Mula Zine: A space for youths to speak up

Malaysian Alia Soraya’s Mula Zine is an online platform that doesn’t censor the voices of the youth. Photo by Alia Soraya.

PETALING JAYA: Twenty-three-year-old Alia Soraya is no ordinary youth. She’s not one to conform to stereotypical views. Or sugar-coat life’s ugly truths.

Born and bred in Ampang, Kuala Lumpur she is currently completing her degree in Fashion Photography at the London College of Fashion, where she is doing what she loves best – storytelling in its most raw but authentic form through the lens of a camera.

Her photographs range from female body positivity to the aesthetics of the 80s. She says her photos are personal, and hopes that when one looks at them, the immediate reaction would be, “Oh, that is so Alia Soraya”.

“I want Malaysians to be comfortable with the uncomfortable and move forward to make space for the underdog,” she said, when speaking about her proudest creation to date – Mula Zine.

How about no?”: A series of photographs of a batik-clad model that conveys the power of Malay women. Photo by Alia Soraya.

Conceptualised while studying, and influenced by indie magazines like Dazed and i-D, Alia created Mula Zine as a digital platform where creatives have the space to touch base with real life.

While this online platform is mostly about fashion, beauty, art, music and culture as interpreted by Southeast Asian youths, the higher aspiration is for Mula Zine to become a cultural movement solely dedicated to championing the voices of youths regardless of gender, sexuality, race or religion.

A true advocate of “stay woke”, a political term that refers to the perceived awareness of issues concerning social and racial justice, Alia said, “‘Stay woke’ is a term that I didn’t like seeing repeatedly on Twitter but I understand it better now.

“Stay woke, so you can reflect. Stay woke so you can be part of what’s happening outside the world that you’re in. And times are constantly changing so it’s good to progress together.”

All for speaking up despite the older generation’s looks of disapproval, Alia said there was a degree of “cancel culture” in today’s society, another millennial term referring to the phenomenon of “cancelling” or no longer morally supporting people or things deemed unacceptable or problematic.

Alia says her works are influenced by traditions but infused with aspects of modern times. Photo by Alia Soraya.

“I want Malaysians to keep allowing the youth to talk about the topics they aren’t able to in their households. I want them to master the knowledge of being able to make progress with themselves and act as change,” she said.

Mula Zine is therefore raw in its creative output, refusing to bow down to commercialism as most publications do in order to bring in the much need advertising dollar.

“Publications are quite commercial, repetitive and promote exclusivity,” she commented, adding that this has left many feeling displaced, or resorting to “masking” their original works so it aligned with what was considered acceptable.

‘3B Editorial’: Alia photographs big and beautiful, bold and brave, booty and busty. Photo by Alia Soraya.

Alia also commented that the future wasn’t as progressive as people believed it to be.

“While so many of our youth in Malaysia have progressed just like those of the 60s, 70s and 80s, the popular culture of today does not reflect that same openness and boldness.

“We still see the same stale plots on nationally sanctioned television dramas, just with a different cast,” she said, adding that while the older generation found solace in routine, youths were the “drastic change” society needed.