestyles & economic opportunities / activities.
      The god of consumer culture is money, an exchange medium initially for acquisition of goods & services to satisfy wants & needs but that has turned into an end itself for the greedy & insatiable souls seeking to fulfill any manner of desire, right or wrong.
      In a globalized world of permeable cross border cultural influence & trendy adoption, the unfulfilled human souls have morphed into voracious monsters gulping:
      the seemingly slick & gaya, the showy & blink-blink of artificialities,
      the fleeting trendies of urban lifestyle,
      the impersonal ‘like-me Facebook self-esteem’,
      the fast & furious lifestyle & workstyle of mindless competition, manipulation & underpaid,
      the Kia Su syndrome of keeping up with or above the Joneses,
      the shopaholic remedy for meaningless existence & uncontrolled ego,
      the desirable self-image tied to brands, not tied to own authentic soul & personality,
      the group consensus of high society’s societal norms of pseudo explicits,
      the cosmopolitan concept of unchecked bastardization of local cultures & fragile environment, & displacement / relocation of the lower rungs of society to ghettos,
      the opportunity cost of materialistic progress at the expense of innocent lives,
      the incompatibility of original Nature’s design & functionality with mortar, steel, aluminium & green glass post-modern architecture,
      the greed is good mantras of self-confessed gurus of self-enrichment,
      the short life cycle of products & services leading to wastage to maintain super profits & brand longevity at the expense of scarce resources & consumer savings,
      the voracious appetites for more to gain wealth, power, influence, status & sex.

      Macalister Road has turned back to normal, as busy as ever. But at this hour (2.33am) deep down below some 30 meters, silently lies a shattered, shredded body, soul (mind) & spirit of an innocent man who may be replaying (daily) his last moment on that fateful evening: driving hurriedly to fetch his daughter in a deadly windstorm & being swallowed into the earth.
      Will many still remember him & learn a lesson?


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