ZARINA MUHAMMAD X HASYIMAH HARITH
ELA (a yard of) measures what the skin remembers. The trust between the space and the body. In a weave, a fabric, a tapestry of a community. This district creases and meanders like a river. But some rivers forget to change, others forget her own name. But someday all dying rivers ask the unquestioned,
What do we wish to conceal and reveal? What are our individual and collective methods of memory-making, commemorating loss, reconstructing traditions of renewal? How do we mark and measure time and forgotten dates? What memoryscapes and origin myths are written on our skin? What stories do we tell of lost spaces, of ruined / renewed landscapes, of belonging, intimacy, distance and kinship?
The most memorable and meaningful part of the project was to witness the actual durational transformation of the words, gestures, anecdotes, mark-making, stories of objects and how it translated into the culminating performance. I very much enjoyed being part of and responding to the departure points composed of historical fragments, poetic imagery and memoryscapes that the project began with. Witnessing the unfolding of the creative process and final choreography through the series of gestures of silih berganti or taking turns was especially meaningful. Working with the P7:1SMA team from day 1 of the project to its final culminating performance has generally been an absolute joy and pleasure.
Cloth artwork infused with soil, yarn, crushed kemenyan, black pepper, ash, wax and soothed with Snake Brand Prickly Heat Cooling Powder, Sam Fong Hoi Tong Talc Powder (Bedak), jasmine oil, lemongrass, turmeric and sweat
Textile workshop at
Joo Chiat Complex &
with youths from
Azpirasi and Atrika
Click to drag & double click
to expand photos
I facilitated the workshop titled Ela where we worked with fabric and explored its materiality, symbolism, its practical, sacred, mundane and cultural associations, the ways it can be used to dress, shroud, conceal and reveal. We also explored the idea of skin as material and metaphor, and the embodied memories that are marked on skin and carried through the generations. Through this workshop, we spoke not only about the known histories of the site and the changing environment around the space, but also how we each intuitively and sensorily engaged with the unseen, intangible and forgotten aspects of the site and the materials we had chosen to work with. Several of my past works have been preoccupied with the idea that what we see and what we do not see, and on what terms and whose authority involves the much larger questions of who/what constitutes the community and who exercises the power to define its identity. Amidst sewing, tearing, deconstructing and reconstructing the fabric we were individually working on, we also spoke of these issues. Collaborating with participants who candidly shared family histories and personal stories connected to the textiles they each selected to work with offered insights into the ways we negotiate intergenerational fragments of memories and how it shapes cultural identity.
- Zarina Muhammad
"And how do we then measure
the sound of silence
when the mind
fails to remember?"
7 textiles chosen by youths from Azpirasi and Atrika from Geylang Serai
Click to scroll & enlarge
Cloth is a layer of skin to protect or enforce modesty. Pay attention to ancestral lineage and ask questions. I enjoy making time to chat with elders as it helps me see things differently. Sometimes, it can transform trauma and heal what’s left in my body. Cik Mihrul, an elder from MKAC always says this when it’s time to say goodbye:
Ada jarum patah
Jangan simpan dalam peti Kalau ada kata-kata yang salah Jangan simpan dalam hati
Dance film shot
along Haig Road Market & Food Centre
I enjoyed meeting new people in Geylang Serai and learning how to be a good listener. There are so much to learn from elders, youths and nature in terms of their observations of happenings, work-related or personal memories with loved ones in Geylang Serai. At the heart of District 14, I cherish the privilege to be honestly observing on-site habits and rituals, meeting new people and to sincerely work on sharpening skills in relationship building, beyond just the project outcomes. To be on-site day and night, actively observing the habits and rituals in different landmarks of Geylang serai. Asking deeper questions on my true feelings about Geylang Serai, beyond just the stereotype of a Malay centre for culture and the Arts. What does Geylang Serai mean to me? Who flashes in my mind the moment I step into the neighbourhood? I enjoy playing this reflective practitioner role and also sharing feelings to each other when space is given to do so in rehearsals.
- Hasyimah Harith
Documented by Koh Maan Lin
We were then told to listen to the soundtracks made during the previous week’s Nada workshop, and choose one that struck us the most. I chose Pak Hatri’s soundtrack, which was a karaoke piece of an old, classic Malay song. The soundtrack was edited in a way that made the originally joyful and energetic performance more melancholic - at different points of time, the backing track was removed, leaving only his raw, unedited voice that belied his age. It immediately reminded me of growing up in my grandparents’ home, and how my grandfather would sing along to old Chinese songs on the radio as he did chores around the house. Read more >
Documented by Syarifuddin Sahari
The next segment was to carry out a form of Imitasi around the area, this time while keeping a few points in mind:
To immerse in the space.
To imitate the surroundings and the friends / “friends” in it.
To (try to) assimilate while being a foreign body in the space.
There are more passers-by compared to the previous area.
There are more shadows at night / more contentions between light and shadows at night.
To blend in but be an anomaly.
Free to wander off as a collective or individually.
To take their time for momentum.