Koboi in Lumut 2019

The Dari Pusat Tasek performance took place on the Lumut Waterfront, Perak under the auspices of the Percha Artspace on 25th Dec 2019. Sang Nabil Utama and I raised a 15 ft banner image of Anwar Ibrahim in a performance that was loosely based on a Perak Malay cleansing ritual using cut limes. I rubbed 7 points of my body with lime, then faced East and spat 7 times. I threw the remains of the limes towards the West direction saying, “Pergi-lah semua sial jambalang daripada badan aku dan dari tubuh negara, pergilah ke Pusat Tasek Pauh Janggi (‘Misfortune and spirits of evil begone from my body and from the body of the nation, begone to the Navel of the Seas!). Water was then poured over me in order to complete the cleansing.

1 Kibaran Bendera

1 Kibaran Bendera, Panji Pauh Ulung, Koboi Project (currently in progress)

Anwar Ibrahim will have his audience with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on the 13 October 2020, and, if he proves that he has the numbers to usurp the incumbent, he will at long last fulfill what has been, for him, a life-long quest for power. While I would not presume to celebrate this outcome as being for the good of nation, given that it will, after all be another ‘back-door’ government fomented in a cauldron of leaping ‘frogs’, I would, however, like to confess, before the outcome of this highly unpredictable scenario is known, that my own sympathies are with Anwar Ibrahim. I wish him godspeed in what is, potentially, a closing play in what has been a long game.

As a practitioner of the visual arts, essentially the art of signs, I can not but discern an aptness of symbolism in that, given the spectre of sodomy (a crime which , rightly or wrongly, he has been charged, convicted and pardoned) that hangs over Anwar, this perpetual challenger for the Malaysian premiership might, finally, attain his heart’s desire through the so called ‘back door’!

At a previous moment in this struggle, I presented the Dari Pusat Tasek  installation and performance at Percha Artspace, Lumut Perak Malaysia, which ran from December 2019 -January 2020. The photographs of this event, constitute a work tentatively titled Panji Pauh Ulung which is the 13th series of the Koboi Project. My essay contextualizing this project, The Koboi Project: diasporic Artist… diasporic Art, is included in Interlaced Journey: Diaspora and the Contemporary in Southeast Asian Art edited by Patrick D. Flores & Loredana Pazzini-Paracciani.

http://pcan.org.ph/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Interlaced-Journey_E-BOOK.pdf

Dari Pusat Tasek 30

In the Dari Pusat Tasek performance, I was assisted by Sang Nabil Utama who is musician, sound engineer, sonologist and a committed Malay culture activist. We were introduced by Azizan Paiman the afternoon before the event at which time we first discussed the underlying ideas and possible controversies of the performance. We refined and rehearsed the performance that night, and went on to execute the event the next afternoon (25 Dec 2019).

This intervention in the public space of the Lumut Waterfront, which was based on a Perak Malay cleansing ritual, was grounded and given poignancy by the fact that Sang Nabil Utama is a native orang Perak. It was also great working with Nabil as he showed great sensitivity to my approach and generously offered his own ideas about Malay ritual form in a way that brought the best out of the performance.

Dari Pusat Tasek 12

In connection with my show at Percha Artspace titled Dari Pusat Tasek, which runs till 5 Jan 2020, I ask the obvious question – where is the Pusat Tasek Pauh Janggi (Navel of the Seas)? The performance carried out on the Lumut Waterfront was based on a Perak Malay cleansing ritual that purports to wash all the sial jambalang (ill luck and malevolent spirits) away to the Navel of the Seas.. Many sources on the location of the Pusat Tasek place it somewhere in the South China Sea or Southwest thereof. According to Antonio Pigafetta, a mariner on Ferdinand Magellan’s pioneering voyage of ‘discovery’ (1518-1522), there were local tales of an island surrounded by whirlpools, somewhere north or south of Java Major (Borneo), called Puzathaer  (Pusat air?) .​ The location of this Pusat Tasek varies, however, with the source of the myth. According to a Perak legend associated with the installation of its first Sultan, Mudzaffar Shah I, the Pusat Tasek is located somewhere off the mouth of the Perak river, beyond the extensive sandbanks there. This area, named Beting Beras Basah or Beras Basah Sandbank, is known as a deeply magical place – one filled with all manner of makhluk ghaib (supernatural beings).

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

http://catatanberkat.blogspot.com/2015/05/rahsia-beting-bersah.html

Dari Pusat Tasek 8

The Dari Pusat Tasek exhibition runs at Percha Artspace, Lumut Waterfront till 5 Jan 2020 (EXTENDED TILL 19 JAN 2020). The gallery presents the Koboi Balik Kampung Series as well as a record or residue of the Dari Pusat Tasek performance that took place on the 25 Dec 2019. This performance stems from the 12th series of the koboi project that carries the same name and which is based on two images. The first of these is a shot of the Koboi standing at the base of a 35 ft elections hoarding of Malaysian prime minister in waiting, Awar Ibrahim at Kampung Indian Settlement, Batu Caves. It is titled Naan Anaiyttal.

Hanging in the Percha gallery is a t-shirt bearing the second image titled Rockin Cowboy. This is the t-shirt worn by Sang Nabil Utama during the performance at the Lumut Waterfront. This is a shot of the koboi outside the Rockin Cowboy Western store on Broadway, Vancouver. This is where I got my hat, boots and shirts  for the first Koboi performance at the National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur in 2013. I bought one black and one white version of the Rockmount Classic Sawtooth Western  shirt. The white shirt is now in the collection of the National Art Gallery. Since then, I have acquired much of my gear for the Koboi Project at the Rockin Cowboy. In the photo with me are Dave Lawr and Danny Kresnyak from the store.

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.