Post-tradition in Canadian Politics

The revivification of religion in contemporary society leaves me with a sense of foreboding with regard to the future of humanity. There has been a resurgence of religious values in the politics of the 21st Century as theocratic and quasi-theocratic modes have made an impression, even in what were once staunchly secular democracies. The Christian right has brought socially conservative positions to the forefront of the politics of the USA. The Hindu right has turned India’s avowedly secular democracy into a nation-state steeped in Hindutva (Hinduness). Before these developments, there were the theocentric formulations of Islamic fundamentalism and Zionism. Tragically, all of these ‘post-traditional’ hybridizations of religious truths with modern politics have resulted in the division and alienation of peoples.

There are, however, examples of a more integrative incorporation of religious values at the forefront of human affairs. Canadian politician and leader of the NDP (New Democratic Party), Jagmeet Singh, is an exemplar of this more inclusive post-traditionalism. In a 2017 interview with GQ magazine, he articulates his religious approach to contemporary secular society, “My Sikh spirituality … influences my political style. We strongly believe in social justice as an element of our founding philosophy—that there is one energy and that we are all connected, kind of like the force. So if I see someone else suffering, as a Sikh I see that as me suffering. There’s this morality that flows from this idea that we are one and connected, and we celebrate diversity and people of different backgrounds, cultures, and religions..” He underscores his point by citing a Sikh mantra that wishes for the “betterment of all humankind.”

https://www.gq.com/story/jagmeet-singh-interview

RIP Jeganathan Ramachandran 1

With the sudden passing of Jagannathan Ramachandran Malaysians and Malaysian Indians in particular have lost a great practitioner of the arts, one who has bridged the traditions and techniques of his Indian legacy with the forms and formats of a modern Malaysian presentation. Jega’s life and work has embodied an exemplary post-traditional focus within the ever widening milieu of Malaysian contemporary art. I have known Jega since the beginning of his entry into the Malaysian mainstream and have written a little about the importance of understanding his approach properly.

In Malaysian modernism there is the official narrative of Islamic spirituality (see my essay “Insyirah Al Sadr: The art of Sulaiman Esa.) and then there are a whole host of other traditions that subsist and coexist, emerging and receding from prominence in the contemporary discourse. Following is an account of a personal encounter with Jega. One could say that, at this time Jega was an Indian artist, who determinedly been practicing Tantric methods of visualization on the periphery of the Malaysian mainstream. I met him after having been on a panel of judges that had selected his ‘Seeking an Answer: The Indian Migration’, 1996, for inclusion in the Phillip Morris Malaysia / ASEAN Art Awards exhibition 1996. We exchanged vanakams (greetings) and addresses, and some time later I received a package in the post containing examples of his work which I had asked for. I was surprised and disturbed by one of the works. It was an idealized portrait of myself in line and verse which seemed to have echoes of lord Shiva Nadaraja. I was embarrassed and considered writing back admonishing him for flattery and the cult of personality. Somehow, I did not write back but was left, nevertheless, pondering this image of myself. I felt there was some truth in the idealization but this made me even more upset as I felt, in contemplating this image, the expansion of my own ego.

Much later, it came my understanding that it was not the artist but the model who had responded inappropriately … I had taken the image personally! In this connection and as a kind of mitigation of my egocentricism, I must ask – which modern person would not have done so, it was after all ‘my’ portrait. I was wrong, of course! Jeganathan had received training in the arts of meditation and Samudrigham from a Himalayan master named Bootha Muni. Samudrigham or Samudrika Shastra is a descriptive art and part of a symbolic system based on the study of bodily features. Jeganathan explained that unlike in the West where physiognomy is defined as physical attributes which may index the individual’s personality, Tantra sees it as the link between man and the cosmic force. Every expression is brought through in the state of meditation and that which is formed in the moment of totalness, in pure slumber, can be nothing but creative impulse of the Maker … and by Maker, the great Maker of all!

Rest in Peace Jega – Om Nama Shivaya!

The above is a modified extract from my paper ‘Sacred Pictures Secular Frames’ published in 1998.

Reference :
Rajah, N. ‘Sacred Pictures Secular Frames’ in Art Asia Pacific 17, 1998: 67-71.
Rajah, N. “Insyirah Al Sadr: The art of Sulaiman Esa.” in N. Rajah, ed. Insyirah: The Art of Sulaiman Esa from 1980-2000. Kuala Lumpur: Petronas, pp. 31-64, 2001

Image: https://www.afkcollection.com/gallery/artist/jeganathan-ramachandram

Potentiality and Prediction 2

In his exposition on Fate, Foresight, and Free-will, Ananda Coomaraswamy states that “No event can be thought of as taking place apart from a logically antecedent and actually imminent possibility of its taking place.”[3] He distinguishes this anticipatory view from a retrospective one thus, “whatever does not happen was not really a possibility, but only ignorantly conceived to have been so.” Coomaraswamy shows how both the potential and the uncertainty of an event, exist or appear to exist only up to the point of its occurrence, at which moment the potential is extinguished and all the alternative possibilities are all shown to have been impossible all along.

