THE MALAY MAN
This triptych breaks the convention of portraiture. I wanted to present a new platform of conveying an emotional response towards the notion of identity. I feel that these three photographs carries a narrative of representing my viewpoint on the racial system in Singapore. I believe a self-portrait need not only reveal oneself, but more essentially, expose what lies beneath. In this one, I deal with reflecting an introspective look into my identity as a Singaporean, a Malay one.
Being identified as ‘Malay’ on my identification card, I question the need for such a preordained classification, a direct demarcation between people of this multi-faceted nation. The series speak of a dance, a struggle, if I may, to break free from the societal stereotypes and prejudices. It aims not to condemn or instigate but rather to contemplate and reflect upon this crisis of identity.
The first piece expresses the whole idea of a chaos, a struggle as I’ve mentioned to fit the mold we have all been thrust upon. I observe the quivering allegiance of the youth of Singapore today to this system. I infused the idea of motion through the movements of the Malay traditional dance. How there is always a demand to identify, but is there really a need to?
The centre piece talks of how our race defines us here, how it is being spotlighted as though we are of museum artifacts. Being labeled, categorized, showcased in all our traditional archetypes (the ‘baju Melayu’, the ‘keris’, the ‘kain pelekat’). The choice to not reveal my face is crucial as it translates the whole idea of being judged by our ‘Malayness’ rather than our individual self.
The final piece is my hope towards this whole dilemma. Breaking free, to vanish. Only glimpses of this ‘Malay man’ is left for the world to see. An evanescence of this imposition of racial division.. I want to celebrate cultural distinctions without race being the main focus of this society. How we should celebrate differences and diversity but not make it what separates us.