Shaq Koyok, a contemporary artist and activist from the Temuan Orang Asli tribe in Banting, southwest Selangor state Malaysia, is known for merging art and activism into a glorious hybrid. His fondest memories are fishing in the nearby peat swamp and hunting small animals in the jungle. In primary school, he discovered art, a passion which shaped the course of his life.
In his early year, the land developer has encroached the jungle around his village and now it reflecting in his many works, that trauma in his childhood has fuelled his passion and led his to fight for his people land rights. For many years now, he is a common face at protests, standing shoulder to shoulder with activists to demand equal rights for Orang Asli folk.
Additionally, through art, he frequently expresses the plight of the indigenous communities scattered across Malaysia with his bold brush strokes. His work depicts gorgeous portraits of everyday Orang Asli people, with powerful stories that cling tightly to the canvas he paints on.
Stateless Mind #4
Surat Untuk Hutan (Letter to the Forest)
Duration: 30 mins
Accompanied on violin by Sufiya Taufik
The aim of this performance art is to allow the audience to participate by coming up with messages to the spirit of nature, which build bridges to connect their lives and the natural environment. As an indigenous person, I was taught to be respectful toward mother nature and father sun spirits. I hope with this performance art I can spark ideas so the participants will affirm their connection to nature and protect it.
The idea of sending messages is quite synonymous with our contemporary lifestyle, but it has always been a part of the traditional activities of indigenous people. This performance art is inspired by the Asian tradition of putting a message on the banyan tree. In my indigenous community where, strong shamanistic traditions still exist, this goes even
further. Offerings of food and verbal requests are made to the spirits of the trees and the jungle to ask permission to utilise the environment.