The passage above is an extract from my essay Towards A Post-Traditional Gnoseology of Potentiality and Prediction: Preliminaries‘ is published in Oliver Hockenhull’s marvelous A House Made of Dawn: The Sublime Horizon of the Digital Arts as the Concluding Formation of the Information Civilization (2021),’ which “marries science fiction stories with non-fiction essays and with video interventions regarding developments in digital art, computer, communication and network technologies.”

The Image that graces my essay is taken from Y. B Yeats’ ‘Michael Robartes and the Dancer‘.

Potentiality and Prediction 1

My Essay Towards A Post-Traditional Gnoseology of Potentiality and Prediction: Preliminaries‘ is published in Oliver Hockenhull’s marvelous A House Made of Dawn: The Sublime Horizon of the Digital Arts as the Concluding Formation of the Information Civilization (2021).’ This which “marries science fiction stories with non-fiction essays and with video interventions regarding developments in digital art, computer, communication and network technologies.” The Image that graces my essay is taken from Y. B Yeats’ ‘Michael Robartes and the Dancer‘. It is a representation of a pair of interpenetrating cones, “the narrow end of each cone being in the center of the broad end of the other.” Its geometry encapsulates humanity’s passage in time and eternity. It is also, I suggest, the shape of a reconciliation between traditional and contemporary approaches to reality. 

https://www.sublimehorizons.ca/

https://www.sublimehorizons.ca/towards-a-post-traditional-gnoseology-of-potentiality-and-prediction-preliminaries/

Antara Saudara Mara 13

Habri

Melayu dan Islam satu persamaan,
tiada yang kafir dan tiada yang bukan;
Tetapi hakikat yang wajar dilayan,
Malaysia merangkumi bermacam insan.

Pantun ‘pascha tradisi merujuk kepada bunga-bunga bahasa dan peradaban Melayu asli –
1. Kafir Habri
2. Layanan Mesra

Image https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/513803

Antara Saudara Mara

carik carik bulu ayam

Don’t be misled by the contemporary democratic/ parliamentary frame of reference. This is a post-traditional return to the heyday of the Malay Sultanates (Kesultanan Melayu) – rebutan kuasa di antara pemimpin Melayu sekeluarga, diatas dan keatas Tanah Melayu! Itu sahaja …

PS Sabah Sarawak is not included in this reading … but that is a different feudal narrative!

Image https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2020/03/01/as-muhyiddin-tastes-power-whos-the-biggest-loser-not-mahathir/

Post Traditional Praxis 4

drs

Event: Tradition as a Measure of the Contemporary Dialogue Session /
Speakers: Dr. Simon Soon, Niranjan Rajah and audience! /
Date: 17th March 2018 /
Time:  2 pm to 4.30 pm /
Venue: Piyadasa Gallery, Cultural Centre, Universiti Malaya /

In this Dialogue Session we will explore the life work of the scholar and author Durai Raja Singam form personal, communal, national and international perspectives.  We will then go on to discuss the role of tradition in the contemporary art and social life of the nation. Pictured above in his habitual work attire in the later years of his life, the ever so modest Dr. Singam held two honorary Doctorates (awarded by the University of Jaffna and the Banaras Hindu University). He was as fluent in the contemporary lingua franca of international scholarship as he was steeped in Hindu tradition, Durai Raja Singam’s lifework is the epitome of a post-traditional praxis.

 

Post Traditional Praxis

whoisthisI am happy to announce the  Tradition as a Measure of the Contemporary: Towards a Post Traditional Praxis in Malaysian Art Dialog Session which will take place on 17th March 2018 from 2pm to 4.30 pm at the Piyadasa Gallery/ Cultural Centre , Universiti Malaya. This Dialog Session is a part of the external programme of ALAMI BELAS – KL BIENNALE 2017, Bali Seni Visual Negara. This dialogue is a part of my installation at the Piyadasa Gallery titled The Gift of Knowledge  Installation Commemorating the Person and Work of Durai Raja Singam (1904-1995). It will explore the historical and bibliographical researches of Durai Raja Singam who is a pioneering  biographer and bibliographer of the great art historian and metaphysician Ananda Coomaraswamy. He was a serious amateur historian and a researcher who operated outside of the privileged circle of academic institutions. Indeed, Durai Raja Singam is an exemplar of cosmopolitanism in 20th century Malaysian intellectual life. Taking the work of Durai Raja Singam as point of departure, this session will investigate tradition might be a meaningful measure of the contemporary in Malaysian Art. The dialogue will explore the rapprochement of our diverse traditional world views,  their relevance in contemporary moment and their significance for our national sense of being.

Image: https://artklitique.blogspot.ca/2017/12/kl-biennale-ii-gift-of-knowledge.html