2018 Merdeka Award recipient, the late Tan Sri Khoo Kay Kim, is standing 2nd from the left in this image from the Koboi Balik Lagi series. He is married to my cousin Rathy (not in the photograph), and is pictured here with members of his family, Gana and the late Jega, as well as my late parents. Professor Emeritus Khoo Kay Kim is the preeminent historian of independent Malaysia. He also the co–authored the Rukun Negara. As such, an image of Tan Sri Khoo Kay Kim, signifies the nation as definitively as any distinctive Malaysian landscape.
The second series of the Koboi Project includes an image of Koboi standing before his alter ego, SUPERSTAR Rajinikanth. This image was shot in Penang in 2013. This series which is titled Kedualan Si Koboi, was published in 2015.
The Koboi Project begins with the Koboi’s return to Kuala Lumpur in 2013 after a decade away in Vancouver. This homecoming was treated both as lived experience and as an enactment. This return was photographed and became the first Koboi series, titled Koboi Balik Kampung, published in 2015.
“The borders are blurring through art!” – A. R. Rahman retweeted Will.i.am, who as appears Rajinikanth (Chitti) from Enthiran in a new music video titled ‘Action’ using what he calls ‘deep fake technology.’ Other films reprised in this music video are Singham, Maryada Ramanna, Aambala and Kopps.
I have, in my Koboi Project (2013 -present), been using the image of Rajinikanth as a signifier for just this kind of cross-boundary cultural communion. Please see –
In my 2016 exhibit for the Singapore biennale I performed a ritual offering to lord Murugan. I recited the third stanza of the nerisai venpas (closing verses) of the “Thirumuruhaattup-padai” – a hymn, to the glory of Lord Murugan, composed by the poet Nakkirar. This verse is a veneration of the sacred weapon of Lord Murugan, his Vel.
Heroic Vel Radiant Vel Valiant Vel that set free imprisoned celestial beings Vel of the glorious one’s Sacred Hand Vel that plunged the oceans deep Regal Vel Vel that pierced Suran’s breast and hill Our extant Refuge