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.
A rare view of Afonso de Albuquerque and Saint Francis Xavier in a photograph taken around 1960, during the of construction of the Monument to the Discoveries. From the perspective of a Malaysian schoolboy of the 1970’s, being in Belem is like looking down the other end of the telescope of a buku Sejarah (History book)!
Image: The Portuguese World Exhibition: Explaining Belem exhibition catalogue.
This painting is a part of a set by Andre Reinoso (and his collaborators) which is displayed in the sacristy of the Church of Sao Roque in Lisbon. It portrays the historical event (in the Portuguese record) of the invasion of Malacca by Achenese pirates in 1547. Saint Francis Xavier, who was there at the time, is shown praying for Portuguese troops to repulse the invasion. The scene involves a multitude of Achenese fighters (pirates or otherwise!) holding their flags and trying to attack the Portuguese citadel! It is noted in the descriptive panel for this set of paintings that it was commissioned according to a clear iconographic programme designed by the Jesuits of Portugal in order to promote the canonization of the Saint. The paintings were installed in 1619 and and st Francis Xavier was canonized in 1622. This image is titled. ‘St. Francis Xavier tries to halt the invasion of Achenese pirates in Malacca.’ It is the Malacca Malacca evoked by Fausto (after Fernao Mendes Pinto) in his song A Guerra e a Guerra
Or perhaps ‘Post Photo-conceptual Performance’ … a tag I have been developing to locate my practice at the junction of photography and performance. While the tag needs much refinement, I think the praxis itself seems now, after 5 years of the Koboi Project, to be reasonably developed. I had the privilege of delivering a Masterclass in Performance Art as Faculty at the International Ismaili Diamond Jubilee Arts Festival in Lisbon, which ran from the 5-9 July 2018.
In this class, I shared my preparations for two impromptu photo-performances that took place at the Alfonso De Albuquerque Monument and the Discoveries Monument in Belem on 7th and 8th July 2018, respectively. I took the workshop participants, who were amateur and professional artists from the global Ismaili diaspora through my preparations for the two street interventions. They participated in my search for a meaningful action. We began the class within the designated presentation space and finished outside absorbing the architecture Portugal Pavilion and the masterclass itself into the spectacle and symbol of the event. In the light of his exercise and the images it produced, I have clarified for myself the stations of my process and have articulated them in a set of 12 words and images.