KHABAR DAN ANGIN: EXCURSUS ON FAITH IN KELANTAN
'Khabar dan Angin: Excursus of Faith in Kelantan' presents artists field-notes from encounters with various faith communities across the Northeastern peninsular state straddling the Malaysia-Thai border. Initiated by Projek Dialog, a platform that aims to promote open and critical dialogue on religion, culture and sociopolitics in Malaysia, selected artists are tasked to investigate two larger questions on their journey: The first being the religious conviction and comfort of locals under the long rule of the state's Islamic party - and the second, to reflect on the complexities and dynamics of minority faith groups interacting with this long rule.
Curated by Ong Jo-lene and Yana Rizal, other artists included Poodien, KG Krishnan, William Sim, Engku Iman, Yoke Tan, Nadia J. Mahfix and Alex Lee. The exhibition was held at Galeri Reka at the Balai Seni Visual Negara.
"Ingat-ingat lupa." To remember vaguely, to attempt recall and to forget again.
Artists are tasked to remain vigilant to the complex dynamics occurring among believers in Kelantan. For this project I chose to focus on the complexities of belief that is both geographical and ethnic; specifically the tensions of belief that inevitably, but quietly, exist among Malays. As a modern, ethno-religious entity, the imposed constitutional requirement of Malays to be Muslim has monolithized much of its diverse belief systems. However, it is unaddressed consciously. A subconscious resistance occurs habitually when modern Malays continue to attend to supernatural beliefs, all of which stem from religiously syncretic pasts, through apologist, retrospective Islamic sanitizations. Black magic can exist, but must be understood in 'Islamic' terms, despite its inextricable nature with pre-Islamic roots.
Privileged with the opportunity to witness a Main Puteri performance in Kelantan, I was amazed at the shared, yet secret tolerance for the banned ritual deemed deviant by the Islamic state government. Locals come from villages near and far to seek psychic treatment in a completely un-modern, religiously complicated ceremony. The shared investment in this indigenous form of therapy suggests a longing for the affective of the past.
As a beneficiary of Malaysia's economic boom from the eighties, I am witness to the obsession for black magic and was mesmerized by Main Puteri's loyalists. In officially banning the Main Puteri, my drawings ask if we have lost a language to even begin understanding our internal ills.
Images comprise of artist self-portraits in the common seated positions for black magic treatment. I was subjected to many spiritual 'inspections' as a child. These drawings are interspersed with further, quick sketches observed from the frenetic energy of the Main Puteri, on plastic. Lines of drawings interplay with shadow and each other, but never touch.