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KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has lost a renowned and respected Malay culture expert with the demise of Azah Aziz, 83, or her full name, Sharifah Azah Mohamed Alsagoff.
The former journalist and wife of Royal Professor Ungku Aziz passed away at about 10am today following a stroke.
Born on Aug 21, 1928 in Singapore and raised in Johor Baharu, Azah who was also known as Mak Ungku, studied at Sekolah Menengah Convent, Johor Baharu.
According to her biography titled, "Azah Aziz: Kartika di Langit Seni" published in 2002, Azah was still young when her schooling was disrupted by the Japanese Occupation.
After World War II, she intended to continue her studies but Ungku Aziz proposed to her, saying: "Marrying me will be like furthering your studies at the university."
Azah, the mother of Bank Negara governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz, was also known as an expert on Malay traditional fabrics and attire.
Always seen in baju kurung, the soft-spoken and ever-smiling Azah is said to have a collection of Malay traditional attire including baju kebaya and baju Melayu.
She was among the first Malay women journalists, serving Berita Harian in Singapore from 1957 before moving on to Utusan Melayu and a women's magazine.
Azah, who is also the niece of Umno founder Datuk Onn Jaafar, was among the founders of the National Writers Association of Malaysia (Pena).
She was also the founder and first president of the Women Journalists Association of Malaysia (Pertama) from 1971 to 1978.
While at Berita Harian, Azah handled the women's page and wrote on the need for mothers to prepare nutritious food for their family, among other issues.
According to her biography, she held strong to her mother's advice: "If you want to help the Malays, write about nutrition."
Azah had written more than 10 books on pantun, seloka (short witty poems ending in aphorism), women's affairs and issues, traditional attire and handicrafts.
In 2008, Azah was conferred the honorary doctorate in the arts and education by Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI) for her expertise and contributions to journalism and promotion of culture.
She was also honoured as Tokoh Wanita Johor, and awarded the Tan Sri Fatimah Hashim Woman of Excellence Award and Anugerah Jarum Berlian.
Her last posts were as chairman of Prestige Communications Sdn Bhd and advisor on Malay culture and traditions.