K is for Kisona 3

In this post I will begin to unpack the meaning, possible meanings rather, of Bersatu Pasir Puteh division vice chairman Borhanuddin Che Rahim statement on social media, made with reference to Kisona Selvaduray, in the context of her recent defeat in the Sudirman Cup semi-final match in Finland. “BAM kutip india (keling) dlm mana lah jd pemain utama Malaysia” or “Which estate did BAM (The Badminton Association of Malaysia) fund this indian (keling) and make her Malaysia’s main player”.

As I noted in the previous post, my instinctive response is the same as that of most Malaysians. Surely, this statement is a racial slur. Still, given the immediate apology and resignation of the perpetrator, I now have some doubts as to the meaning of his text and as to his intention as well. To satisfy myself and to do justice to the accused, I will attempt interrogate the statement in terms of its semiotics in order to determine if indeed the statement is racist and if so, what exactly constitutes its racism. If it is not racist, I will ask if it is, nevertheless, a slur of some sort, and again how it achieves its harm. In doing this, I will unpack the syntax, semantics, and pragmatics of this utterance –

BAM kutip india (keling) dlm estate mana lah jd pemain utama Malaysia

  1. I will begin with some definitions. ‘Syntax’, is way in which the words are put together to form the offending phrase, ‘Semantics’ involves the meaning of words used independent of the context and ‘pragmatics’ is the meaning of the statement in relation to the context of its utterance. Pragmatics helps us approach the meaning as intended or implied by the speaker.

  2. The obvious trigger word here is ‘keling’ and while it is clearly used in a derogatory manner as exemplified and evidenced by the infamous ‘Keling Babi” video, the word is deeply complex both in its etymology and in its current usage. It is in fact a mainstay of Malay idiomatic expression (Please see my exhaustive Keling Lexicon). In semantic terms, to define ‘keling’ as having a racist denotation, or even a necessary connotation of racism, would mean denying the benign etymology of the word. At the very least it would mean that the contemporary negative connotations (which one can in fact see even in the older idiomatic expressions of the lexicon), have displaced other more neutral denotations of Indian origins and Indianness.

  3. Further, in this question of usage, there is a clear geographical diversity in the understanding the word. I have come to understand anecdotally, that the word is used freely by Malays in Kelantan, under the impression that it is not a slur and that Indians do not take it as one. I am yet to gain any insight about the Kelate Indian communities position in this matter but I consider my Malay informers astute, sensitive and reliable. If indeed this is the position in Kelantan, the explanation given by Borhanuddin Che Rahim stands corroborated. He states in his apology, “Saya tidak berniat menghina kaum India dengan panggilan tersebut, ia sebaliknya bahasa percakapan di Kelantan yang merujuk kepada orang India”.

  4. There is also syntactical indication that the use of the term might not be as a slur. It is used, not instead of ‘India’ but, as an ancillary to ‘india,’ and it is set within brackets, as if to indicate that it is an adjective modifying the noun. If the word ‘india’ is being explained by the more Kelate appellation of ‘keling’, or if ‘india’ is being qualified – indicating which type of ‘india,’ ‘keling’ or perhaps ‘mamak’, then there arises the possibility that no racial slur arises in the use of the word, at least not from the perspective of intention.

To be continued in the following post …

https://www.badmintoncentral.com/forums/index.php?threads/s-kisona.183894/

https://www.differencebetween.com/difference-between-semantics-and-vs-pragmatics/

https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2urrs8

https://www.utusan.com.my/terkini/2021/10/saya-minta-maaf-tidak-ada-niat-hina-kaum-india/

Dari Pusat Tasek 1

Malay similes that index beauty, Pauh dilayang – sliced mango, Pauh Dilarik – turned (or peeled) mango.

I will be having an exhibition at the Percha Art Space in Lumut over the Christmas and New Year period. The show, titled Dari Pusat Tasek, will open on 25th Dec and run for 2 weeks (EXTENDED TILL 19 JAN 2020). There will be an impromptu street performance, carried out as part of this exhibition, based on the malay myth of the ‘navel of the seas’. According to Malay folklore, far out in the deep ocean, there is a great whirlpool known as the ‘Pusat Tasek’. At the centre of this whirlpool, there is an enormous tree known as the Pokok Pauh Janggi. The name janggi, probably, derives from the Toroja word ‘djjandji’ which means ‘fruit’. ‘Pauh’  is the Malay word for ‘mango’ and it is likely that ‘Pokok Pauh Janggi’ is, in fact,  a mango tree and not a coco de mer palm as the contemporary usage of the name would suggest.

In the Hikayat Jaya Langkara, a quest for the healing saffron flower leads the Princess Ratna Kasina to a mountain at the pusat tasek where the rising tide brings the miraculous flower up within her reach. While there is no mention of the Pokok Pauh Janggi in this fable, the buah Pauh appears twice in the list of similes used to extoll the beauty of Princess. Princess Ratna Kasina is said to have cheeks like sliced mango (pipi-nya saperti pauh di-layang), and heels like turned (or peeled) mango (tumit-nya saperti pauh di-larek)

dahi-nya bagai bintang timor, hidong-nya bagai melor jantan, pipi-nya saperti pauh di-layang, telinga-nya saperti telepok laboh, rambutnya saperti mayang mengurai,kening saperti taji di-bentuk dan gigi-nya saperti saga merekah, dagu-nya saperti telur burung, pinggang-nya saperti pingang-nya kerengga, kaki-nya saperti kaldai dan tumit-nya saperti pauh di-larek, lengan-nya buntaran, dan betis-nya bagai bunting padi”. 

Sources

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/47873/47873-h/-h.htm

http://sambali.blogspot.com/2008/04/kuroshio-current-and-navel-of-sea.html

https://books.google.ca/books?id=YAsZDAAAQBAJ&q=saffron#v=onepage&q=hikayat%20jaya%20langkara&f=false

Koboi Balik Kampung 2

1 MUDIK PULANG Koboi Balik Kampung Series, 12 Chromogenic Printed in a Limited Edition of 9, Niranjan Rajah, 2015

​I will be presenting my Koboi Balik Kampung series of the Koboi Project at Percha Art Space in Lumut over the Christmas and New Year period. The show, titled Dari Pusat Tasek, will open on 25th Dec and run for 2 weeks. Koboi Balik Kampung presents a very personal perspective on the complexities of contemporary Malaysian art and society. It explores the notion of returning home from the diaspora, but also interrogates this idea in terms of the complex relationship between nationality and ethnicity. It was conceived in the course of my visit to Malaysia for Aliran Semasa {RearView Forward}, a series of events curated by Roopesh Sitharan in June and July, 2013. The images were gleaned from my activities in Kuala Lumpur and its surroundings. The titles delve deep into the Malay idioms and expressions. The series was mainly shot by my daughter Durga Rajah who was my constant companion on this trip.