Art/Culture

Displaced: The Politics of Ethnicity and Religion

Jakkai Siributr challenges viewers to immerse themselves in the realities of ongoing ethnic conflict in Southeast Asia.

May 08, 2017

An uncomfortable experience awaits visitors to the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre: a dimly-lit and sparsely-populated concrete room features a collection of three textile-based installation works by Thai artist Jakkai Siributr and curated by Singapore-based, Southeast Asian art critic Iola Lenzi.

Continuing the themes of political disarray, ethnic conflict, and religious persecution, Displaced: The Politics of Ethnicity and Religion is an exercise in confrontation, forcing the viewer to engage with the themes of the works before being made aware of what they are.

The exhibition is arranged in three parts:

Changing Room (2017) presents a clothes rack laden with military jackets and Muslim-Malay headwear—familiar clothing items asking to be tried on. The jackets and songkok caps have been transformed with childlike hand-embroidery and military insignia, subverting and converging symbols of peace and violence in garments the viewers can immerse themselves in, reflecting on the fabrication of the objects and the themes they embody at once

The Outlaw’s Flag (2017) is a textile and video installation that raises questions of nationalism, exile, and freedom for the persecuted Muslim Rohingya people. Being labelled stateless by the Buddhist-majority government of Myanmar, the Rohingya people have no nation to which they are entitled to belong, and consequently no symbolic frame of reference. The imagined flags represent a group of people torn along lines of faith, ethnicity, and nationality, and an accompanying video shows the daily realities of the Rohingya people forced into exile.

78 (2014) is shown for the first time in Thailand as part of Displaced, a significant homecoming for a confrontational installation that directly challenges the actions of the Royal Thai Army. The towering beaded structure recalls the kaaba, Islam’s holiest site. Within the walls of the black square, 78 hand-detailed linen shirts lie in bunk-style shelves, representing the 78 Muslim civilians who suffocated while being transported through the war-torn south by the Royal Thai Army in 2004. Still, tranquil, and emotionally-charged, 78 is the final stop on Siributr’s journey through some of Thailand’s most difficult subject matter.

Displaced: The Politics of Ethnicity and Religion is open for viewing daily until May 14.