Bono Stellar’s colourful art-filled journey is driven by music and popular culture

Nawwar Shukriah Ali might be a name that you won’t immediately recognise. But if you have been paying attention to the homegrown names in the design and multidisciplinary art community in the last few years, then you might have heard of Bono Stellar.

For the day job, Nawwar, 33, goes by the moniker Bono Stellar.

From starting her own art project (Stellar Design) and designing Yuna’s (now defunct) indie fashion shop November Culture, right to dressing up the frontage of a car showroom in KL, organising art bazaars and planning out visual merchandising campaigns, you have probably stumbled upon her works.

Hers has been a colourful art-filled journey, often driven by music and popular culture.

As a young girl, Bono Stellar attributes her early artistic passion to her late mother, who was an art teacher.

Later on, she also developed a keen interest in making music videos (she credits MTV!) while American music video, commercial and film director Dave Meyers and Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky are constant reference points.

French filmmaker Michel Gondry, known as the mad scientist of cinema, also became one of Bono Stellar’s major influences in design.

“I’m still learning to understand his approach to all of his works. By looking at his work, I am challenged to always create better,” says Bono Stellar in a recent interview.


Works from the Whatever Comes group exhibition at Neverland Artspace, Phnom Penh, Cambodia in 2017.

This weekend, Bono Stellar is readying up a panel appearance at the Cyberjaya Multimedia Festival (CMF), an event celebrating music, the arts, tech and the creative community. It is happening at Centrus Mall in Cyberjaya from Aug 11-12.

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At this creative community conference, Bono Stellar – like all young artistic entrepreneurs – can already identify with most of the topics on DIY creative economy and grassroots empowerment.

Since 2016, Bono Stellar has also been occupied with an educational project called Make It Happen, which is part of CMF this year.

Make It Happen, inspired by a book called What They didn’t Teach You In Design School (by Phil Cleaver), is a platform to assist artists on the creative process.

The Make It Happen exhibition at CMF will feature 11 creatives – including visual artist Ajim Juxta, multimedia artist Tsa Meera, photographers Khalil Makata, Daniel Adams and Alif Ridzuan.


‘I have a bit of conflict between being a designer and an artist, but I’m slowly learning to understand my role in each project,’ says Bono Stellar.

Bono Stellar picked them to shed light on their work in music projects (videos, album art, photography and more).

But she didn’t start out as a cool and hip designer/artist. There was hard work and a solid foundation to be sorted out.

In 2007, Nawwar graduated from UiTM Shah Alam in architecture and worked at an architect firm for a few months and later did some odd jobs.

She launched Stellar Studio while she was lecturing design and history of architecture at a local university in 2010.

“It was a risk that I chose to take. I think it’s important to be passionate and patient. Most importantly, you need patience,” shares Bono Stellar, whose humble entrepreneurial beginnings included selling origami, stationery and crafty bookmarks in school.

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Stellar Studio started out as a boutique and eventually, through the hosting of Stellar events, the space became a platform for local entrepreneurs and new brands to exhibit their products and talent.


Bono Stellar’s set design for a music video from singer Sezairi.

In 2011, Bono Stellar, born in Kuala Terengganu, decided to further her studies and obtained a Masters Degree in Art and Design: Product Design (from UiTM Shah Alam).

While juggling her studies, store and design projects in late 2011, she officially started Stellar Design, which was an outlet for her own creations and experiments ranging from interior design to art installations. In 2016, she also exhibited two installations at the Hin Bus Depot art space in George Town.

Beyond art galleries and commissioned works, her paper on “Upcycled Material” was selected for the Engineering And Product Design Education International (E&PDE) Conference 2013 in Dublin, Ireland and she took that as an opportunity to travel for a month across Europe.

When discussing about art and design, Bono Stellar says always set out with one goal in mind.

“The thing is to get people to see the possibilities that one can create using different approaches in design or art. It’s also important to have your own voice in your work. Slowly people will start to appreciate it and see the possibilities.”

She attributes a successful design on how well it is balanced in terms of its vision and function.

“I have a bit of conflict between being a designer and an artist, but I’m slowly learning to understand my role in each project,” she admits.

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“Every material is unique but coloured transparent acrylic sheets are my favourite! I’m currently working on an installation for KL’s Urbanscapes festival (in November) which is my first outdoor structure. The challenge is to study the weather!”

Where does all that inspiration come from, you might ask? Bono Stellar shares that the books she reads are the fuel to her inventiveness.

“You can find me sometimes in Kinokuniya or Isetan Japan KL drooling over (American artist) James Turrell’s books or some art history books,” she reveals.

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