Concepts of the self
Buang Bayi interweaves the personal with the political to explore society, art and gender identity.
THERE is nothing trivial or transient about Shika Corona’s confessional artworks in her show Buang Bayi at the newly launched independent arts space KerbauWorks in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur.
The Malacca- born Kuala Lumpur- based visual artist is no less playful and whimsical as she chronicles her daily experiences – as an artist and a woman – but her struggle seems deeply interminable.
That is the transgender experience in Malaysia, notes the freelance illustrator/ graphic designer, part- time activist and fulltime daydreaming artist formerly known as Shieko Reto.
“Today the term ‘ transgender’ is in the forefront of social consciousness and the word has become an umbrella word to accommodate others that don’t fit the male/ female gender binary system, but in Malaysia, there is still a lot of confusion about it,” she says.
What more of the personal struggle transpersons go through, from the internal sufferings of gender dysphoria ( the distress experienced when a person’s gender identity is contrary to her or his gender at birth) to the external daily strife as a minority trying to participate fully in society and simply live.
Inevitably, the “I” in Shika’s autobiographical show is very much also about the “us”, giving a new facet to the women’s movement maxim of “the personal is political”.
Shika, who first became involved in the art world as a street artist in 2003 and founded an urban art collective Sembur With Style ( Spray with Style), became a fulltime artist after she quit her advertising job in 2005.
Her freelance work with local non- governmental organisations gave her the opportunity to find her personal voice and for her community. It also gave her a chance to hone her illustration and comic drawing skills.
Her work has been shown in exhibitions throughout Malaysia such the alternative art festival Not That Balai in 2005, the 49th Merdeka Mural at the National Visual Art Gallery in 2010 and Seksualiti Merdeka 2012 at the Annexe Gallery in Central Market, Kuala Lumpur. In 2013, Shika participated in the Singapore Biennale – If The World Changed with her work Waiting Room, a mixed media installation depicting the transgender persons’ experience of “waiting to be transformed and accepted by the community.”
Buang Bayi, which is curated by the artist herself, features a variety of works from 2014- 2016.
Notes Shika, as in many cases, art is the safe space to explore and express the challenges and discrimination faced by the transgender community.
“We are the minority in this country. My art, I guess, is my way of saying that a person like me exists, despite the daily pressure from society, media and now, the Internet, to ‘ change’... because they think our existence and way of life is wrong.” But why Buang Bayi ( baby dumping)? “It’s just an ironical way to describe how important my artwork is, they are like my babies,” she says with an awkward laugh.
Unspoken, however, is how important gender identity is to the transpersons, and how it cannot be easily changed or discarded as some factions in society believe or expect.
Yet, as testimony to her strength and spirit, the humour and joy of life in Shika’s works