Con­cepts of the self

Buang Bayi in­ter­weaves the per­sonal with the political to ex­plore so­ci­ety, art and gen­der iden­tity.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - ART - By HArIAtI AZ­IZAN star2@ thes­tar. com. my

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

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