Ahmad Kamal Abdullah

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Ahmad Kamal Abdullah

Kemala, University of Malaya, 2004
Kemala, University of Malaya, 2004
Native name
أحمد کمال عبدﷲ
BornAhmad Kamal Abdullah
(1941-01-30)30 January 1941
Gombak, Kuala Lumpur, British Malaya (now Malaysia)
Died27 October 2021(2021-10-27) (aged 80)
Kota Damansara, Selangor, Malaysia
Resting placeSection 9 Kota Damansara Muslim Cemetery, Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Pen nameKemala
OccupationPoet, playwright, literary critic
Alma mater
Notable awardsMalaysian National Laureate (2011)

Ahmad Kamal Abdullah (30 January 1941 – 27 October 2021) was a Malaysian poet, novelist, playwright, literary critic and Malaysian National Laureate (2011). He was known under the pseudonym Kemala.


His father, Abdullah Hj. Daud was an alumnus of the Kuala Kangsar Malay College in which its admission was restricted to children of the elite class, while his paternal grandfather was influential in the village as its main religious teacher and imam. His mother, Rukiah Amir, on the other hand was a well-versed storyteller and poet.

From 1958 to 1962, Kemala studied at Sultan Idris Teacher's College (Maktab Perguruan Sultan Idris, now the Sultan Idris Education University) in Tanjung Malim. He left the field of teaching in 1968 to work as the Chief Editor for the Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka leading several of its magazine publishings.[1]

In 2000, he defended his thesis on Malay literature and received his doctorate at the National University of Malaysia. He was a chief initiator of the International Poetic Readings in Kuala Lumpur and played a major role in the founding of the international Malay language writers organization Nusantara Melayu Raya, or NUMERA in 2012.

He was formerly an honorary member of the Nusantara Society since 22 November 2017.[2]

Kemala died on 27 October 2021 at the age of 80 at his son's house in Kota Damansara. He had several illnesses including kidney problem prior to his death.[3] He was buried at the Section 9 Kota Damansara Muslim cemetery after Asar prayer.[4]

Literary career[edit]

He took an active part in the movement of "poetry of social protest" and was also known as the author of the philosophical and love lyrics.[5]

He continued the traditions of poetic-philosophical understanding of the world laid by the poet-mystic Hamzah Fansuri, developing them and introducing his own rhythms and colors.[6] His verses, sometimes with a touch of religious mysticism, create an atmosphere of poetic meditation of a man who constantly is in amazement of the mysteries of life.[7]

He was the author of poetic collections Meditasi ("Meditation", 1972), Serah Terima ("Transfer of Affairs", 1973), Era (1975), Kaktus-Kaktus ("Cacti", 1976),[8] Ayn (1983, 1989), Pelabuhan Putih ("The White Harbour", 1989), Titir Zikir ("A Drop of Dhikr", 1995), and Ziarah Tanah Kudup (Pilgrimage to the Land of Flowers, 2006). His book Mim (1999) [9] absorbed various creative motifs, including reflections on the poet's and his poetry's place and impressions of his trip to the Soviet Union a decade before in October 1989.

Criticism. Evaluation of creativity[edit]

Russian literary critic and researcher Anna Pogadaeva comments on the style of Ahmad Kamal's writing, stating that:

"His poems are musical, full of inner rhythm, he perfectly uses all the possibilities of the Malay language, extracting from it sometimes tender and sincere, sometimes ecstatic and explosive sounds, filling each line with movement and turning each verse into a living organism. The combination of feelings and visions permeated with a passionate love for God is the inexhaustible source of the poet's creative inspiration: it is a fusion of sounding image and music, avant-gardism and traditional Sufi motifs, as well as a rhythmic series of folklore forms."[10]



  1. ^ Анна Погадаева. Кемала: Творческий путь поэта (Anna Pogadaeva. Kemala: The Creative Life of the Poet). Отв. ред. В.А. Погадаев, Е.С. Кукушкина. М.: Ключ-С, 2017, p. 6 ISBN 978-5-906751-81-2
  2. ^ "Sasterawan Malaysia dilantik ahli kehormat Persatuan Nusantara Russia". Archived from the original on 2018-04-30. Retrieved 2018-04-29.
  3. ^ "National laureate Kemala dies today". BERNAMA. 27 October 2021. Retrieved 27 October 2021.
  4. ^ "National Laureate Kemala dies at 80". New Straits Times. 27 October 2021. Retrieved 30 October 2021.
  5. ^ Anna Pogadaeva. Intertekstualiti Dalam Puisi Kemala. Editor Irwan Abu Bakar dan Victor A. Pogadaev. Kuala Lumpur: eSastera Enterprise, 2011 ISBN 978-967-5043-18-5
  6. ^ Md. Salleh Yaapar. "Kemala: Mawar di Taman-Bustan Sastera Melayu Kontemporari". - "Dewan Sastera", Februari 2000
  7. ^ "Kemala" - Pogadaev, V. A. Malaysia. Pocket Encyclopedia. Moscow: Publishing house "Muravei-Gide", 2000, p. 254-255
  8. ^ Abdul Rahman Hanafiah. Kaktus-Kaktus Karya Kemala: Satu Penganalisaan Stilistika - in: Gejala. Esei Dan Kritikan Puisi Melayu Moden 1955-1986. Kuala Lumpur: Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, 1989
  9. ^ Mana Sikana. Pengantar - Kemala. Mim. Kuala Lumpur: Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, 1999
  10. ^ "The poet in constant surprise before the mysteries of life." - Kemala. Poems. From collections of different years. Translation from Malay by V.A. Pogadaev and A.V. Pogadaeva. Moscow: Humanitarian, 2001, p. 5